About This Lesson Plan


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Hands-On Lessons

NEW! Loaves of Landforms

A foundation in geography begins with an understanding of the terms geographers use to describe the features of Earth. Help students grow their vocabulary and learn to recognize common landforms such as islands, lakes, peninsulas, gulfs, straits, and isthmuses in a hands-on lesson using soft and squishy slices of bread!

Students will:

  • Learn the appropriate terms for various landforms including island, lake, peninsula, gulf, strait, and isthmus.
  • Demonstrate their learning by tearing pieces of bread into shapes representing each type of landform and then labeling them appropriately.
  • Identify landforms on authentic scientific maps.

Common Core Standards
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2 Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.K.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.4 Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.1.8 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.1.2 Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.1.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.7 Participate in shared research and writing projects.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.2.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

Elmer's® Washable School Glue, sliced sandwich bread (four slices per student), blue card stock or heavy construction paper, scissors, and markers.


Content Overview

Understanding basic terms for landforms is essential knowledge for discussing the geographic features of our planet.

  • A body of water completely surrounded by land is called a lake.
  • An area of land completely surrounded by water and smaller than a continent is called an island.
  • A part of a sea or ocean that extends into the land is called a gulf.
  • A piece of land nearly surrounded by water or sticking out into the water is called a peninsula.
  • A narrow strip of land that connects two larger areas of land is called an isthmus.
  • A narrow channel of water that connects two larger bodies of water is called a strait.
Printable: Draw-It-Yourself Landforms Chart

Lake, island, peninsula, gulf, isthmus, strait, geography, landform


Introduction (five minutes)
Display a map of the United States on the board and ask students to tell you what they notice about the geography of our country. What shapes do they see along the coastlines? What areas of water do they notice? If they had to explain the shape of Florida to someone who had never seen it on a map, what would they say? Is it hard to describe? Explain to students that geographers study the features of Earth and they have specific words they use to describe different landforms. When everyone uses the same words, or vocabulary, it's much easier to describe things to others. Today, the students will learn some of these geography words.

Landform Lesson (10 minutes)
Give each student a copy of the Draw-It-Yourself Landforms Chart and a pencil or marker. Introduce each landform and draw an example picture of it on the board. Ask students to sketch each landform on their chart. For each pair of landforms (lake and island, gulf and peninsula, strait and isthmus), ask students to consider how the two terms are related and how they mirror each other. Students may observe that an island is land surrounded by water and that a lake is water surrounded by land! Once students have completed their charts, have students form pairs and take turns describing the terms on their chart to their teammate.

Bread Landforms Activity (15 minutes)
Before handling out supplies, give students a brief overview of the project by modeling the creation of each landform from slices of bread:

  • Lake and Island—Carefully tear out the middle of a slice of bread. The part that is removed becomes an island, while the hole in the slice of bread becomes a lake.
  • Gulf and Peninsula—Tear a slice of bread in half. Create a gulf by removing the soft inner bread of one half and create a peninsula from the other half by removing bread along the sides.
  • Strait—Tear a slice of bread in half and show students how the space between the two halves forms a strait.
  • Isthmus—Carefully tear away two sides of a slice of bread leaving a narrow strip of bread connecting the remaining two crusts.

Remind students to work carefully with the slices of bread in order to get just the right shapes. If they accidentally tear too much, just have them use a little glue to stick things back together!

Give each student four slices of bread, two sheets of construction paper and Elmer's School Glue. Have students overlay about an inch of one sheet of paper on top of the other and glue together with a thin line of glue in order to create one large sheet of paper. Next, using the Landforms chart they created for reference, invite students to create each of the six landform shapes using the slices of bread. Have students use glue to attach each bread landform to the paper and then add an appropriate label.

(Elmer's 1st Day Connection: Take a picture of each student and his or her bread landforms, then email or provide these to parents to include on the Elmer's 1st Day website.)

Wrap-up and Real-World Connection (10 minutes)
Help students connect their learning to the real world by taking students on a virtual geography safari around the world with Google Earth or Google Maps to find examples of each landform covered in the lesson. Some possible examples to find and ask students to identify could include:

island: Iceland
lake: Lake Michigan
peninsula: Florida
gulf: Gulf of Mexico
strait: Strait of Gibraltar
isthmus: Isthmus of Panama 

Whiteboard Extension Activities

  • Google Earth Exploration: Spin the virtual globe and look for even more examples of each landform covered in the lesson as they appear in the natural world. Create a list of real-world examples for each form and invite students to compare and contrast the size and shape of the various examples. How does the size of Fiji compare with that of Greenland? How does the Baja California Peninsula compare with the Arabian Peninsula? What is the same? What is different?
  • Landform Pictionary: Invite students to take turns drawing a landform on the whiteboard that was covered in the lesson while the remaining students try to be the first to call out the correct term. Expand the possibilities by including other geography terms the class has learned this year.
Extension Activities  
  • Landforms Continued: Introduce additional landform concepts including mountains, plains, valleys, canyons, volcanoes, and caves and provide students with additional slices of bread with which to create models of each new landform.
  • Landform Map of America: Make a highly tactile map of America celebrating its varied geographic features by inviting students to cover an outline map of the United States with modeling clay and forming features like mountains into the clay. Use an Elmer's X-TREME Glue Stick to affix the 3D map to a piece of Elmer's® Foam Board or cardboard and have students add labels highlighting the landforms they know.
Literature Extension
  • Invite students to identify landforms (islands and a bay) as they head out to sea with the rollicking tale of Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen. After reading the story, invite students draw a picture of what it might be like to be stuck on an island like Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee before they are rescued by the whales. Ask students to consider: What would you do for fun? What would you eat? What do you think you would miss most? What would be really fun about being on an island? For younger students, assist in adding a few sentences to their picture. For older students, encourage the use of descriptive language and specific details in their writing.
Technology Extension
Visit http://the1stday.com/ and download the Elmer's 1st Day app to capture and share the first day of school and beyond. You can create slide shows, personalize photos, share "first day" albums, and more.


In this home-connection activity, students will prepare a geography sandwich for a parent or sibling as a way to share their learning. Invite students to brainstorm ways they could represent the different landforms as they create an edible geography project. Some possible ideas could include:

island: Lay a slice of lunch meat in the middle of a slice of bread, or create an island shape with peanut butter.
lake: Use a cookie cutter to cut out a shape from the middle of the sandwich.
strait: Squeeze a line of mustard or jelly across the middle of the slice of bread.
isthmus: Lay a pickle spear across the top of the sandwich.
gulf: Take a bite out of the side of the sandwich.
peninsula: Let one of the sandwich ingredients hang out from one side of the sandwich.

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