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A Map Landform Activity

By Pamela Martin

Help students understand the features on maps with this map landform activity, as they make a study guide and work together to located examples of the features being studied.

Understanding Landforms on Maps

Students often find cultural geography much easier to understand than the physical division. With this map landform activity, your students will develop new vocabulary and practice map-reading skills to make physical geography easier. They will also practice drawing and labeling their own maps.


  • Students will understand the terms landform, cartography, and topography.
  • Students will recognize that landforms are generally identified on physical maps.
  • Students will name the characteristics of familiar landforms.
  • Students will identify geographic examples of different landforms.

Group Instruction

  • Introduce the terms topography, cartography¸ and landforms.
    • Ask students to speculate on their possible meanings.
    • Use the word parts and etymology to help students define the words.
    • Create a tag study guide for the words. On the front of a shipping tag, students should write the word and a graphic reminder of the word’s meaning. On the back, they write a definition (preferably their own paraphrase) and a sentence to demonstrate their understanding of the word.
  • Present pictures of the landforms you want students to understand.
  • Elicit descriptions of the characteristics of each one.
  • Provide the name of the landform.
  • Using the brainstormed descriptions, help students develop a definition.
  • Discuss ways in which a cartographer might show that landform on a map, including colors or symbols.
  • Have students create a tag card for their study guide, using the symbols and/or colors and definition the class developed.
  • Divide the class into pairs or triads. Assign them to find an example of each landform somewhere in the world. Groups should name the location and explain why they believe it to be that landform.
  • Extend the lesson by having students record the latitude and longitude for each example.

Individual Practice

  • As students study their tag guide daily, they should make a tally mark on each card as they correctly identify the landform on the tag. When they have 10 marks on the card, they remove it to a second ring; words on the second ring should be reviewed twice a week.
  • Provide students with a crossword puzzle in which they must identify the landforms from their definitions or pictures. Alternately, allow students to create their own puzzles and exchange them with classmates for solving.


  • Provide a map of various landforms marked with symbols. Students fill in the names of the landforms in the legend.
  • Provide a list of landforms. Students use the list to create a map that includes the appropriate symbols for each landform and a legend for the map.

This map landform activity can easily be adapted for any specific landforms you want your class to study and it can be repeated throughout the year.


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