Making Landforms & Using the 7 Habits

We are beginning our long unit on the regions of the United States and I wanted to be sure that my kids knew what these different landforms were that helped to define the areas of our country. Even though it isn't explicitly in our curriculum, this project was way too fun to pass up, and my kids thought so, too.

This project also gave us the bonus opportunity to embed the 7 Habits of Happy Kids into our work. For more info and the free signs, click HERE.

First up, there are some amazing and wonderful resources out there all about landforms to get you started. Because we were short on time, I went to a great site full of all sorts of third grade (and more) goodness, Super Teacher Worksheets. Have you ever heard of them? I found out about STW about four years ago and it has since become a membership site. Honestly, though, their resources are very extensive and fun, so it's been worth the $20/year. Note: STW has no idea who I am, I just really, really love their site and wanted to share with you :)

They have loads of landforms activities and I chose a sorting one that was a great intro to the different landforms and bodies of water-- students cut out the picture and glued it next to the correct definition. That is the pink sheet you'll see in a lot of these pictures that the kids used for reference throughout this project.

With our reference sheets made, we started with the following materials:

  • Chinet plates (the thickness is very, very important!)
  • Crayola Air-Dry Clay (my class of 27 ended up using less than one 5 lb. tub)
  • large paper clips
  • Washable Tempra paint in blue, green, and brown
  • Paintbrushes (I just used the cheap ones you usually find in watercolor trays- nothing fancy!)
  • White School Glue
  • Sharpie markers

That's it! Simple :)

We started this project on a Friday so the clay could dry over the weekend. We then glued on Monday morning, painted Monday afternoon, and labeled with Sharpie and shared with each other on Wednesday.

Here's an overview of each of those four days in pictures:

Day 1: We talked about Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind- Have a Plan and, using pencils, planned out and labeled the different landforms and bodies of water we wanted to include, using the pink reference sheet as out guide. I passed out a ball of clay about the size of a kiwi fruit to each student and they began to create the landforms in 3D. They used the paperclip to add texture to things like the waterfall or canyon :)

I then collected them all to dry and stacked them on our round table over the weekend:

Day 2: Monday started by gluing our landforms to our plates-- they were stuck on there for the most part, but I knew they would pop off easily once we started painting, so regular white glue did the trick. That afternoon, the painting began. We talked a lot about Habit 6: Synergize- Together is Better. Because we would be sharing paint trays and may all want blue at the same time, how could we work together to make sure we were able to paint and also function well as a table group? I also explained that we needed to follow our own Class Rule #3 (Respect others. Respect yourself. Respect our school.) and Class Rule #4 (Make smart choices.) when we had the paint out. They really did an awesome job, I was so proud :)

These only took a day to dry (probably less). I did have them leave the outside unpainted so it would be easy to carry and paint wouldn't get all over our hands or another person's plate.

Day 3: This was another day that focused on Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind- Have a Plan because we were labeling with Sharpies and there's no erasing those guys! We used our pink reference sheet and got to work thinking about the different ways we could label. Luckily, Sharpie writes great on top of the paint and on the edges, so the finished product was top-notch :)

We ended this project by having students leave them at their table spots and walking around to view all of the different plates. We made predictions as a class as to which landform/body of water we saw the most and also tallied how many landforms/bodies of water they were able to fit on a plate.

We started talking at the end of this week about the West region and already, landforms are popping up in our reading. I know the kids have such a better grasp on it after this project and, trust me, it is easy-peasy for you as a teacher as well :)

Have a wonderful weekend! I am so excited to share a new series with you about how I am using Math Rotations in class- more info on that soon :)


  1. That is such a great idea. I bet the kids loved it. I agree with you teaching that because you need to make sure they understand certain concepts before teaching others. When I taught 4th grade, we studied the MO regions. We had the students make salt water dough and made maps of MO. They had to include major rivers and landforms. It was pretty much the same process you took with yours. Dough... Dry. Paint... Dry. lol
    Thanks for sharing this great idea! :)

  2. This is a great activity. I appreciate the photos and the way you broke it down day by day! I think I might try something similar in my class for the physical regions of Canada and lanforms.

    Looking From Third to Fourth

    1. Thanks! I know you and your kids will love it-- they kept saying over and over how much fun they were having and I loved how focused they were the whole time-- can't beat that :) :) Good luck & I'd love to hear how it goes!

  3. Love this! I am so sad we've already covered landforms in my classroom. I'll have to store these ideas away for next year. I also LOVE how you incorporated the 7 habits. We are currently introducing each habit school-wide and I love seeing how other teachers use them across the curriculum! =)

    Ms. Smith
    Adventures of Ms. Smith

  4. LOVE this:) We did landforms already though:( Maybe next year!

    Tonya’s Treats for Teachers

  5. Love this idea! Any activity that involves painting, molding, or paper plates is definitely a winner with the kids. It sure beats sitting in their chairs reading from a boring textbook. Thanks for sharing, and I LOVE your paint trays... they are simply adorable!
    :0) Melissa
    More Time 2 Teach

  6. I love this idea. We are just going to be starting landforms here in the next couple of weeks and I may have to try this for something different. Thanks!