Landforms Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about landforms.  The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Landforms. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.

What landforms can you find in your community? Your children should be familiar with different landforms in their neighborhood and beyond. Review that a landform is a natural formation or area of land. Continents, mountains, plateaus, hills, valleys, plains, coasts, bays, and islands are just a few examples of different landforms. We encourage screening this movie and then using different maps and globes to guide discussion about local landforms in your community, city, or state.

Earth is divided into seven continents: North America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Antarctica. Remind your children that there are also smaller landforms within the continents. If possible, take children on a walk in the neighborhood and point out different landforms. Look at a hill together and have your children notice how it rises above the surrounding area and has a rounded top. You may want to compare and contrast different hills in your community. A mountain is a landform that also rises above the surrounding area, but it has a peak. A row of connected mountains is called a range. You may wish to point out different mountain ranges in the United States. The longest mountain range is the Andes Mountains of South America, which extends for 4,400 miles and goes through seven countries. A plateau is similar to a mountain, but it has a flat surface on top.

A valley is a landform that is lower than the surrounding area. Valleys are often found between hills, mountains, and plateaus. Water from higher areas can flow down into valleys, creating rivers and streams. As a result, some lands in valleys are fertile and good for agriculture and grazing livestock. A canyon is a landform with very steep sides and “stepped” or layered walls. You may want to show pictures of the Grand Canyon, which is 5,000 feet deep and stretches between Arizona and Colorado. Canyons can form when rivers wear away at rocks over millions of years.

A plain is a wide, flat area of land. The Great Plains covers parts of the United States and Canada and, at 2,000 miles in length, is one of the largest expanses of grassland in the world. It provides land for farming and raising livestock due to its fertile soil and flat terrain. A prairie is a grassy plain with few or no trees, and prairies can be found on the Great Plains. However, it is important for your children to understand that plains can be covered by forests or ice. They can also be underwater, on the ocean floor.

A coast is where land meets an ocean. Coasts can be rocky and steep, or they can be relatively flat and sandy. A bay is an area of water surrounded by land on three sides. Bays often form when water wears away at the coast over thousands of years. The water inside of a bay is often calm, warm, and sheltered from wind. An island is an area of land that is surrounded by water. You may wish to point out different islands on a map. There are more than seven thousand islands in the Caribbean alone.

Help your children understand the world they live in beyond their communities. How might life be different if they lived on island? How might life be different if they lived on a mountain? Investigating different landforms allows children to explore the world without buying a plane ticket!