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Landforms Lesson Plan

Author: Katie Cook-Zamora

Year: 2013

Artform: Visual Art

Subjects: Language Arts, Science

Grade: 5th

Duration: 2 hours and 45 minutes

Overview: This lesson teaches students to look at the physical characteristics of different landforms and processes and to block them into a landscape drawing. It also teaches them how to create shadows and achieve different values through mixing oil pastel.

Standards and Objectives

The student is able to understand value changes. The student can mimic patterns and textures. The student understands how to block-in objects. The student can create depth by overlapping shapes.
Students will develop language through viewing media and presenting. Students will demonstrate an understanding that print carries “the” message. Students will visualize words while writing. Students will learn new words through listening and reading widely.

Students will understand that volcanoes, earthquakes, uplift weathering and erosion reshape Earth’s surface.
The objective of this lesson is to teach students to block-in a drawing of a landform or process of their choice, including a horizon line and keeping in mind foreground, middle ground and background. Then, to see the different values of objects in the picture and begin to create those values by blending with the oil pastels.



This lesson will begin with a small group activity. Hang pictures in different areas of the room which show a butte, a plateau, an example of erosion, an earthquake, an arch, a glacier, a canyon and a mountain.

Put students in groups of 4 or 5 and give each group a description of one of the pictures that does not mention the name of the landform or process. Give the group a piece of paper and ask them to summarize the information to be taught to the class later. Then, have them find the picture that goes with the description, and stand by it.

Each group will choose someone to present their summary to the class and have the class decide if they have chosen the correct picture.

The next step would be to come together as a whole group and display all of the pictures on the whiteboard. Briefly explain texture, and then have the students help you identify the textures they see in the pictures of the landforms and processes (this could be done in the same groups and then shared with the whole group. List the textures on the whiteboard as the students identify them.


Have the students choose a landform or process that they want to illustrate. On the document camera, demonstrate for them an example of how to block-in their drawing, making their landform the focus of the picture by drawing it from close-up.

Talk to them about aerial perspective as you draw, making things at the bottom of the page bigger because they are closer and the things in the middle and at the top smaller, as they are farther away.

Then show them how to color the landform and background with oil pastels, creating tints and shades by mixing white and black with the colors to lighten or darken them.

Show them how to add shadows to their landform and plants in the picture, considering the angle of the sun.

Tell them to leave the sky blank. They can color the clouds and the sun, but the sky should stay white.


Give the students time to work on drawing and coloring their landform. As they work, walk around and check for understanding and help those that need it.

When the students have finished drawing and coloring their pictures, they can then do a watercolor wash over the top of their work with blue, to fill in the sky

Because they have worked with oil pastel, the oil will resist the water, and the paint should only fill in the sky area. If they are worried about it, they do not have to do the wash over the whole page, but could just do it in the sky.


When the students finish their watercolor washes, you could have them do a writing piece about their land form or process.

A good poem to have them write is a cinquain. A cinquain is a poem with five lines. The lines follow a syllable pattern of 2, 4, 6, 8, 2. One way to brainstorm for this writing is to have the whole class work as a group to create a bank of descriptive words to draw from.

This lesson is integrated with language arts because the students have to read and interpret informational text. it is also tied in with science, because they are learning about landforms and processes and how to illustrate them.
  • How do you create different values of a color?
  • How do you create the illusion of depth in a landscape drawing?
This lesson is differentiated with strong visuals, group work, modeling, creative problem solving and multiple steps to keep students engaged.
  • Plateau: a land area having a relatively level surface, considerably raised above adjoining land on at least one side and often cut by deep canyons.
  • Butte: An isolated hill or mountain rising abruptly above the surrounding land.
  • Arch: a natural rock formation where a rock arch forms with an opening underneath.
  • Canyon: a deep valley with steep sides, often with a stream flowing through it.
  • Volcano: a vent in the Earth’s crust through which lava, steam, ashes, etc. are expelled.
  • Glacier: an extended mass of ice.
  • Texture: the visual and especially tactile quality of a surface.
  • Aerial Perspective: a technique of rendering depth or distance in painting
As a last piece of this lesson, hold a class presentation and have the students display their work and share their writing. Allow the students to offer positive feedback to each other.


  • Color photos of buttes, plateaus, mountains, arches, volcanoes, erosion, canyons, earthquakes, and glaciers
  • Typed descriptions of each of these landforms or processes
  • Pencils
  • Lined paper
  • Newspaper
  • Oil pastels
  • Watercolor paint boxes
  • Watercolor paper 8X10”