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Physical Attributes of Utah

Main Core Tie

Social Studies - 4th Grade
Standard 1 Objective 1

Time Frame

3 class periods of 45 minutes each

Group Size

Large Groups

Life Skills

  • Thinking & Reasoning
  • Systems Thinking


Lynn Paquin
Candy Peters


Enduring Understanding:
Students will understand that the physical attributes of Utah have changed over time.

Essential questions:

  1. How did the three major landforms of Utah affect settlement patterns?
  2. How did Lake Bonneville change Utah?

During this lesson students will use maps to investigate how the geography of Utah has changed over time.


  • The Utah Adventure textbook
  • Outline maps of Utah
  • pencils
  • colored pencils
  • ruler

Background for Teachers


  • Lake Bonneville
    Use this information to prepare a mini-presentation on Lake Bonneville.
  • Physical Geography of Utah
    Use this information, along with chapter 1 of The Utah Adventure, to prepare a mini-presentation on the landform regions of Utah.
  • Utah's Great Salt Lake
    This site has an excellent map of Lake Bonneville.

The Utah Adventure, Chapter 1

Student Prior Knowledge

Vocabulary: landform, plateau, basin, mountain, ancient

Other concepts: Where Utah is located on a map of the United States

Pre-assessment activity: See "Physical Utah Snowball" listed under Assessment Plan.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to identify, locate, and compare the major landform regions of Utah as they existed at the time of Lake Bonnevile and their significance for the present day.

Instructional Procedures


Prior to beginning this lesson: Using the teacher background information make a mini-presentation on Ancient Lake Bonneville, the three physical regions of Utah and how they have affected settlement patterns. This presentation can be used in parts to introduce different sections of the lesson and the maps students will create.

Day 1:
Invitation to learn: Snowball activity as a pre-assessment (see assessment attachment)

Guided Instruction:

  1. Explain the purpose of this lesson and the intended learning outcomes.
  2. Have the students read the appropriate sections of chapter 1 in The Utah Adventure(pages 6-13).

Day 2:

  1. Using the blank Utah map and the product guide and rubric (see attachments) have the students create a colored map showing the location of Lake Bonneville and the landform regions of Utah.
  2. Review product guide and rubric with the students before beginning the activity.
  3. Students are given the rest of the time to work on their maps.

Day 3:

  1. Students are given time to finish their maps.
  2. If desired, students may share their work with partners or small groups.
  3. Class discussion suggestions:
    1. How would you compare Utah at the time of Lake Bonneville to the present time?
    2. What conclusions can you draw about how Lake Bonneville changed Utah?
    3. Can you formulate a theory about what happened to Lake Bonneville?
    4. What facts would you select to teach someone else about the landform regions of Utah?
    5. Have students look at a present day map and point out where they live. What landforms in the area could be a reason for people settling there?
    6. Why do most people live on the boundry between the Great Basin and the Rocky Mountain area?
    7. Discuss some of the features that are located in the Great Basin or in the Colorado Plateau area that keep people from living there.
    8. What factors prevent people from settling in other areas.
  4. Teacher then collects student maps and evaluates using the rubric.

Strategies for Diverse Learners

High ability students may desire to create their maps with no structured aid; they may also be encouraged to add addtional details and information to their maps as desired. Students with special needs may need to work with maps where the outlines of the required elements are already provided; they may also be given the opportunity to look at a complete map for reference.


Students could be asked to write a paragraph comparing the landform regions of Utah during the time of Lake Bonneville to the present day. Working in small groups, students could prepare skits presenting information about the Great Basin, The Rocky Mountains, and the Colorado Plateau.

Assessment Plan


  1. Pre-assessment:
    "Physical Utah Snowball" This is an activity from the "Tribes" program. See attachment. (see attachment)
  2. Final Assessment:
    Students will complete their maps and then be evaluated using the product guide and rubric. See attachments.

    Students will write a paragraph sharing how the landforms in their area affect why people chose that area to live in.


Created: 06/25/2009
Updated: 02/05/2018