School Improvement in Maryland

America the Beautiful

Social Studies Reading Stance Instructional Task

Task Overview

Grade: 2-3
Title: America the Beautiful
Duration: Two class periods
Geography Concepts: Physical and Human-made Features, Map Elements

Maryland Learner Outcomes

Social Studies Skills: Students will demonstrate an understanding of historical and current events using chronological and spatial thinking, develop historical interpretations, and frame questions that include collecting and evaluating information from primary and secondary sources.

  • Find, interpret, and apply information from primary and secondary sources including pictures, graphics, maps, atlases, artifacts, and timelines.

Geography: Students will use geographic concepts and processes to examine the role of culture, technology, and the environment in the location and distribution of human activities and spatial connections throughout time.

  • Describe and classify physical and human-made features of places and regions.


Students will be able to:

  • identify map elements.
  • use pictures to identify physical features located in the U.S.
  • use pictures to identify human-made features located in the U.S.
  • locate physical and human-made features on a U.S. map


Physical Features

  • landforms and bodies of water

Human-made Features

  • modifications people have made to the land


Teacher Background

Knowledge of the physical features and human-made features of the Earth.
(It would be a good idea to use the book Our Earth before you begin this lesson. It introduces students to physical features.) Our Earth by Anne Rockwell, (Harcourt Brace & Company, California, New York, London, 1998, ISBN 0-15-201679-1)

Note: Before beginning this lesson you may want to cut out pictures and definition cards from handout, "Physical and Human-made Features" for use in the closure activity and place them in envelopes. You will need one set of pictures and definitions for each group of four students. You could also have students cut out the cards.

Setting for the story:

  1. Show the students a globe and ask them what two things make up the surface of the Earth (land and water). Explain that the surface of our planet also has smaller pieces of land and bodies of water and that these are called physical or natural features. Write the term "Physical Features" on the board. Ask students to identify physical features (mountain, lake, valley, hill, ocean, river, etc.)
  2. Write the term " human-made features" on the board and explain that human-made features are modifications people have made to the land. Have students name human-made features (bridge, building, tunnel, street, etc.)
  3. Read the book, America the Beautiful, to the students.

Foldout Book Activity

  1. Give each student a sentence strip and the handout, "America the Beautiful" (Acrobat 329k). Instruct students to cut out pictures.
  2. Have the students sing the song, "America the Beautiful." O beautiful for spacious skies,
    For amber waves of grain,
    For purple mountain majesties
    Above the fruited plain!
    America! America!
    God shed His grace on thee
    And crown thy good with brotherhood
    From sea to shining sea!
  3. Tell the students that about one hundred years ago Katharine Lee Bates wrote this poem, which later was made into a song by Samuel A. Ward. Write the words from the song on the board using the model below. Discuss the song with the students and beside each phrase of the song, match the picture that goes with it . If you do not have the book, use the list below for this activity. Ask students to identify physical and human-made features that make our country beautiful. Help students locate these places on a U.S. map. Tell the students that they are now going to make a foldout book of the song.
  4. Give each student a 3" x 24" sentence strip. Next, tell students that they are going to use a ruler to measure the sentence strip. Tell students to mark the sentence strip every 3 1/2". Now tell students to fold their sentence strip on the first mark. Next, they are to fold the sentence strip backward on the second mark. Tell students to fold the strip back and forth to make a foldout book. Students should continue doing this until the end of the strip. At the end, they will have one fold that is only 2" wide.
  5. Instruct students to paste the pictures in the order below spacing them neatly on the sentence strip. When students have completed pasting their pictures on one side of the sentence strip they should turn it over and continue on the other side. On the 2" fold they are to paste the title box.
America the Beautiful
Niagara Falls O beautiful
Rocky Mountains For spacious skies
Fields of Corn For amber waves of grain
Yosemite For purple mountain majesties
Plains Midwest Above the fruited plain
Appalachian Mountains America
Grand Canyon America
Mesa Verde God shed His grace on thee
Chimney Rock And crown thy good
Mt. Rushmore With brotherhood
Golden Gate Bridge To shining sea
Statue of Liberty From sea

Review the terms "physical and human-made features" with the students. Divide the students into groups of four and give each group an envelope containing picture cards and definitions "Physical and Human-made Features." Tell students to work in their group and match the picture cards and definitions. Discuss each picture and definition


  1. Give each student a copy of the handout "Look at a Place". Tell students to look carefully at the pictures and to list all the physical features and human-made features they see in the pictures.
  2. Tell students to choose one of the pictures and write a paragraph describing this place as a setting for a story.

Scoring Tool

2 points Student identified at least two physical features
2 points Student identified at least two human-made features.
2 points Student's paragraph included a description of at least two physical or human-made features.

Students can receive a total of six points if all parts of the Assessment are completed correctly. Students lose one point for each incomplete item.

Possible Answers:

Physical Features - Picture 1: mountain, river, lake, forest, plain
Human-made Features - Pictures 1: cabin/building
Physical Features - Picture 2: river, lake
Human-made Features - Picture 2: buildings, roads, parking lot, park, railroad tracks, swimming pool

Print Version of Worksheet (Acrobat 364k)