A Study of the Physical Regions of Alabama

Learning Resource Type

Lesson Plan

Subject Area

Social Studies




In this lesson, students will learn the characteristics of the five geographic regions of Alabama by researching the regions using maps, the Internet, and books. The students will also make a salt dough map depicting Alabama’s land regions.

This lesson was created as a part of the Alabama History Education Initiative, funded by a generous grant from the Malone Family Foundation in 2009.

Author Information: Ivy Murry and DeShaundra Johnson (Cohort 1: 2009-2010); Holly Hill Elementary and Hall-Kent; Elementary Enterprise City Schools and Homewood City Schools;  Enterprise, AL and Homewood, AL

Social Studies (2010) Grade(s): 4


Compare historical and current economic, political, and geographic information about Alabama on thematic maps, including weather and climate, physical-relief, waterway, transportation, political, economic development, land-use, and population maps.



  • agriculture
  • economic development
  • physical-relief maps


Students know:
  • Many events can impact the population, economic development, and land use in an area.


The students are able to:
  • Analyze characteristics of Alabama using physical and thematic maps.
  • Describe the relationship between human migration and population.


Students understand that:
  • Events can impact the population, economic development, and land use in an area.
  • The climate and weather of our state impacts the population, economic development, and land use.

Primary Learning Objectives

The student will be able to:

  • identify the land regions of Alabama.
  • describe the natural resources and environments of the regions.
  • demonstrate map skills by making, painting, and labeling a physical map of the land regions of Alabama.

Additional Learning Objective(s)

The student will be able to categorize geological features of Alabama, e.g. plateaus - Cumberland Plateau, plains - East Gulf Coastal Plain.



Engagement/Motivation Activity:

In a story-like manner, teach students that the land regions were formed before the first inhabitants of Alabama arrived by saying: “Let me tell you about something that happened long before you were a baby, long before I was a baby, long before the ‘Choctaw-Chickasaw-Cherokee-Creek,’ and even before the Paleo-Indians reached Alabama at the end of the Ice Age - not the movie. There were no counties, no cities, just the land. Alabama had formed naturally into five major land regions."


Think about land regions and about what you think they are. I am going to show you some maps that might help you to get a better understanding of what a land region might be.”

Show primary source maps. Teach students that a land region has geographic, political, or cultural characteristics that distinguish it from others whether it exists in only one state or country or extends over several.

Primary source maps: 


Step 1 Show map of Alabama land regions from the following Web site: https://www.netstate.com/states/geography/al_geography.htm

Give an overview of the five regions and point out landforms.

Step 2 Instruct students that although the work will be completed in groups, each student will be responsible for knowing the characteristics of all five regions, and each group will be responsible for a presentation on one region (Jigsaw).

Divide students into five groups and distribute Alabama Land Regions handout. Students may also utilize information in textbooks and on the internet. Students will work in groups to find important facts about each region such as its natural resources, its land forms, and its flora and fauna. Students should also note the role of the fall line in the geography of the state and that some counties cross land regions. Groups will present learned information in jigsaw fashion.

As this information is presented, each student will write facts about each region on sticky notes.

Step 3 On an anchor chart, each group will place its sticky notes on the appropriate region.

Step 4 The students will play the game “Which Region Is it?” in which students divide into teams and attempt to identify the various land regions of Alabama based upon clues taken from the handout, “Land Regions of Alabama.”

• Students will be divided into teams of three or four and they will select a team spokesman.

• Each team will create and label index cards with the names of the land regions of Alabama.

• After the teacher reads a clue about the land regions of Alabama, the team will discuss and select an answer.

• The team spokesman will hold up the correct answer.

• Remember that certain characteristics may be found in more than one land region, such as growing cotton. The team with the most correct answers wins.


Step 5 The students will use salt dough to make 3-D maps of Alabama using different colors of dough to depict each land region. Students will label the maps after they have dried and write a description of the five land regions of Alabama in their journals.

Assessment Strategies

• Teacher will assess student-made maps using the map rubric



• The students will create a brochure depicting the five land regions and the natural resources found in each region. (Students may use a computer program to create the brochure or they may create the brochures using paper and photographs collected from magazines or from web sites.)

• Using a display of different types of natural resources, rocks, and soils from the land regions, the students will determine in which region(s) the item could be found.


Students who need additional assistance may work with a peer.

Total Duration

31 to 60 Minutes


Teacher Preparation 

• For additional information about the physical geography and geology of Alabama visit https://www.netstate.com/states/geography/al_geography.htm

Student Preparation:


• The students should be able to read and interpret a relief map.

Materials and Resources

• Primary source maps of land regions

Alabama Land Regions handout

• Items for display (optional, see Extension) from the five regions of Alabama such as cotton, coal, soil, corn, soybeans, limestone, marble, iron

• History journals

• Anchor chart with the five geographic regions of Alabama listed as headings

• Sticky notes

• Cardboard or stock for map base

• Food coloring - Five colors will be needed. This could be an opportunity to teach how colors combine to form other colors.

Grading rubric for map

• Salt dough (Find a recipe online or use the one below) or clay      

          • Recipe for dough:


  • 1 cup of salt
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1 cup of water
  • 5 zipper quart or gallon storage bags to be used to mix the dough  

Directions: You may add 2 or 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to make your dough finish harder. In the storage bag, knead the dough with the desired food coloring. The average drying time is 28-50 hours. (It would be expedient to have dough premixed and separated. If you have parent volunteers, have them mix the dough.) 

Technology Resources Needed

Technology Resources Needed:

• Computer with Internet access

• Projector or interactive whiteboard (If computer and projector are not available, have hard copies of maps for students

Approved Date