Earth's Surface Features Lecture Tutorial

Jessica J. Smay, San Jose City College

Karen M. Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project
Initial Publication Date: February 17, 2009 | Reviewed: December 10, 2020


Students work in pairs on this worksheet and strengthen their background knowledge by identifying different features in photographs of Earth's surface. Then to build on this base, the students determine the key processes that form each of the features. To address a common misconception, students read a debate between two hypothetical students and determine which student is stating the scientifically correct idea. The activity is summarized by a question posed about the features on a hypothetical planet.

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Learning Goals

Students will be able to describe the processes that form different features on a planet, and then relate how those features can give information about that planet. Higher-order thinking skills include critical thinking and formulation of hypotheses. Students also learn skills of groupwork.

Context for Use

This activity can be used in an introductory physical geology course, astronomy course, or planetary geology course of any size with no special equipment necessary. Students need to be able to recognize different surface features and determine what processes were necessary for their formation. Students in groups complete this 10-15 minute Lecture Tutorial worksheet after a short lecture on the topic during class. Lecture Tutorials are most effective when used frequently in a course. Read more about how to use Lecture Tutorials

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

For full discussion of how to use Lecture Tutorials, please check the Lecture Tutorials Main Page


Lecture Tutorial worksheets are designed to help student confront their misconceptions, but generally they are not graded. Selected questions are reviewed and answered by the instructor during class. Rather than grade the Lecture Tutorials, exam questions covering that material can be used as assessment.

References and Resources

For resources, please check the Lecture Tutorials References Page