Geography Lesson Plan: Just Deserts

Subject: Geography; World Culture
Grades: 4-6

Even though this lesson plan is just about deserts of the world (no, sad to say, not about desserts of the world), student will gain cross-curricular practice in language arts, social studies, and technology skills as they read and interpret a WorldTeasers: Just Deserts chart and also research and complete a second chart about deserts of the world.

Students will:
· Describe the four major types of deserts.
· Use a map of the world to locate the four major types of deserts according to their continents.
· Compare and contrast the similarities and differences among the four types of deserts.
· Interpret questions to figure out what information is wanted and use a chart to answer those questions.
· (Optional) Use Microsoft Excel or other graphing software to create a bar chart to display information.

National Geography Standards
Standard 7:
The physical processes that shape the patterns of Earth’s surface.
Standard 8: The characteristics and spatial distribution of ecosystems on Earth’s surface.

NCTE/IRA Standards for the English Language Arts
Standard 7:
Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and non-print texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.

National Educational Technology Standards
Standard 3:
Technology productivity tools: Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.

Materials Needed
· Just Deserts Charts (See below for directions for creating the Charts or go to and click on Ideas for Using WordTeasers for a copy of the charts that you can print out.)
· Just Deserts Challenge Cards from WorldTeasers: World Culture & Geography
· (Optional): Computer with Internet connection and Microsoft Excel or other graphing software

Getting Started
Ask students what words come to mind when they think about a desert? Write those words on the board. (Some likely words might be sand, hot, cactus, camels.) Tell students that those words can describe one type or category of desert — very hot deserts called Subtropical deserts — but that there are other types of deserts as well. Tell students that, in fact, the largest desert in the world is actually very cold. It’s called a Polar desert. Do they know where that desert is? (The Antarctic desert on the continent of Antarctica.)

Discuss with students the definition of a desert. Explain that there are four main types of deserts: Subtropical deserts, which are the hottest, Cool Coastal deserts, where the average temperature is much cooler than subtropical deserts, Cold Winter deserts, which are very hot in the summer, but as cold as 10°F in the winter, and Polar deserts. Tell students that whether hot or cold, all deserts have one thing in common. Can students guess what that is? (All deserts receive little or not rainfall.) Deserts get less than 10 inches of rain per year. Ask: How many inches of rain do you think we get here in [name of your city or town]? Give students time to research on the Internet the average yearly precipitation in their city or town? (For average precipitation in your zip code area, go to on the Internet, type in your zip code in the box next to Localweather, click Go, and then page down and click Averages.)

Write the following WorldTeasers: Just Deserts chart on the chalkboard. (Or print out enough copies of the chart for each student or pairs of students.) Give students time to study the information in the chart. Then, ask students various grade-appropriate questions about the information on the chart. For example:
1. What is the name of the largest Subtropical desert named on the chart? (Great Victoria)
2. On what continent would you find the oldest desert on earth? (Africa)
3. How much bigger is the wettest desert on earth than the driest desert on earth? (66,000 square miles)
4. How are the Namib and the Atacama deserts similar? (They’re both Cool Coastal deserts.)
5. How is the Sonoran desert different from the Gobi desert? (The Sonoran desert is a Subtropical desert and the Gobi desert is a Cold Winter desert.)

Allow time for teams of students to formulate their own WorldTeaser Challenge questions based on information in the chart and then challenge classmates with the questions.

Next, write the WorldTeasers: Just Deserts II chart on the chalkboard (or print out a copy from Divide the class into teams to research and fill in the blanks under each category.

Have students locate on a world map the 12 different deserts mentioned in the Just Deserts charts I and II.

Extension (optional)
Using the information in the chart and Microsoft Excel or other graphic software, have students create a bar graph to show the relative size of the six deserts named in the chart.

Challenge students to take the WorldTeaser Challenge. Put the six Just Deserts Challenge Cards on a table. One at a time, ask a volunteer to come up and select a challenge card and read it out loud to the class. See by a raise of hands who can win the WorldTeaser Challenge.

Creating the Charts
Chart 1: WorldTeasers: Just Deserts I
Open the Insert Table window in Microsoft Word. For Number of Columns, put 7 and for Number of Rows put 6. Fill in the rows as follows:
Row 1: WorldTeaser Fact, Driest desert on earth, Wettest desert on earth, Coldest desert on earth, Oldest desert on earth, Desert name for a queen, 4th largest desert on earth
Row 2: Name of Desert, The Atacama, Sonoran, Antarctic, Namib, Great Victoria, Gobi
Row 3: Continent, South America, North America, Antarctica, Africa, Great Victoria, Asia
Row 4: Type of Desert, Cool Coastal, Subtropical, Polar, Cool Coastal, Subtropical, Cold Winter
Row 5: Land Area, 54,000 sq. mi, 120,000 sq. mi, 5.5 million sq. mi, 13,000 sq. mi, 250,000 sq. mi, 500,000 sq. mi.
Row 6: Location, Northern Chile; Ariz., CA, Mexico; Antarctica; Angola, Namibia; Southern Australia; China, Mongolia

Chart II: WorldTeasers: Just Deserts II
Open the Insert Table window in Microsoft Word. For Number of Columns, put 7 and for Number of Rows put 6. Fill in the rows as follows:
Row 1: WorldTeaser Fact, Largest non-Polar desert, Largest U.S. desert, Largest desert in Americas, Desert with longest sand dunes, Largest Asian desert, Most northern desert
Row 2: Name of Desert, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell
Row 3: Continent, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell
Row 4: Type of Desert, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell
Row 5: Land Area, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell
Row 6: Location, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell, blank cell

Next Week: “On the Fence” with Idioms

Source: WorldTeasers: World Culture and Geography — An educational game designed to help upper elementary grade students supersize their global knowledge with fascinating, intriguing, and amusing trivia about countries and their culture. Grades 4 +. Available at:

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