Lesson Plan - My North Carolina

A Lesson Plan for Grade 4 Language Arts and Social Studies

By Jennifer Job, School of Education, UNC-Chapel Hill

Using word association and early maps of North Carolina, students will examine their preconceptions about the state and connect them to what they learn. This assignment acts as a diagnostic assessment. The benefit of using colonial maps rather than a current map of North Carolina is that students can make a connection between discovery and progression in the creation of the state that they know. This is intended to be used before any lesson about colonial times or discovery of America in general—the students can consider themselves “explorers” along with the ones they learn about.

This lesson plan includes a worksheet and a set of maps, which can be printed and distributed. Download the worksheet by clicking the titles: mync_worksheet.pdf and mync_maps.pdf

Detail from Soil map, North Carolina, Ashe County sheet, 1912.

Time Required: 30 - 40 minutes


  • One worksheet (.pdf) per student
  • Several copies of maps (.pdf) so students may choose one for themselves
  • Pencil/Pen/Crayons/Markers
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Teacher Instructions:

  1. Explain to students that North Carolina is known for many features. Ask them to name some out loud (i.e., mountains, UNC, etc.). This addresses the Language Arts standard of brainstorming and planning through word association.
  2. Hand out the worksheets (.pdf). Ask students to think of four things that can be found in North Carolina, and to write each thing on a line on the paper. They can be really creative—everything from the Outer Banks to cotton to the Carolina Panthers to their school to Native Americans. Have them write carefully in pencil, and circulate to help with spelling/ideas.
  3. Now, let students choose a map of North Carolina. Give them a brief history of the maps (located at the URLs on the pages) and tell them that the people who drew the maps were just discovering North Carolina, just like the students are. Tell students to choose a map that seems most like North Carolina to them. They can think about what major landforms they think of and connect to a specific map. The idea is that North Carolina isn't just a shape—it's known for what is inside as well, which can mean different things to different students.
  4. Show students on the map where their hometown is, and ask them to mark it with a star or circle or other like shape, so they may get a relative idea of location.
  5. Ask them to cut the map into four pieces—one for each thing they named on their paper. They can cut out the piece of the map anyway they'd like, but remind them not to make it too small—they are trying to show the area the feature is in. (You may want to make one of your own to model, with the words "Mountains," "Beach," "Carowinds," and "Raleigh," with the map cut into four sections.)
  6. Have the students glue the map pieces to the handout in the matching squares and color them in. They can also use drawings, symbols, or other illustrations to show where exactly the feature is in that square. The idea is to have them identify an area with the word.
  7. Students can share their maps or they can be posted in the room. When they share their maps, be sure to ask them to point out why people may live where they have identified, and why their important locations are where they are.


  1. At the end of the unit on North Carolina, whether it be mapping or the entire year in general, have students go back to their maps.
  2. In either discussion or written form, as students to express how their maps from before the unit match what they now know about North Carolina. Be sure to focus on how much they knew before, and how much they know now. Encourage their analysis without focusing on what they got wrong.
  3. Be sure to revisit the idea of cultural connection to the places they identified. Ask them why a university, amusement park, etc. may have been placed where it was, given what they know now about the state and how it developed.

North Carolina Curriculum Alignment

  • Language Arts 4.05: Use planning strategies to generate topics and organize ideas (e.g., brainstorming, mapping, webbing, reading, discussion).
  • Social Studies 1.01: Locate, in absolute and relative terms, major landforms, bodies of water and natural resources in North Carolina.
  • Social Studies 1.02: Describe and compare physical and cultural characteristics of the regions.
  • Social Studies 1.03: Suggest some influences that location has on life in North Carolina such as major cities, recreation areas, industry, and farms.
  • Social Studies 1.04: Evaluate ways the people of North Carolina used, modified, and adapted to the physical environment, past and present.