United States Southwest Region


United States Southwest Region explores the characteristics and landmarks of Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Students will discover interesting facts about these states overall and learn to identify their capitals and features.

The “Options for Lesson” section on the classroom procedure page offers more suggestions for additional ideas and activities. One idea is to have students create a travel log that relates to a journey through the four states in the region. They would include important information, describe the landmarks they saw, and offer other details about the trip.

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What our United States Southwest Region lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: United States Southwest Region explores the states that compose this part of the country. Students will learn about various landmarks and characteristics of the area. They will also identify the state capitals and other important facts. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, and 5th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. This lesson requires colored pencils, markers, construction paper, and scratch paper. Students will also need access to the internet.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page lists a number of suggestions for ideas and activities you could incorporate into the lesson. Students may work alone or in groups for the activity. Assign one state to each pair of students for research and for the poster. Students create a large map of the state for the poster on butcher-size paper. They could write a travel log related to a journey through the four states. For this assignment, they should include important information, landmarks, and other details about each state. Create four groups, one for each state. Each group could create a picture book, PowerPoint presentation, skit, or video related to information about their state. Plan a southwestern foods day, and invite parents to the class. Students create acrostic poems for each state.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page gives you a little more information on the lesson overall and describes what you may want to focus your teaching on. The blank lines are available for you to write out any thoughts or ideas you have as you prepare.


States of the Southwest Region

The United States Southwest Region lesson plan has five content pages. As you now already know, there are 50 states that compose the United States of America. We can divide the states into five geographic regions: northeast, midwest, west, southwest, and southeast. The different regions share similar natural or artificial features, such as language, government, ideology, religion, forests, wildlife, and climate.

The southwest region of the United States includes Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma. However, sometimes it includes other states, and sometimes some of the four we mentioned can fit into another region. However, these four states share the basic elements of culture, politics, history, religion, and other aspects that make it the southwest region.

Most areas in the Southwest are deserts with many densely populated open spaces scattered throughout. It is a semi-arid to arid climate, and the summers are hot and dry. But most of the time, the winters are cool. Some of the higher mountainous areas even receive snowfall. The landscapes of the southwest include mountains, mesas (isolated flat-topped hills with steep sides), and high broad basins (natural depressions on the earth’s surface). There are also plateaus—areas of relatively high, level ground—and some plains.

Deserts and Water Bodies

Two major deserts of the Southwest are the Sonoran Desert and the Chihuahuan Desert. The Sonoran Desert covers most of the southern half of Arizona and New Mexico. And the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest desert in North America at about 800 miles long and 250 miles wide. Most of this desert is actually in the country of Mexico. However, in the United States, it extends into part of New Mexico, Texas, and southeastern Arizona.

In addition to the dry land, branches of the Colorado River run through the Sonoran Desert. This provides many of the trees, cacti, and shrubs with enough water for growth. The river flows south and west, then crosses into Mexico. It finally ends in the Gulf of California. The 1,885-mile-long Rio Grande also brings water to the area. It begins in the mountains of Colorado and then flows south through the middle of New Mexico. It turns southeast along the border of Texas and finally empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Furthermore, Lake Mead is another body of water that lies partly in the southwest region in Arizona. It is the largest reservoir in terms of water capacity in the United States. Lake Mead is a lake on the Colorado River that is part of Nevada as well. Hoover Dam was built to control flooding on the Colorado River and to store water. Lake Mead is behind the dam and provides water for many people in the southwest region.

In parts of eastern New Mexico and Texas is the High Plains region of the Great Plains. The Texas Hill Country can be found in the far eastern part of southwest Texas. It consists of dry, tall, and rugged rocky hills of limestone and granite. The Central Plains are home to many farms and ranches.

Vegetation, Wildlife, and Resources

The vegetation in the area is strong enough to withstand the hot and dry environment, so it requires little water. Some of the most popular plants in the region include yucca, saguaro, cactus, barrel cactus, desert spoon, and sagebrush. There are a variety of cacti that grow in Arizona, but many cacti grow in other states too.

Wildlife in the area include a variety as well, such as bobcats, bighorn sheep, jackrabbits, gray foxes, mountain lions, armadillos, raccoons, porcupines, and others. In New Mexico and Texas, you could find American bison and prairie dogs. And throughout the entire Southwest, you will discover many kinds of snakes, especially rattlesnakes.

One of the most abundant natural resources we find in the Southwest is “black gold”—oil, so nicknamed due to its high valuable. Uranium, coal, and natural gas are also abundant in the region. Refineries run 24 hours a day, separating the crude oil that comes out of the ground and making it into gasoline and heating oil. Other parts of the oil produce goods like crayons, plastic, and medicines. A single refinery occupies as much land as several hundred football fields.

History and Landmarks of the Southwest

As with other regions of the country, Native American tribes once occupied the land of the Southwest. Such tribes included the Navajo, Apache, Hopi, Zuni, and Comanche. Many of the reservations in the area have preserved the history and culture of the Native American peoples.

In addition, Mexico once owned parts of the Southwest. The United States did not obtain the land until the Mexican-American War between 1846 and 1848. In the Southwest today, you will find much evidence of the Mexican culture, including streets and locations that use Mexican names. People still cook traditional Mexican foods, and many customs reflect the heritage and culture of Mexico.

The region boasts many famous landmarks as well, including one of the most recognizable in the world—the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The canyon is 217 miles long. Parts of it are a mile deep and 18 miles wide. In some areas, it is so deep that the weather at the top is different than the weather at the bottom. At the bottom of the canyon is the Colorado River which has been flowing through the Grand Canyon for millions of years. The force of the water has caused the walls of the canyon to erode over time.

One other landmark is the Petrified Forest, which is the fossilized remains of prehistoric trees. It is not like a normal forest. Millions of years ago, the trees died and were covered with mud and volcanic ash. Mineral in the mud replaced the tree’s living matter and eventually hardened into stone. Most of this unusual forest is still buried under the desert sand. The Petrified Forest is found in northeastern Arizona.

Traits of the States

The lesson provides a chart with information on each state, including the population as of 2021, rounded to the nearest thousand. Arizona is home to one of the largest populations of Native Americans in the world. Besides the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, other tourist attractions include Lake Mead and the Painted Forest. The capital is Phoenix, but other popular cities include Mesa, Scottsdale, and Tucson.

New Mexico’s capital is Santa Fe. The state is home to Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monuments. The population of this fairly large state is only 2.1 million. Oklahoma has almost double the number of people as New Mexico, with just under 4 million residents. Tourist attractions include the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and the Cherokee Cultural Center.

Texas was nicknamed the Lone Star State. Other popular cities include Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Plano. There are more than 100 state parks throughout the state. It’s also home to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center and the Alamo. Not surprisingly, the number of residents is nearly 30 million people.

The southwest region of the United States includes the largest of the 48 contiguous states, which is Texas. It is home to Grand Canyon in Arizona. And it includes the Sooner State of Oklahoma and the Land of Enchantment—New Mexico. Though only four states, the region is filled with beautiful deserts and canyons.


The United States Southwest Region lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


During the activity, students will create tourism posters to market the southwest region. They will use what they learned during the lesson and draw or download pictures. After they complete the activity, they will answer questions about the region. For instance, they will explain which state they find the most interesting. The activity can be graded with a point system.


The practice worksheet will require some memory work. However, you are welcome to let students use the content pages for help if you wish. The worksheet divides into two sections. For the first part, students must match definitions or descriptions to the correct terms. There are 15 terms in a word bank to match to the statements. The second part requires students to name the capital of each state and rank them from most to least populous.


The homework will test students’ knowledge and memory again. If you prefer, you could use this assignment as a quiz. Students will first match the states to corresponding facts, landmarks, or cities. For the next part, they will answer a series of 12 questions or prompts using what they learned in the lesson. Finally, they will describe which state they would choose to live in if they had to move and explain why.

Worksheet Answer Keys

There are answer keys for both the practice and homework worksheets at the end of the lesson plan document. Correct answers are all in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ work. Given the nature of a few of the prompts, there may be some variation. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


Social Studies


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

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