The Great Lakes

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 12054

What makes a lake great and another lake not so great? What are those big blue areas on the US map that look like fingers or a palm tree? Learn a song and answer interactive questions about big lakes!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Can lakes have waves like the ocean?

Did you know that some lakes are so big they have waves?

The largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth is the Great Lakes.

In this lesson, you will learn about the Great Lakes. This group of lakes is located in the northern United States of America and southern Canada. The Great Lakes consist of five lakes: Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario. A great way to remember the Great Lakes is to remember the word HOMES:

  • Huron
  • Ontario
  • Michigan
  • Erie
  • Superior

Map of the Great Lakes Basin

Image by the Detroit office of the US Army Corps of Engineers, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Lake Superior is the largest lake of the entire group. This lake has enough water to cover all of North America and South America with one foot of water! It lies six hundred feet above sea level and is as deep as one thousand three hundred thirty-two feet deep. It is the deepest of all the great lakes. The shore surrounding the lake is rocky. Below, you can see a lighthouse overlooking Lake Superior:

Lake Superior

Lake Huron is the second-largest lake of all the Great Lakes. It connects to Lake Michigan at the Straits of Mackinac and to Lake Superior at St. Mary’s River. Many ships travel along these rivers to get from lake to lake. It has the longest shoreline of all the lakes. Below, you can see a picture of Lake Huron:

Lake Huron

Lake Michigan is the third-largest lake. This lake borders four states in the United States. Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin are the states that are located near Lake Michigan. It is the only Great Lake that is only in the United States and not in Canada. This lake has some of the largest freshwater sand dunes, just like the ones on the beach! You can see some of the sand dunes by Lake Michigan below:

Lake Michigan

The fourth-largest Great Lake is Lake Erie. It is much warmer than all the other Great Lakes. The warm temperatures in Lake Erie make it possible for many animals to live there. Lake Erie has the most fish species of all the Great Lakes. Lake Erie gets water from Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. It is the shallowest of all the lakes. Lake Erie borders Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. Below, you can see a picture of a sunny day on Lake Erie:

Lake Erie

Finally, Lake Ontario is the smallest of all the Great Lakes. Ships pass through Lake Ontario to get to the Saint Lawrence River that leads to the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Ontario is a tourist attraction because Niagara Falls is part of Lake Ontario, and Toronto (Canada’s largest city) is located near Lake Ontario. To learn more about Niagara Falls, check out the Additional Resources in the right-hand sidebar. Below, you can see the city of Toronto next to Lake Ontario:

Lake Ontario

You learned a lot about the five Great Lakes.

Tell your parent or teacher the names of all five of the Great Lakes, then move on to the Got It? section to learn a song about the Great Lakes.

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