Home learning focus

Learn about rivers, including what they are and how they are formed.

This lesson includes:

  • two short films on rivers

  • two activities to build your knowledge


What is a river?

A river is a moving body of water that flows from its source on high ground, across land, and then into another body of water, which could be a lake, the sea, an ocean or even another river.

A river flows along a channel with banks on both sides and a bed at the bottom.

If there is lots of rainfall, or snow or ice melting, rivers often rise over the top of their banks and begin to flow onto the floodplains at either side.

In the following video, Sue Venir gives an introduction to rivers.

Rivers and lakes - what's the difference?

How are rivers formed?

Rivers usually begin in upland areas, when rain falls on high ground and begins to flow downhill.

They always flow downhill because of gravity.

They then flow across the land - meandering - or going around objects such as hills or large rocks.

They flow until they reach another body of water.

As rivers flow, they erode (wear away) the land.

Over a long period of time rivers create valleys, or gorges and canyons if the river is strong enough to erode rock.

They take the sediment (bits of soil and rock) and carry it along with them.

Small rivers are usually known as streams, brooks or creeks and if they flow from underground they are called springs.

The following video, taken from the 'Explain This...' series, charts the journey of a river from its source to the sea or a lake.

Explaining rivers


There are lots of fun things to do to help you remember what you've learnt about rivers.

Here are a few you could try.

Activity 1

Test how much you have learnt about rivers by completing the following quiz.

Activity 2

Use the worksheet from Britannica to colour in the rivers of the world.

You will need coloured pens for this activity.

Rivers of the world - Britannica

Where next?

Continue your learning with these links:

More from the 'Explain This...' series

You might also be interested in

There's more to learn

Have a look at these other resources around the BBC and the web.

More lessons for Year 3 and P4
KS2 Geography on BBC Bitesize
KS2 Geography on BBC Teach
Rivers with Twinkl
Rivers with the Geographical Association
Rivers with Tigtag