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Introduction to Plate Tectonics

Objectives:

  • The students will be able to describe the basic theory of plate tectonics.

Questions that encompasses the objective:

  • How do you know that our continents are PART of a tectonic plate, and are not just moving independently or by themselves as continents.

Prepare the Learner: Activating Prior Knowledge. 

How will students prior knowledge be activated?

Warm up by asking students:

  • What do you know about the Earth’s crust and layers?

Common Core State Standards:

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.1 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.2.4

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.2.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.3.2 B

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.1

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.4

Materials and Free Resources to Download for this Lesson: 

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Input:
What is the most important content in this lesson?
To reach this lesson’s objective, students need to understand:

  • Pangaea

  • The Earth’s plates are always moving/changing

  • Basic plate tectonic theory – they also should be able to infer by the end of the lesson that the plates are not continents.

How will the learning of this content be facilitated?

  • video clip (approximately 2.5 minutes). After the video mini-lesson, which explains basic plate tectonic theory and defines Pangaea, each student will receive a piece of brightly colored construction paper and a simplified world map. They will cut out the continents and arrange them on the piece of construction paper as they would appear on the original world map. Next, the students will be given 1-2 minutes to try to fit the continents together “like a puzzle,” to create Pangaea. They will discover that most of the continents do not neatly fit together. After 1-2 minutes of arranging the continents, trying to fit them together as best as they can, they will write down 1 observation about their findings.

  • In the next part of the activity, students will be given a PRE-CUT map of the world’s major tectonic plates. This time, they will find that the pieces fit together neatly (like a puzzle) to create one large mass. They should understand from this part of the activity that the tectonic plates include the continents AND things that are underwater (the earth’s crust). After 1-2 minutes, students will write down 1 observation about their findings.

Closure

  • Finally, the students will answer a written independent assessment question based on the material shown in the video and what they gleaned from the activity: Explain how you know that our continents are PART of a tectonic plate, and are not just moving individually or by themselves.

Time/Application
3-5 minutes
Guided Introduction

Review the class/ agenda with the students:

  1. Mini-Lesson: Bill Nye Video

  2. Activity Part 1: Continents

  3. Record Findings

  4. Activity Part 2: Major Plates

  5. Record Findings

  6. Independent Assessment

5 minutes

Mini-lesson: Bill Nye The Science Guy Plate Tectonics Video Clip

  1. Students will watch a 2.5-minute video clip that explains the basics of plate tectonics.

15 Minutes

Activity Part 1: Continents

  1. Give each student a world map.

  2. Instruct them to cut out the continents

  3. Arrange the continents on the piece of colored construction paper as they would appear on the map. If necessary, project a world map that they can reference as they work.

  4. Ask the students to move the continents and attempt to fit them together like puzzle pieces (specifically, create Panagea).

  5. Instruct students to write 1 observation about their findings. Expect answers such as “Africa and South America fit together really well!” or “Not all of the continents fit perfectly.”

15 Minutes

Activity Part 2: Plates

  1. Hand out the cut up map of the world’s major tectonic plates.

  2. Tell students to put the map together “like a puzzle.”

  3. Instruct students to write 1 observation about their findings. Expect answers such as “Tectonic plates are really big!” or “Tectonic plates are in the ocean.”

Closure/Assessment
15 minutes

  • As an independent assessment, the students will answer the question:  

Explain how you know that our continents are PART of a tectonic plate, and are not just moving by themselves.

  • If there is additional time, the students can share their responses with a partner, in small groups, or as a whole group.

 

Individualized Instruction/Scaffolding

English Language Learners will be supported in this lesson through data-based heterogeneous grouping, verbal and written repetition of new vocabulary words, and multiple representation of vocabulary words through printed images and video.

Ecosystems, Biomes, and Habitats PowerPoint and Activities