Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Changing Ways

Laurie Ayers
Bay District Schools


This lesson is for Day 8 of the unit Bedlam in Bedrock. Students use reference materials, sketches, diagrams, and models to understand scientific ideas about ways landforms change over time.


The student knows that land forms change over time (for example, earthquakes, volcanoes).

The student uses sketches, diagrams and models to understand scientific ideas.

The student uses reference materials to obtain information related to science concepts.


-Two hard-boiled eggs, unpeeled
-Paring knife
-Saltine crackers, about six per student and teacher
-Waxed paper approx. 10” x 12”, one piece per student and teacher
-Peanut butter
-Plastic knives for spreading the peanut butter, one per student and teacher
-Vocabulary Words and Meanings, previously downloaded and copied in Lesson One (see associated file - Water, Water Everywhere)
-Continent Puzzle, one copy per student (see associated file)
-Diagram of the Earth’s Layers, one copy made into a transparency (see associated file)
-Diagram of The Ring of Fire, one copy made into a transparency (see associated file)
-Overhead projector
-Diagrams of Plate Movements, one copy made into transparencies (see associated file)
-Model of a Volcano
-Large screen monitor and computer setup
-Earth Explorer Journals (previously made on Day One)
-Pencils, one per student
-Student scissors, one per student
-Student Online Web Lesson, [Breaking News]


1. Gather materials.
2. Download and make copies of the Continent Puzzle, one per student (see associated file).
3. Download and make a transparency of the Diagram of the Earth’s Layers (see associated file).
4. Setup a large screen monitor to a computer and bookmark the Earth Science from Moorland School Web page located at
Click Plate Tectonics. Scroll down and read and discuss the page.
5. If a large screen monitor and computer arrangement are not available, download and make transparencies of the Ring of Fire and Plate Movements diagrams (see associated file).
6. An extensive bibliography of reference materials is provided (see extensions).


Note – Summative Assessment 2 should be administered on Day 7 prior to this lesson.

Vocabulary introduced on Day 8: Pangaea, plates, crust, mantle, core, fault line, fault

1. To gain attention, hold up an unpeeled hard-boiled egg.

2. Explain that this hard-boiled egg could be used as a model of the Earth.

3. Review the vocabulary word model and its meaning referring back to the Big Word Wall.

4. Carefully use a paring knife and cut the hard-boiled egg in half from top to bottom down the middle of the egg.

5. Walk around the room providing an opportunity for all students to observe the egg halves.

6. Elicit from the students that 3 layers are visible – the outer shell, the inner layer of egg white, and the center layer or yolk.

7. Display a Diagram of the Earth’s Layers (see associated file) and explain that the Earth’s layers are similar to the layers of the egg.

8. The shell represents the crust of the Earth. The Earth’s crust is a thin layer. It is solid rock. The land of the continents and the floors of our oceans form the Earth’s crust.

9. The inner layer represents the mantle of the Earth. The mantle is made of thick liquid rock called magma.

10. The yolk, or center layer of the egg represents the core of the Earth. The Earth’s core has two layers. Its outer layer is hot liquid metal and its inner layer is a solid metal center.

11. Explain:
· Scientists believe that millions of years ago the land on the Earth was shaped into one big continent. They called this giant continent Pangaea (pan-JEE-ah).
· Over the years the large mass of land gradually broke apart.
· The pieces of land slowly drifted into the positions they are in today.
· One of the reasons scientists think this is because they noticed how some of the continents today seem to fit together.

12. Add the word Pangaea to the Big Word Wall using the Vocabulary Words and Meanings from Lesson One (see associated file for Lesson One). Appoint a student volunteer to read the word and its meaning.

13. Ask students if they like puzzles. Tell them you have a puzzle to show them.

14. Distribute copies of Continent Puzzle (see associated file). Instruct students to cut out the continents. Encourage them to move the continents around and see if they can make them “fit together” like a puzzle.

15. Provide time for students to write journal entries about fitting the puzzle pieces together and the idea of one large land mass in their Earth Explorer Journals.

16. Ask for several student volunteers to share their journal entries.

17. Explain:
· Scientists noticed how the continents seemed to fit together.
· They also found fossils of the same plants and animals on the continents of Africa, South America, and Antarctica.
· This is why they think all the continents were together in one huge land mass millions of years ago.

18. Explain that a hard-boiled egg could be used as a model of the Earth in another way.

19. Gently tap another unpeeled hard-boiled egg on the edge of a table several times, trying to crack the shell into large pieces.

20. The egg’s shell is now broken into numerous large pieces. The Earth’s crust resembles the shell of the egg.

21. Explain:
· Rather than the Earth’s surface being one big piece of solid rock, it is actually broken into about 12 large pieces called plates. Define the word plate and add the word and its meaning to the Big Word Wall (Vocabulary Words and Meanings were previously downloaded and copied in Lesson One).
· The land of the continents and the Earth’s oceans are on top of these plates. The land and oceans weigh less than the melted rock in the mantle so the plates float on top of the mantle like a raft floats on the sea.
· A fault line is a large crack in the Earth’s crust made when two plates are forced away from each other.
· Most volcanoes and earthquakes occur near fault lines.

21. Draw students’ attention to the large screen monitor and computer setup.

22. Explain that you have located a Website that tells more about the Ring of Fire and the Earth’s plates.

23. Encourage students to watch the display to learn more about how the Earth’s plates move.

24. Open the Earth Science from Moorland School Web page that you book marked in advance.

25. Read and briefly explain the information on the page. An alternative strategy would be to call on student volunteers to read.
Note: If it is impossible to use the suggested Website for this information, transparencies of the Diagrams of Plate Movements with explanations are provided (see associated file).

26. Ask students to press the palms of their hands on their thighs. Tell them what they feel is pressure.

27. In this same way, plates on the Earth’s crust press against each other. The pressure formed when they come in contact with each other causes them to move. Plates can move different ways.

28. Model ways plates move using saltine crackers and peanut butter following the directions provided in Plates on the Move! (see associated file).

29. Provide students with necessary materials and allow them time to replicate the movements.

30. Discuss how the movements of the plates can create mountains, valleys, volcanoes, and earthquakes.

31. Students draw diagrams in their Earth Explorer Journals of ways plates move. Encourage students to use class reference materials (i.e. the Big Word Wall, encyclopedias, dictionaries, reference books) to write a sentence using scientific concepts to explain the effect of the movement.

32. Formatively assess diagrams and sentences and provide feedback. Feedback should be both positive (“Your diagram is great! You included a lot of details.”) and guiding (“Please use a scientific words from the Big Word Wall in your sentence.”)

33. Remind students they need to be working on Summative Assessment 1, Earth Explorer Project 2 each night. Also, remind students of the due date for the project.

34. Students continue to work in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, [Breaking News].


Students use reference materials to draw diagrams of plate movement and write a sentence to describe how the plate movement changes landforms on earth. Formatively assess student performance for evidence of using a diagram to understand science ideas, using reference materials to obtain information about science concepts, and knowledge of how landforms change over time.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. Background knowledge about landforms may be necessary for students to be successful with this lesson. Additional instruction may be necessary. The third grade science textbook may be used to provide additional information about landforms prior to this lesson.

3. If a large screen monitor and computer setup is not available for Steps 21-25, the teacher can use the provided diagrams of the Ring of Fire and Plate Movements to explain the concepts (see associated file).

4. One of the other Websites listed under Weblinks could be used as a reference for plate tectonics.

5. The developer wrote this as an integrated unit. It is hoped that teachers will feel free to use the unit as core curriculum. For instance, the book [The Drop in My Drink] could be used as a shared reading experience in language arts. Content vocabulary words could be used for a “Working with Words” activity. If the teacher chooses not to make this an integrated unit, then additional time for daily lessons may be needed.

Web Links

Diagrams and descriptions of plate tectonics
Earth Science from Moorland School Web – Plate Tectonics

Animations of faults and how they change landscapes
Fault Animations

A PBS presentation about the changing Earth
The Savage Earth PBS presentation

Has diagrams of plate tectonics
The Savage Earth (plate tectonics) at

This Student Web Lesson explores various forces that can cause the breaking and weathering of bedrock and larger rocks.
Breaking News

Attached Files

Student Handouts and Teacher Resources containing graphics.      File Extension: pdf

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