Layers of the Earth II

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SWBAT prepare and execute a 5-minute presentation (in teams) on a specific, interior layer of the Earth SWBAT summarize information contained in oral presentations to complete a graphic organizer that sequentially identifies the layers of the Earth, their relative densities, and physical characteristics

Big Idea

Students give oral presentations on their completed layers of the Earth project in this lesson.

Lesson Introduction

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 2.5 - Layers of the Earth II (Whole lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 2.5 - Layers of the Earth II (Whole lesson). Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

This is the second day of a two-day lesson (first lesson here), which involves students forming small groups, compiling information on a specific layer of the Earth (crust, mantle, inner core, or outer core) and then presenting that information in a 5-minute presentation to their classmates. While yesterday's lesson involved the preparation and planning for the presentation, the bulk of class time today is dedicated to the actual presentations!

Do Now & Objective(s)

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. After time expires, we collectively go over the responses, usually involving a series of cold calls and volunteers. Finally, I then ask a student to read the objective out loud before beginning the lesson.

Preparation Notes

7 minutes

As this lesson is a continuation of yesterday’s lesson, students should mostly have their presentations ready to go given their work time yesterday. Immediately after the Do Now, I give students only about 5-7 minutes to organize themselves for their presentations. I advise them to:

  • Make sure all the requisite information is included (they can reference their Preparation Notes for additional context here)
  • Make sure that each group member has a speaking part, and that each group member knows when they’re “on”
  • Make sure to speak loud enough and with enough clarity that every student can understand, with the knowledge that they may (or should) practice parts of their presentation that might be confusing for listeners

While students are working during this 5-7 time interval, I also pass out a copy of the Oral Presentation Rubric that they will actually be graded against. The rubric itself mostly involves information that I had previously shared with students from the day before, but it is helpful for them to re-see some of the important and essential information on their presentations. 

[Note: For whatever reason, I did find the passing out of the Oral Presentation Rubric helpful for students during this time. I think many of them, despite the messaging yesterday, were very focused on the actual content of their presentation. What does the PowerPoint look like? What cool stuff is on my poster? That sort of thing. But seeing the rubric and the appropriate categories on presentation and clarity forced them to think more about their oral and group presentation skills - how are they going to speak? What points do they need to highlight? I like the rubric here because it's easy to use, but also focuses on important contextual information relating to their presentation style as well.]

Group Presentations

35 minutes

During the next section, I call up each group randomly to present their information for a total of five (5) minutes. Beforehand, I do a quick reminder of the expectations, and refer listening/non-presenting students to the Presentation Notes page, which is a designed notes page we use a few times during the year (they also use it frequently in other content areas) based off of the Cornell notes template. 

[Note: I have a few different sized classes, so in my very large class I had two groups for each Earth layer. I allotted enough time for each group to go once, so students would hear the same information twice. In my smaller classes, I only had enough students for each group to go one time.]

After presenting students either a.) finish their presentation or b.) run out of time, students are required to answer 1-2 questions from members of the class (if the class doesn’t have any questions, I will ask 1-2 questions). While students are presenting, I have a copy of the rubric, which I use to evaluate the group during and after both the presentation and Q+A session.


3 minutes

The presentations themselves take up the bulk of class time, and there’s no inherent exit ticket for the lesson (Note: their scores are used by me to think about next steps from an instructional perspective, so the rubrics basically serve the same function in terms of student learning gaps – more information is on the reflection in this section). When all groups are finished, I take the remaining five or so minutes to clean & rearrange the room and make sure each student has a copy of the Homework (Shadow Zones)

I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about (in this case, informations on the presentation process and reflections from it -  “How did it feel presenting to your peers?” | “Is there anything you would do differently if you had to do it again?”, etc.)

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.