Just a Little More Fun with Fossils!

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SWBAT compare and infer understanding of how the Earth's rock layers tells a story.

Big Idea

Students are engaged in extended interactive and reading activities about early prehistoric life that builds upon their knowledge of how the Earth has changed through time.

Connecting Further

15 minutes

A little more exposure for my students was just what we needed to really solidify our understanding of this unit. I finished up the rest of the Eyewitness's  "Prehistoric Life."

After the video was over, we discussed its content and what we noticed. The timeline in this video pushes us toward understanding that the Earth was continually changing over time. It was about extinction, survival, and more extinction.

The subject of cockroaches came up again and they were totally grossed out on how ground up entrails of cockroaches were used. One student said that she didn't know that reptiles evolved from amphibians. We talked about how that made sense because we had learned that Earth was covered with water from the beginning and that land animals evolved from the sea.

They took notes in their notebooks noting "What I never knew!" When they were finished, I told them that we would complete our lab today by exploring other websites.

Exploring the Website Together

15 minutes

I had students come and sit on the floor in front of the Smart Board to explore the BBC website, Walking with Beasts. This website requires Flash so the iPads would not work.

I had planned on my students using the computer lab to explore this interactive website independently. That plan fell though and I am glad because as we went through the "Burying Bodies" activity together, it was revealed that my students still thought that fossils fell on rocks and were imprinted in them. So, moving the dead horse together and taking turns reading the results on this site really drove home the concept that fossils need to fall into water and be covered by silt and sediment. It also impressed upon them that most plants and animals do not become fossils. This interactive site was truly the best way to learn and see exactly where a body needed to be to become fossilized.

What really brought the whole fossil forming process to understanding was the "Making Fossils" portion of this site. Wow! This was just what they needed to understand exactly how the Earth changes over time and can reveal fossils to us and exactly what conditions need to be in place to form the fossils.

One student remarked: " If none of the perfect conditions were met, would we know that the Earth changed? If fossils weren't here, maybe we wouldn't know the story of how everything got created." This question revealed that deeper thinking and connections were happening in this student's mind.  This portion of the lesson helped them transition beautifully into the next two activities. I think it should be taught whole class!

 (Note: Since this publication, the BBC site Walking with Beasts has been changed to OZ fossils. While this isn't the site I used for my lesson, it is an equally engaging and rich site.)

Research, Vocabulary & Comparison

20 minutes

As we disbanded to go to our next activities, I asked them to get their notebooks and just stop for a few moments so I could explain what I needed them to do. I told them that they could choose between viewing the Comparing Two Ocean Scenes photographs or partner reading, How Fossils are Made.  I had printed out this literature so that students could highlight the vocabulary words I wanted them to define.

I wrote permineralization, replacement, amber, and trace fossils on the white board and reinforced them by pronouncing them as they repeated the words. This reading is challenging so it was important that they partner read. I asked them to note anything they never knew before in their science journals and define the words there.I emphasized that the one photo has "artifacts" in it and to deduce what they needed to from that little hint. Otherwise, they focus on the colors of the photos and talk about whether they are real or not. I guided them to really look at the animals and plants and not the colors of the photos.

I worked with the students as the others compared and contrasted the two oceans. Reading skills were strongly reinforced as I worked with them to use context clues. Some students got so engrossed in note taking and reading that they would forget that they needed to skim and scan to focus on the vocabulary.

As students worked hard throughout the rest of the class, I could see that the words were difficult for my below grade level achieving students. I worked with them side by side to help highlight the words and search out the context clues to help them define them.

Closure and Assignment

10 minutes

I asked students to share any "aha" moments they had today. One of the things that really stood out was that they did not understand that fossils didn't become fossils unless the conditions were perfect! Two students shared that they really thought the fern fossils were smashed together by two rocks. As I questioned them, this idea came from seeing leaf imprints in a concrete driveway. I explained that it is similar, but to remember that the concrete was not solid when the leaf left its imprint. The leaf fell on the wet concrete, hardened into the driveway and then fell apart, leaving the leaf print.

I assigned them homework to research two animals from the Fact Files  located on the left side of the "Walking With Beasts" website. They needed to write what they found in their notebooks. This extends their thinking about how these fossils are proof of how animals developed and led them into completing their understanding of moving toward early man. This connects to our next unit about early people for social studies.