Fun With Fossils

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Students will be able to "take apart" a text in order to build background knowledge about fossils.

Big Idea

The concept of fossilization can be challenging for students. It requires some sense of time movement, changes in the earth, and living organisms dying and leaving behind something after millions of years. This lesson will help build background knowledge.

Note to the Teacher

2 minutes

Today I will be using a Petoskey stone, which is Michigan's state stone and a fossil.  When dry, the stone looks like a rock, but when wet, it is a beautiful fossil of coral. 

I have placed this lesson here, in my science unit, because we are studying state symbols and the formation of Michigan in our social studies unit.  


5 minutes

Our guiding questions today will be:

What is a fossil?

Where can you find fossils?

What do fossils teach us?

Today, I will have the students write their "answers" to these questions in their science notebooks. 


Mini Lessons

10 minutes

After the students have had a chance to write their responses to our guiding questions, I will put them in groups of 3. Next, I will give each group a dry Petoskey stone and ask them to observe it. 

During their observation, I will chart their responses and ask them to explain the stone. 

I will also give them a cup of water and ask them to dip half of the stone into the cup and observe any changes.  At this juncture, the coral fossils will be revealed.  

This will be our engagement moment into the discussion of fossils and what they might teach us about a living organism and about the area it is found. 

Next, I will begin a new chart entitled: "Fossils".  This will be a KWL chart.  As a class we will list what the students think they know about fossils.  Next, we will chart what they want to know. In order to do this quickly, and to include everyone's thinking, I will hand out 2 different colors of Post-It notes. On one color, students will jot their "knowledge", while on the other color they will write a wondering. These will be placed on the chart paper. 

When that is complete, we will launch into the learning phase!

Active Engagement

30 minutes

This Fossils Song is found on YouTube and is a fun way to introduce some of the terms we will learn and use today.  I will play it twice.  The first time for exposure and enjoyment, the second time for facts they may pick up.  

Following listening to the song 2 times, I will pass out the lyrics with note-taking boxes next to each stanza. 

The students will be directed to read, with a partner, the lyrics and write what they think each stanza is teaching us, or what the author wants us to wonder?

As the teams work, I will circulate and listen in.  This will also be a time for me to push for clarification and work with the students to make connections. 

In this clip, my student worked to make sense of the information in the text and then began to make connections to her life. 

As she continues to make sense of fossils and examples in her own life, she brings up a human change.  I think it is amazing how kids make these connections.  Instead of telling her she was wrong, I chuckled and worked with her to understand the difference between natural and human changes. 

Following the activity, before closing, I will ask the students to take a third color Post-It and write something they learned


Sharing and Closing

15 minutes

As a closing, I will have the students share their ideas with the class.  As we share, I will encourage students to add/revise their charts. Next, I will read the book The Legend of the Petoskey Stone. This is a beautiful book written by a Michigan author and fits wonderfully into our social studies unit of Michigan history and legends.