Part 1-The Structure of the Earth

43 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the four main layers of the Earth's structure.

Big Idea

Students will construct an explanation with evidence to explain why it is impossible to dig through the ground to the other side of the Earth.

Lesson Overview

5E lesson plan model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus

The Earth's Changing Surface unit focuses on some processes that change Earth's surface slowly, over a long period of time, or abruptly. In order for students to develop an understanding that the surface is constantly changing, they take part in a variety of guided inquiries geared towards scaffolding this understanding. In the first part of the unit, students explore the structure of the Earth and processes that cause changes to it. These lessons include earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, physical and chemical weathering, erosion and deposition. They need to develop an understanding of these processes and how they change the Earth's surface for the second part of the unit which focuses primarily on minerals, rocks, and the rock cycle. Students apply their understanding of these processes as they investigate the formation of rocks and the cycle of changes they go through in a lifetime.

Lesson Synopsis

The Structure of Earth's Layers lesson takes place over the course of two days. In the first part of this lesson, students take part in a quick write activity by answering the question: Is it possible to dig our way through the ground to the the other side of the Earth?  Then students begin exploring the four main layers of the Earth by participating in a guided gallery walk to read and learn about each layer. They use a matrix graphic organizer to write information after reading about the four four layers of the Earth's surface. By the end of the lesson, they use the information as their evidence to construct a claims and evidence explanation as to why we cannot dig our way to the other side of the Earth. 

 Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will address the following NGSS Standard(s): 

5-ESS-2 Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.

I address this standard in fifth grade because my students have not had science prior to fifth grad. They have a limited science background and need a lot of scaffolding throughout these standards. By engaging students with guided inquiries and common core related activities to support this NGSS standard, I am providing them experiences to prepare them for later lessons involving minerals, rocks, soil, and plants.

Why do I teach with this lesson?

I teach the Structure of Earth's Layers lesson with guided guided gallery walk to help students scaffold information on the layers of the Earth so they can construct a scientific explanation. Many of my students have a very limited background in science as the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science prior to my students entering the 5th grade (the middle school). I find it important to provide guided inquiries that build their vocabulary and understanding of concepts in order to facilitate scientific thinking for future inquiry lessons related to Earth's Changing Surface. In this lesson, students read about the four layers of the Earth, practice organizing information on a table, and construct a scientific explanation using the information as evidence to support their response. By exposing and engaging students in obtaining and communicating information, I am providing them with a foundation that will support their experiences in later lessons involving processes that change the Earth slowly and rapidly. 

 Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering Practices.

4.  Analyzing and Interpreting Data  Students analyze the information they collected and recorded in a matrix graphic organizer. Then they use the information to evaluate the question, "Why can't you dig your way through the ground to the other side of the Earth?"

8.  Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information:  Students read and comprehend information on the Earth's layers. They organize the information in a matrix chart which is used to construct an explanation about not being able to dig your way to the other side of of the world.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Structure of Earth's Layers correlates with other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include

6.  Structure and Function:  Students learn the Earth's structure is composed of different materials, some that can be observed and others that cannot. These materials contribute to the function of each layer and supports why it is impossible to dig your way to the other side of the world. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems


Classroom Management

Importance of Modeling to Develop 

Student Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This will set up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during the activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.




15 minutes

I begin today's lesson by reviewing the key words from our vocabulary preview lesson. Then I bring students attention to the question displayed on the board: "Do you think it is possible to dig your way through the ground to the other side of the Earth? Explain why or why not?"

I tell the students to take out their quick write notebook. While they are writing, I am walking around the room monitoring students as they write. Then, I direct students to their elbow partner for a turn and talk using turn and talk norms.  During this time I am walking around listening to conversations about the responses. 

The class reconvenes as a whole for a discussion. I use the quick pick bucket and call upon five-six people to share out loud. To keep others as active listeners, I remind students to give a thumbs up if they agree and/or have similarities to the students sharing.

I explain to the students that it is impossible to actually dig your way through the ground to reach the other side of the Earth because after about five miles down, you would experience such intense heat that you would burn up. Nobody has ever been able to do dig this far.  So knowing we cannot actually dig our way to the other side the world, we'll have to get there another way such as plane or boat.

I continue by posing the question: "So how do we know what's down there?" I explain, "scientists who study the Earth are geologists have been able to learn about the different layers by using other methods such as studying rocks and minerals, volcanoes, and earthquakes.  They believe that as the Earth cooled, heavier materials sank towards the center of the Earth and lighter materials surfaced to the top. Thus determining there are four main layers which are known as the crust, the mantle, the outer core, and the inner core.



30 minutes

At this point I direct students to the front board where the image of Earth's structure is displayed on the board through the projector

earth layers model

I ask the class to observe and share what they see. I want them to recognize that it is a model of the Earth's layers but to realize it is not the exact size. I continue with questions such as, "what do you notice about this image? Is it the exact size of the layers? Is the model flat or dimensional?"  By asking these questions I am looking for their awareness of actual size vs models.

I tell students they will be creating a model of the Earth's layers, but first they need to gather information about each layer's composition, depth/thickness, and temperature to develop a clearer understanding as to why people cannot make their way to the center of the Earth or even to the other side of the world.  

I tell them they are taking part in a guided gallery walk and are using a matrix data table to record details about each layer.  Each gallery station has a posted information chart that students read through to locate details according to the data chart headings. I use a guided gallery walk to engage students with a purpose and focus for learning. They need to be active participants in order to have enough information to build their models.

While students participate in the gallery walk, I am moving throughout, stopping randomly to check in. My intent is to listen to students explain what information they have read about already. I come back to the quick write question from the start of class, "Do you think it is possible to dig your way through the ground to the other side of the Earth?  I am looking for students to accurately record details relevant to each layer of the Earth in their data table in order to construct a model of Earth's layers later in the lesson. 

At the end of three and a half minutes at the first station, I ask for a student to model while reminding us orally how we move from one station to the next.  The gallery walk continues until all 4 galleries have been completed.  Once students go back to their seats discuss what we have discovered.

*Reflection Note/Suggtion: I originally had students gather and record information in a four square graphic organizer, then organize information into the data chart. I made this change in classes that followed.

Reflect on Part 1/Evaluate

15 minutes

As class comes to a close for today, I ask students to keep data table they created during the guided gallery walk on their desk.  Then, I hand out the exit ticket for students. I explain they are to reflect on the information they read, analyzed, and organized into a data table by answering the same question they did when at the start of class.

"Do you think it is possible to dig your way through the ground to the other side of the Earth? Explain why or why not?

I ask them for a thumbs up if they understand the assignment or a hand up if they have any questions. My students are familiar with writing claim statements from previous lessons. I use this exit ticket as a formative assessment to identify areas students are struggling with understanding and / or misconceptions.  I collect their papers at the end of class.