Day 1-How Do Rocks Form?

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SWBAT identify three types of rocks-sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous.

Big Idea

Students will examine a variety of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks and describe how each one forms.

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 Day 1- How Do Rocks Form lesson provides students opportunity to develop an understanding of the processes rocks go through as they change from one form to another. First, I ask students to make inferences on processes we have previously studied by writing how that specific process might cause change to a rock. Next, I have students read a passage about each kind of rock in small groups. We come together as a whole class to discuss the information we read about. We identify the three types of rocks and talk about how they form. Then I move them onto examining these kinds of rocks and find characteristics that make each of these rocks unique.  After exploring a variety of rocks, I ask students to complete a card sort exit ticket on processes that change rocks.  I use this as formative assessment.

Next Generation Science Standards  

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

ESS2 Earth's Systems

Earth’s major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans). These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth’s surface materials and processes. The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes land forms, and influences climate. Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the land forms to determine patterns of weather.

I address this standard with my fifth grade because the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science; therefore my students enter middle school (fifth grade) with a limited science background.  By engaging students with activities to support this NGSS standard, I am providing with them experiences that will provide them a foundation  for later lessons involving minerals, rocks, soil, and plants.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering practices

2.) Developing and Using Models:  Students observe a variety of rocks throughout the lesson.  They use these rocks to examine specific features and characteristics on them to determine if they are classified as a sedimentary, metamorphic, or igneous rock.

8.) Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Students apply what they have read about rocks. They examine a variety of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks and select a type of each kind to record observations on.  They summarize how this rock formed based on what they have learned throughout the lesson. 

Crosscutting Concepts

The Day 1- How Do Rocks Form lesson correlates to other interdisciplinary areas. This Crosscutting Concepts includes

2.) Cause and Effect: Students make observations of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks and use specific features and characteristics to determine what caused them to form that way.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems


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.


For time management purposes, I use “lab rats ” where each student has a number on the back of his or her chair, 1,2,3,4 (students sit in groups of 4)and displayed on the board.  For each activity I use lab rats, I switch up the roles randomly so students are experiencing different task responsibilities which include:  Director, Materials Manager, Reporter, and Technician.  It makes for smooth transitions and efficiency for set up, work, and clean-up.  


10 minutes

Reviewing Process that change the Earth's Surface

Today I begin with reviewing the processes that change Earth's surfaces and minerals by having students take part in writing a prediction about how a process affects a rock.  I hand out a Processes that Create Changes to Rocks graphic organizer.  The left side of this graphic organizer lists and defines all the processes we have learned throughout the unit. On the right side, it poses a an inference based question. How do you think (the process named here) affect rocks?  I tell students to write an answer to the question.  I remind them to think about what they know and understand about that process already and use that to think about the changes it may make upon a rock.

Processess InferencesProcesses that Change Rocks-Inferences


As students are working, I circulate the room noting their inferences.  Once most or all students have finished, I have them do an elbow partner turn and talk so they have a chance to hear more ideas. We reconvene as a whole group and review ideas about the affect the process may have on rocks.


45 minutes

Setting the Goal for the Day

I move on and ask a student to read the standards board for today. "Today we will find out about three types of rocks and the processes that change them into new types of rock. We will then construct a model of each one to understand how they form.

Sparking Curiosity

I begin by holding up two rock samples, a granite rock and a gneiss rock.  I say to the class, "What if I told you this rock (gneiss) was once this rock (granite.)"  Then I hold up a a piece of marble rock and limestone rock and ask the same question.  I want peak their interest in how their rocks have changed. 

I continue, "Using the processes that change rocks reference sheet, try to think of which process may have caused these rocks to change their form."

 Naming and Describing Three Types of Rocks

I explain, "There are many types of rocks and each form in a different way. The way they form is actually how scientists classify rocks. They group them into 3 main types Sedimentary, Metamorphic, and Igneous."  

Next, I hand out trays to each group that have hand lenses and recording sheets on them. We go over the items and how they are being used and I ask them to set up their notebook with the data table.

I ask students to take out their reading passage from yesterday (we read chapter one) and tell them we are reading chapter two today on three types of rocks. I share with students, "You are finding out how each of these rocks forms by reading about the processes that help create them. You are going to note the key points of how each type forms in your interactive notebook, examine types of these rocks, and record observations in a data table."

Students read in small groups about how they form and note five facts on a chart in their notebook.  This allows me to circulate and check in with each group to check for understanding.

We reconvene as a whole class and review the three types of rocks and the processes that form them. I post a chart summarizing each type of rock including characteristics and how they form and tell students I have included this chart on their trays.

Examining Types of Rocks

Once they finish, they are given three separate buckets, each labeled with the type of rocks they have inside of them...sedimentary rocks, metamorphic rocks, and igneous rocks. All of the rocks inside of the bucket are labeled with specific names like granite, scoria, gneiss, shale, limestone, etc.

I tell them to begin with one bucket at a time. They are observing all the rocks in that bucket using three major physical properties that include color, patterns, and texture. They record these observations in on an observation data table in their interactive notebook.  After examining each type of rock, students describe how the rock forms in their own words

They continue the observations of rocks until all observation data charts are completed.


5 minutes

Checking for Understanding

Before leaving class, I ask students to complete a card sort on the three types of rocks and the processes that form them. This task asks students to match words with their definitions and I use this as an exit ticket.  I collect their sorts and use them as a formative assessment.  I want to see if they have a conceptual understanding of how processes change rocks into new kinds of rock with their own new features and characteristics.