Earth's Timeline

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SWBAT develop a schema that some of Earth's events happen over a huge lapse of time.

Big Idea

Students create Earth's timeline while listening to the story, The Pebble in My Pocket by Merideth Hooper.

NGSS Connections and Class Preparation

30 minutes

This lesson provides a 'Big Picture' for some of the previous lessons and weathering and erosion, and the lab on rock salt and limestone.

NGSS Standards

ESS1 - Make observations from media to construct an evidence-based account that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly.

Students create a time line to record observations about Earth events.

Science Practices

- Analyzing and Interpreting Data (SP 4)

Students create a time line to record information about Earth events and share this information with family members and reading buddies.

Cross-cutting Concepts - Appendix G

- Stability and Change (XC 7)

Students observe that some Earth events happen rapidly and some change more slowly.

Lesson Preparation

Open the following tabs for discussion during 'Wrap-Up'

Pangaea Animation

Pangaea Continent Map

Locate the book: The Pebble in My Pocket by Merideth Hooper


approximately 1.5 meter of receipt tape for each student

1 pebble / student

Question for the Day

5 minutes

I start our science time with a question, usually written on the board.  This allows students time to consider today's topic before the lesson has officially begun.

Students know when they return from lunch, we meet on the rug to read our 'science question for the day'. I have established this routine with the kiddos to keep transition time short and effective and redirect student's attention back to content while allowing time for focused peer interaction.

Question for the Day: Has the Earth always looked the same? If not how is it different? 

Students read the question with me and I clarify the question. "If we could travel back in time millions of years and look at the Earth from outer space, do you think it would look like it does now from outer space?" I point to satellite image of Earth from outer space.

"Please turn to your neighbor and discuss your answer."

I am curious if students will focus on the animals that were on the planet, or if they will stay on topic to address the geography of the planet.

As you can see from the student responses, all but two answers addressed the physical aspects of Earth.

After a couple of minutes I signal for students' attention and call on volunteers to share their thoughts. I write their answers on the board, making a t-chart to separate answers from biology and geography.

I hope to tie these 2 types of observations together in the 'wrap-up' portion of the lesson to connect the Earth's habitat to the animals living at that time on Earth.

Pebble in My Pocket

40 minutes

I pass out a rock and a small roll of receipt paper to each student.

"You will use the receipt tape to make a time line of Earth. You do not need to unroll your paper all the way, just pull out enough paper to make the first section of your time line. You can use your rock to help hold your receipt paper."

As I explain this to the students I show them how to set up the receipt paper under the document camera.

"I am going to read this story to you, The Pebble in My Pocket. I will stop after each page so that we can write the date and draw a picture to show what the Earth looked like." Both the book and my timeline will be projected under the document camera.

"For each section of the time line you will write the date first and then sketch your picture. I know that some of you may want to add color to your picture. That is fine, but if we are going to finish the story today, you may have to stop coloring and so that you can stay with the story. Later you can go back and add color. Then you won't have to rush."

I place the story under the document camera so students can see the words and pictures as I read. I stop after each page to write the Earth date on the board and ask students what we could add to this section of the timeline to show what was going on with the Earth. 

After I draw my picture, I walk around to check on student progress. 

It helps the kiddos see my pictures are not perfect and that we can laugh about it. This helps to lower the students affective filter so they can enjoy the process.

Wrap Up with Pangaea

15 minutes

After the story is finished, I ask students to pick up their rock. "You are holding a piece of the Earth. Your rock is 4.5 BILLION YEARS old!." I write the number out to show place value, to help with the concept of what a billion is (if that is even possible!).

I direct students to look at the T-chart of their question of the day answers to see which time period most of their answers centered on. I ask them what they notice about their answers. 

We did not have as much time to review the T-chart and students responses. I think this would be a worthwhile discussion to have with the students and a solid way to wrap up the timeline lesson. The next time I do this lesson, I will refer to student answers on the board as we develop the timeline.

Next I direct students to meet me on the rug. I explain that the Earth's continents were not always in the places they are now. With a map, I point out how the continents can fit together like puzzle pieces.

Then I show the students the animated movement of the continents. Last, I review the animated video and help students connect moving plates dates with their Earth timeline.

Use this video link to correlate the student's time line with how the Earth's looked at different times throughout the Earth's history.

"Tonight for homework, you will share your time line and rock with an adult. You could say, Mom, let's travel through time! After you share your timeline ask your parent to initial the timeline and then return it to school."

I dismiss the kiddos to place their rock and Earth time line in their cubby. 

Students had an opportunity to share their timelines with their 4th grade reading buddies before taking their timelines home to share with their parents.