Interpreting Geologic Bedrock in New York State

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SWBAT interpret and apply knowledge from maps of geologic bedrock and diagrams of geologic history pertaining to New York State

Big Idea

Students use the map in their Earth Science Reference Table(s) to explore and examine the geologic history of New York State

Lesson Introduction

This lesson is slightly complicated, in that some of the material contained in the Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] has students jumping from diagram to diagram in order to figure out what's going on. This can be a bit tricky for some students, which is why I carefully built out (you'll see below) a process for students to go through as they assess what to do on each problem. Also, given that I'm a teacher in New York State and teach a curriculum modeled after the geology and rock morphology of this region, this is obviously most helpful for NYS teachers. If you're a teacher in another state, this can still very much be helpful. I've looked around and haven't found a reliable rock record for alternate areas of the country that are as readily decipherable or at an age level that's appropriate for early high school. So, as always, feel free to take liberties with whatever you see here (or lift the entire lesson for your use!) and take on whatever you need, but keeping the lesson "as is," even if you're not a NY-based teacher, can and should still be helpful for your students. There are no special materials needed for this lesson, although students should definitely not attempt this lesson without being familiar with basic geologic eras/epochs, and being able to recognize different rock strata. I imagine this would be too confusing for students who lacked that contextual knowledge to really be successful here. 

I was fairly ambitious with this lesson, but if this is the first time you're teaching a lesson of this type, I would definitely spread it out over multiple days. It's important that students get a lot of "at bats" with attempting questions where they can apply information, and when teachers rush through lessons because they feel the pressure of time, this often suffers. If you need to, split this lesson up into two - do the 'Geology of NYS' section in one day, and then the 'Interpreting Geologic History of NYS' the other day.

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: Interpreting ESRT Diagrams (Whole Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: Interpreting ESRT Diagrams (Whole Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]


Do Now

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this one, the questions came from a weekly quiz I administered, and the two questions in the resource were the two most incorrectly answered questions, so I'm using this Do Now as an opportunity for whole-class review. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson.

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material;
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Geology of NYS Samples

10 minutes

The lesson starts with a very brief textual introduction, which we read together. But I refer them to Page three (3) of their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] (Note: I also saved just that single page as a PDF file here: Bedrock Geology of NYS), since they'll use it heavily today).

I then give them the challenge of trying to answer Sample I on the bottom of the first page of the Geology of NYS Samples resource. Some of my students generally get it, but a lot of them are confused. After sharing the answer and process by how I got it with them (using that page in the ESRT, finding Watertown, and matching the rock symbol with the key in the bottom left hand corner of the Bedrock Geology of NYS page on their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT]). 

On the next page of the Geology of NYS Samples, there is another sample, but I do a more direct model here, where I go through the steps of how I answer complicated questions like this. The steps are listed below, and I have students write down the steps as we discuss them. (Note: I usually ask them first, as this is something we often talk about as a class - they're already familiar with many of these!) 

  1. Read question carefully! (Error: Thinking it said “find youngest layer” when It actually asked for “the oldest layer”
  2. Ask: “What is this question asking me to do?” and “Can my ESRT help me?” [Pg. 3][Pg.7]
  3. (If yes) find the information in your reference table that “proves” your answer
  4. Use your ESRT, question clues, and knowledge to provide evidence either for or against each answer choice. 

After we do this, depending on the feel of the class and whether I think they need some more whole-group support, I'll either ask them to start the practice portion at the bottom of the page together, or I'll do a more direct modeling of the steps in answering those questions. 

Geology of NYS Practice

10 minutes

The Geology of NYS Practice has Regents-based, multiple-choice questions based on this new content and the information contained in their reference tables. As noted in the section above, I ask students to use the step-by-step process to solve problems here, which is necessary, as many of the problems in this section are difficult in that they either require more than one section of the reference table, address previously learned content (such as their knowledge of rocks and minerals), or a combination of these. Much of the skill comes not from their inherent knowledge, but how they can think through the process of solving and applying how to solve the problem. They need to be able to independently ask themselves: "Do I need the map to solve this problem?" "What else do I need beyond my ESRT? Do I need information in other parts of it?" Those are the inherent issues that students need to consistently ask themselves in order to be successful with problems of this type (and the more complicated problems that they'll see on their end-of-year Regents examination in the course)!

Interpreting Geologic History of NYS Diagram

15 minutes

The first page of the Interpreting Geologic History of NYS Diagram is extremely important, in that it very clearly delineates how to interpret the vast amount (and in some cases, too much) of information contained in the reference tables. In terms of the Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT], the actual tables are on pages 8-9. You can find just the pages here (Geologic History Timeline [ESRT]) if you want just the two pages for the sake of the lesson. As a note, what I usually do in this lesson is print out these two pages together on a double-length sheet of paper, as it's easier to use the columns on page 9 that correlate to the geologic eras, which are posted on page 8. If you can't do this for your class, definitely make sure you have students "butterfly" the pages by having them both open side-by-side.

In terms of pedagogy, I have my reference table opened alongside my resource, and I use my ELMO to very carefully go through each respective column with students, working our way from the left side to the right side. Please check the Word document (Interpreting ESRT Diagrams (Whole Lesson w/comments)) for embedded comments here in terms of checks for understanding and key references I use while teaching this. 

Generally, even though the information here can be a bit intense for students to analyze for the first time, I still find it generally helpful to have them practice diligently, as they quickly see that if they use their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] appropriately, the information is readily available. I often do Sample Problem I as a model/"think aloud" to show how to utilize information contained in the problem to select the appropriate column and use the information to correctly answer the problems. [Note: See reflection in this section for additional rationale here]

Geologic History Practice

10 minutes

The final portion of this lesson is necessarily important, as it's essential that students get ample opportunity to practice with this material. Utilizing the Practice questions contained in the lessons, I have students work first in groups, and then independently, to answer these questions utilizing the information contained in their reference tables. 

Exit Ticket & Closing

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I have students complete the daily Exit Ticket. For the sake of time, I have students grade them communally, with a key emphasis on particular questions and items that hit on the key ideas of the lesson (Note: This usually manifests as students self-grading, or having students do a "trade and grade" with their table partners). After students grade their exit tickets, they usually pass them in (so that I can analyze them) and track their exit ticket scores on a unit Exit Ticket Tracker.  

After students take a few seconds to track their scores, we usually wrap up in a similar way. I give students time to pack up their belongings, and I end the class at the objective, which is posted on the whiteboard, and ask students two questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about ____________ (in this case, "where would I look on my ESRT in order to find where a particular landscape region is from", etc.)