Physical Properties of Rocks

3 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT describe the physical properties of rocks.

Big Idea

To inspire inquiry, students have lots of experiences with rocks in this lesson - both hands-on and virtually!

Teacher Preparation

This is the second lesson in our unit about rocks. In this lesson, students record physical characteristics about rocks as the teacher leads a group through a virtual rock collecting activity using iPads. This lesson aligns to Essential Standard 1.E.2.1, "Summarize the physical properties of Earth materials, including rocks, minerals, soils and water that make them useful in different ways." This lesson will be followed with more formal instruction about testing the physical properties of rocks after students have had a chance to describe them on their own!

I post an essential question for each lesson. Today's question is "How can I describe how a rock looks?" Listen to my Explanation of Essential Standards and Essential Question.


*Lots of rocks - some labeled, some not labeled (enough for 1/3 of your class)

*Books about rocks on lots of different reading levels with lots of pictures

*1-2 copies of the Rock Type Template for each student

*Magnifying glasses

*iPads or computer (this could be done whole group with one computer)


Warm Up

10 minutes

For students to be successful in this lesson when they are not working with me, I need to make sure they understand the Rock Type template before they get to that center. So, I show it on the Smart Board and really explain the directions for the day. This serves to both introduce any unfamiliar vocabulary they may encounter on the form and also to make sure students understand my expectations for their work. At the beginning of the year, we spent a lot of time working on using accurate colors in science, labeling and diagramming drawings, etc. This is a great time to go back and revisit those expectations!


20 minutes

**This section takes at least 2 days to complete!**

My students all have their own iPads, so for this activity I have split them into 3 groups so that I can facilitate the iPad activity. On the iPad (or a desktop computer), students will use this website to make their own rock collection and learn more about the properties of rocks. The game and explanations are a little tough for first graders, so we go through this activity together with me explaining and reading to the group as we go. Since this is very much a hands-on digital exploration, my students do not take notes during this center.

While I work with the iPad group, group 2 is reading our collection of books about rocks and looking at rocks with magnifying glasses. I made sure to get books on many different reading levels with lots of pictures for identification. If they want to take notes, they add to the next page in their science journals.

Group 3 has a collection of rocks in the Rock Center and is writing down information about them in their science journals using this Rock Type Template. Although students are not conducting a full scale investigation, this activity supports Science and Engineering Practice 3 - Make observations (firsthand or from media) and/or measurements to collect data that can be used to make comparisons. 


Each group works in the center for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how long it takes the iPad group to get through the activity.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

During this lesson, students look at lots of different rocks and have different experiences within the three centers. To wrap up, I offer a simple question! I ask,

"What did you learn?"

This gives students time to really talk about their experiences and share their new knowledge. I also listen for any misconceptions as well as areas that they may want to learn more about as they talk. This conversation supports Science and Engineering Practice 8, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information as students talk about their experiences.