Quick or Slow? I've Got To Know!

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SWBAT use information from several sources to provide evidence that Earth events can occur quickly or slowly.

Big Idea

Earth changes can happen quickly or slowly. The students will work in teams to stake a claim about these changes and then use texts to find evidence to prove their claims.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description

The children will use several sources to find evidence that natural events, such as earthquakes, volcanoes, or erosion happen quickly or slowly.  First they will use their learned knowledge to make a claim and then they will search for evidence to back up their claim by looking in different books.  They will use text features, such as table of contents and indexes to help them locate information.  To end the lesson, we discuss their claims as a whole group.

Note:  You will need extra time for this lesson.  The researching part will take at least a half-hour to an hour, depending on your students and time you have available.  If your time is limited, you might want to use the shortened version of the recording sheet.

NGSS/Common Core Connections

As part of the science practices, the students will make observations from several sources to construct an evidence-based account describing natural phenomena.  Also they will be obtaining information about Earth's changes to tell if they happen slowly or quickly.

In this lesson, students learn how to use several sources to conduct shared research, which is one of the writing standards.  In addition, they will be making a claim and then finding evidence to support a claim, as part of the science practices.  The children will be using text features, such as table of contents and indexes, to help them locate information. This skill is both part of the NGSS and the Common Core.


    1. earthquakes
    2. volcanoes
    3. erosion
    4. mountain formation
    5. glaciers

Note:  You don't have to have any specific books for the research.  Any books that you can find at your school or local library will be just fine as long as they are written at a second grade level.  I even used books that we have recently used during reading groups.


5 minutes

To begin the lesson, I ask the children questions that tie in what we have learned about Earth changes to making claims and providing evidence.

We have been learning about all sorts of changes of the Earth.  How do we gather information about our natural world?  How do authors write books that explain the natural world?  How do they know these facts are true?

Today you are going to make a claim about the rate of change of these natural events. A claim is a statement that you think is true.   In other words, I would like you to state if you think the event such as an earthquake or a volcano happens quickly or slowly.  Then you are going to work with a partner to look for evidence to support that claim in one of books that I have on the front table.


20 minutes

The children will be using a research organizer to guide them in researching about fast and slow changes in the Earth.  The previous lessons in this unit have helped build a good foundation from them to be able to conduct this research.  If you have not completed any of my other lessons, you might want to read about each of the natural earth changes before you begin this activity.

To begin I have the children organize themselves into partner groups.  We quickly and easily do this by using our My Clock Buddies.

Then I give each of the students a Quick or Slow I've Got to Know recording sheet.  On this sheet they will have to use their background knowledge to stake a claim if an Earth change happened slowly or quickly.  They they must research the topic in the books that I have set out to help them find proof of their claim.  

As I stated earlier, you will be working with your partner today to research about the changes of the Earth that we have been studying.  In order to do this, you will be filling out the organizer called "Quick or Slow? I've Got to Know."  

I pull up the organizer on the Smartboard so I can model the process.

In the first column you will see the name of the Earth change.  In the second column you will need to decide from your past learning if the change is slow, meaning it takes hundreds, thousands or even millions of years; or if the change is fast, meaning it takes place within a short period such as days or weeks.

One of my high achieving students then asks if the changes can be both slow and fast.  I honestly didn't think they would come up with that idea at this point, but it is a welcome question.  So I tell them that they can put down both, but they will have to be able to prove each claim.

The next column asks to write down your proof or evidence.  Your evidence needs to come directly from a book, not just knowledge that you have.  Remember we are trying to prove what you have claimed with facts.  In the last column you need to write down the name of the book and the page where you found your information.

Children often generalize and have trouble distinguishing between what they think is a fact and what is really a fact.  Using this sheet helps the children to see that you can make a claim but then you must find evidence to back it up.

Let's try it out together.  Let's look at the first row.  We need to think about what we have learned about volcanoes.  Using what you have learned, write down if you think volcanoes change the Earth quickly or slowly.

Modeling one of the Earth changes together will help the children to accomplish this task.  Having the children think about their learning and then writing down their claim is an important part of the process.

Now I would have to try to find evidence that this event happened quickly.  I would be looking for words that might give me clues that the event occurred over a very short period of time.  Maybe words like "it happened one day", or "within a short amount of time."  Since we know about the volcano that happened quickly in Pompeii, I might want to look in my book to find evidence on the pages where it talks about Pompeii.  

I find a paragraph in one of the books where it talks about the destruction in Pompeii happening very quickly.  I write a few sentences on my sample page.  Then I show them how to write down the title and page number.


30 minutes

Then I have the children start their own research.  Obtaining information is an important part of science.  When the students research, they are obtaining that information independently with a partner.  It's all part of the process of gradual release of control.  They feel like they are gaining a bit of independence.

In advance, I have laid all of my acquired books on my table.  I spread them out so each title is visible.  I make sure that I have books on each of the topics we have studied (see teacher notes). As far as research itself, my only rule is that each partner group only takes one book at a time and then returns it to my table when they have finished so others can use it, too.  

As they are working, I walk around and make sure everyone stays on task and work together well.  In this video clip you'll see a boy reiterating the task.  These two boys are working very well together, which is one of the social goals of this activity.

As I am checking in with the students, I find something unexpected happening.  They are using the table of contents and the index to help them find the evidence that they need.  I realize that I did not instruct them to do this, and I am glad that I did not since it is already inherent in the task.  It seems so much more meaningful for them to discover this on their own (see reflection).  Here is a student explaining how he used the table of contents to help him.  I certainly did not expect that revelation from him at this time.   I think this boy and girl have a future together since they finish each other's sentences.  Too cute!

Click for student student sample 1 and student sample 2.




5 minutes

To end the activity, I have the students refer to their papers and state their claims.  Together we check to see what evidence they provide to back up their claim.

Let's first take a look at earthquakes.  What claim do you have about earthquakes? (It is a slow change). What evidence did you find that backs up your claim?

The children share their evidence.  We discuss as a class if the evidence indeed backs up the claim.  We continue through each of the natural events.

Discussing the findings as a class helps the students distinguish between explanations that account for gathered evidence and those that do not.  Since we are new to this at second grade, this makes for a great discussion.