Geologic Timeline - Pre-Requisite

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Students will be able to understand the differences in numbers like 1000, 1,000,000 and 1,000,000,000.

Big Idea

Geologic timelines can give us information on fossils made over millions of years.

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to give students the background information on fossils, time, and vocabulary they will need to succeed in this unit.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1.  Vocabulary Activity-  This collaborative activity pushes students to connect definitions with images and personal ideas.

2.  Mapping activity- This hands on task allows students to compare how far 1 million steps would take you from the school and 1 billion steps.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal:  Understand the basic vocabulary scientists use with geologic timelines.

Opening Question:  What is a fossil and how are they made? 

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung.  I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets


5 minutes

The How Fossils Are Formed video is a quick review of fossil production for students. In my district students study fossils in 6th grade but learn about geologic time in 7th grade.

This is a great time for me to amplify past learning. I ask the students to watch the video with their notebooks open to catch important notes. I have them label their notes with the categories, trace fossils, mold fossils, resin fossils, and body fossils. During the video, I stop after each type of fossil so that students can get the notes.


Vocabulary Activity

10 minutes

Now that students are excited to learn about geologic timelines, it is a perfect time to introduce some vocabulary words.  I use a multimodality strategy to introduce only about five to seven words, and do this in collaborative groups of four with each person having an assigned job.  

1- Word person- states what they already know about the word or what the word means to them.

2- Image person- States what they think about the picture and what it means to them.  

3- Definition person- Reads the definition and states what it means to them.

4- Sentence Person- Reads the sentence and states what it means to them.  

I project the presentation on the board or put individual copies at the desks.  

I use a timer and a bell.  Each person gets 15 sec for their role.  In the beginning of the activity the students need to be trained on what to do and it helps to give them some sentence starters, like "This means..."  "When I hear this I think..."

After each person has rotated through their roles for the first word, I give the students 1-2 min of independent time to make their TIP charts (Term, Information, Picture) for that term. Then we move on as a class to the next term.  Later in the year, when students are familiar with the process this can be released to them to manage their time.  But in the beginning I manage the time to keep the class on track.

This work has meaning and purpose. Students keep these homemade glossaries in their folders and can use them on all the work we do in class including tests and quizzes.  This is a great resource for them to use the rest of the year!

Below is a picture of one of the words GEOLOGIC TIMELINE and a video of the student discussion.


Important Prior Concepts

20 minutes

I start this section by showing the How Big Is A Billion video that compares millions and billions.  

After the video, I use the powerpoint to help the students understand the vastness of numbers like millions and billions. Then I give the students three maps and a meter stick.  Their job is to figure out how far a million steps would take them from the school and then how far a billion steps would take them. The three maps I give the students are a map of our town, a map of the state, and a map of the country.  

I let students work in collaborative groups to try to figure out this problem. Before I turn them lose the first thing I tell the students is that the need to find out the length of the average step and how many steps would be in one mile. As I travel around to the groups I help students with the math and their problem solving steps. 

At the end of the work time, I take the students back to the timelines and point out the years on the chart, helping the students see the million and billions.  


2 minutes

Closing Statement: Dating fossils and rocks shows us that the Earth is more that 4.5 Billion years old.  

Closing Question:  Which rock is older, one that is 3.6 billion years old or one that is 4,600 million years old? 

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.