Geologic Timeline - Direct Instruction

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Students will be able to use a geologic timeline to answer questions about the history of the earth.

Big Idea

Use Geologic timelines to answer questions.

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is for students to be able to USE the geologic timelines to answer simple questions.

Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Shared Reading- In this section I use modeling techniques to show students how to use the geologic timelines.

2) Collaborative Comprehension- In this section students work together to show comprehension of the timeline.  

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal: Be able to read a geologic timeline. 

Opening Question:  When you are looking at a timeline, how can you tell when a time period started or ended?

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 Evolution of Life on Earth is a really fun, and short, claymation video telling the history of the Earth.  The content section of the video is only 1:35 so I usually show it twice in class. The first time I simply have the students watch it and enjoy. The second time I stop it in three places to make some important points. 

1.   0:16    - I stop the video here to ask the students what happened between 12 and 4 AM. I just want to make sure they understand that there was no life on earth for that time.

2.    0:48   - I want to explain the term EXPLOSION event to the students. Throughout the timeline there are periods of explosion and having this vocab word will help them.

3.   1:08    - I want to explain the term EXTINCTION event to the students.  

Focus and Guided Practice

15 minutes

Today in class I am using a Shared Reading strategy.  This is day two of a three day strategy.  I start by reviewing the anchor chart that we made in the Discovery lesson of this unit.

Once we have reviewed the chart I move on to the lesson. Today my purpose is for students to be able to show comprehension of the charts. I do this using gradual release. First I do a focus lesson to show students how I would read the dates on the different charts. In this video, I show students how I would figure out the beginning and end points of the Devonian time period.

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After my focus lesson I have students use the mini dry erase boards at the desks.  I ask the students to locate the beginning of the Jurassic period using the timelines.  The students record their answers on the boards and then together we go through the reasoning.  We do this a few more times until I am confident that the students can read the dates on the timelines.

Check out the literacy framework to find other ways that I embed reading and writing in science.

Collaborative Practice

30 minutes

The purpose of this section is to give the students a chance to practice and become fluent with dating and using the timelines. This is important because my next lesson will be for students to make inferences using the timelines. They can't make inferences until they are fluent at dating.  

I hand out the worksheet to the students and give instructions reminding the students they can use any of  the charts they want to answer the questions. On this worksheet, most of the questions are right there in the text or text to text questions. This is deliberate because I am focusing solely on comprehension.  While students are working on the problems I walk around and check on progress, answer questions, and help strugglers.  

The final questions on the worksheet or Text to author and text to self. The purpose of these questions is to allow students to stretch their thinking on the purpose of the genre of timelines.

At the end of the work period, I have students trade papers with another table and we grade the worksheet. Students turn their papers in but I also allow them to redo their papers before turning in if they aren't happy with their grades. I don't take a lot of time for grading in class, but when I do have time I consider it a valuable practice. For more about classroom grading read my reflection.   


3 minutes

Closing Statement: Today we practiced getting information from the geologic timelines.

Closing Question: How do geologic timelines help you understand the past?




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.