Geological Timelines-Follow up

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Students will be able to use the timeline to create a story.

Big Idea

Use the geologic timeline to go back in time to write a story.

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to solidify student use of the geologic timeline and help students expand from reading the timeline to using the timeline to build stories.

Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Shared Reading- Students get access to an upper level text and teacher thinking over three days to learn how to read a genre type.

2) Writing to think-Students get a chance to write and process their thinking.


3 minutes

Learning Goal: Use the geologic timeline to tell a story.

Opening Question:  What are some different types of stories that can be told?

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

Today for warmup I asked students to share different ways tell stories.  I made sure to mention social media methods like instagram, facebook, and twitter.


5 minutes

Four Ways to Understand Earth's Age is a great video to show as guided instruction. We watched the video earlier in the unit. Today, I tell the students that later in class they will be writing stories about one of the time periods and to think about what part of the History of Earth they will be wanting to write about.  

At the end of the video, I have students share the section they want to work on with their partners. This intention will let students get to work faster during the Independent work time.  


10 minutes

The purpose of this section  is to show my thinking on using the timeline to make inferences and answer questions.  This is day 3 of the Shared Reading strategy.  I start by putting the anchor chart on the wall and going over the important features of the geologic timelines.  

Today the goal is for students to be able to make inferences using information from the timelines and their own knowledge.  Inferences can be very tricky for students.  Often they can't pick up evidence from the resources to support their ideas.  Other times they simply stop trying saying it is too hard.  Students need a model for completing this complicated task.  Today, students have three questions to answer on the worksheet.  I don't expect them to complete this process alone, so I use a gradual release model doing the first questions as a think-aloud, and then we all do the second as whole class, finally I release the students to work collaboratively on the third.  

In this screencast, I show students my thinking on how to answer inference questions.  Another scaffold you can use for these types of questions is an It says, I say, So chart.   


10 minutes

Now that the students have seen me work one of the problems, I want to release some of the thinking to the students.  This can be tricky because often students are well practiced at avoiding work that they perceive as difficult.  To overcome this problem, I draw random names from my name stick container.  Students are used to this structure and know that this means that they all have an equal chance to be called upon.  However, in this situation it is also necessary to give students support structures for when they might not know the answer or even how to approach the problem. It is essential not to embarrass the students in front of their peers.  This is a mistake I have made over the years and it is devastating to the teacher/student relationship.  

Some of these strategies can help scaffold this Q&A section.

1. Think- Pair Share- Allow students to first try the problem on their own and then share ideas with their partner or table.  This spreads ideas around the room and gives nervous students a start.

2. Phone a friend-  Allow students to call on a friend to help them answer.  However, make it a structure in class to always go back to the original student for a summary.  This is a great way to build positive accountability.

3.  Poll three-  If a student is staring at me in fear, I often make them the judge of three different answers.  I'll poll three other students and then ask my first choice to help me pick the best answer.  This puts thinking on their shoulders but takes off the entire responsibility.

4.  Take a piece- If I call on a student and they have no idea, I often ask them to simply give me a piece of the answer.  I tell the students that we will build the whole answer together as a class.  

One strategy I use in this situation because the problems are so big is I break the problem up into small questions that are more easily manageable.  In this screencast I break up the question and discuss the strategies I would use with students.


10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to let students collaboratively use the timeline to answer the final question.  For this purpose I have students work in pairs or threes.  Before the students begin I put up a checklist on the board to help them.

___  What is the question asking?  Are there multiple parts?

___  What information can you get from the charts?

___  What information can you get from each other?

___  What conclusions can you make?

___  What evidence supports your conclusions?


This checklist is an important starting point for students.  Despite the models, some students simply freeze when left on their own.  A checklist gets them started.  As students are working I walk around the room, push thinking, and help students with challenges using the strategy Praise- Prompt- Leave.  Using this strategy I start by praising their thinking, them I give them a prompt to keep them going, and then I leave quickly so they take the responsibility of thinking.


10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to give students a chance to practice storytelling with the geologic timelines.  

 First, I give an example of a story that I made up using the timeline.  See my exemplar below.  This is a short exemplar that is simply the beginning of the story, but designed to show students that stories can be told in many forms. After modeling how I would tell a story using the geologic timeline, I let students get out their writing to think notebooks.  

I remind them of our norms for writing to think by showing the anchor chart and reassured them that this was not for a grade.

 I want students to be able to relax and enjoy writing creatively about science. As students start their writing, I walk around encouraging students to write and answering questions.  At the end of the writing time, I let the students share their writings with each other.


2 minutes

Closing Statement: The timeline is a way to weave a story about the history of earth.

Closing Question:  What life forms have been on earth for the longest time?




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.