Day Three of Seth Gets All Shook Up!

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SWBAT develop a model to describe how the geosphere interacts with at least one other Earth System.

Big Idea

What are the scientific classifications of the types of plate boundaries? What evidence supports these classifications? Students work with their Plate Team to make a claim based on evidence from data, and present and defend it.

Setting Up the Investigation

This is Day Three of a Three Day Lesson.  Click here for Day One of Seth Gets All Shook Up! and here for Day Two of Seth Gets All Shook Up!

On Day One of this investigation, students worked in expert groups of volcanologists, geologists, geochronologists, and seismologists to analyze  map data to develop a classification system of Earth's tectonic plates.  On Day Two, students jigsawed into tectonic plate groups and refined the classification system based on their specific plate. Finally on this Day Three, students make a claim supported by evidence about the specific scientific classification of one of the plate boundaries of their assigned plate.

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Systems:  Earth Materials and Systems -  that Earth's major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans).  These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's surface materials and processes.  The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate.  Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the atmosphere to determine patterns of weather.  (5-ESS2-1); The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes:  Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean.  Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground:  only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.  (5-ESS2-2)  and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models  - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-ESS2-1), and Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Standard units are used to describe and measure physical quantities such as weight and volume (5-ESS2-2)

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 6 is 770 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.

Preparation time for first time construction of the maps is approximately 20 minutes.

Materials Needed:

I am departing from the suggested Day 3 activities of Discovering Plate Boundaries, in order to meet the objectives I have set for my students.  

Discovering Plate Boundaries Teacher's Guide:  Part 2 (This is needed to determine the plate boundary types)

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 8

One copy for each student of

Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Check Up - Lesson 8

Days One and Two

Materials Needed:

For the next 3 lessons, I will be using a wonderful FREE resource produced by Dr. Dale S. Sawyer from Rice University - Discovering Plate Boundaries.  This amazing resource has been used in programs for gifted education, and I happen to think that all students should have access to it.  As the author states, these concepts are "the foundation of Earth Science understanding" and because they affect so many people where they live - it is the perfect activity to be addressed in a unit dealing with the interactions between Earth's Systems.  Amazingly, it is offered for at no charge online.  It is the best way I know of to take something as difficult to understand as plate tectonics, and make it meaningful for students.  Although the history of Earth is not addressed in the NGSS until middle school, this basic introduction is appropriate at this grade level.  The focus of these lessons will be on analyzing data, and building an argument from evidence.

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 6

Discovering Plate Tectonics - Teacher's Guides I and II

One each of the following Color Data Maps 24" x 36":  Seismology; Volcanology; Seafloor Age; Topography/Bathymetry (I copy these on a flash drive and take them to a copy center to be copied to the appropriate size, and then laminate them.  They are not consumables so they can be kept for future use).

One copy for each student (black and white) of Student Instructions

Two copies per student (black and white) 11" x 17" of Plate Boundary Map

One copy for every 4 students (black and white) 8 1/2" x 11" of Plate Boundary Map

One set of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Map Questions - Lesson 6

Group Assignment Slips

Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Set the Stage

My students are quite excited to get started presenting today.  I tell them that before they present the maps they have created, they will be using the data they have been "mining" or sifting through, to use as evidence to support a claim.  I explain that in order to do that, there is some information that I need to give them that will help them complete this task.  

I also remind my students that we have been working on a very important learning objective for the past several lessons, and that today's activities finalize that for us.  I share the learning objective and success criteria:

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

Learning Objective:  I can develop a model to describe how the geosphere interacts with at least one other Earth System.

Language Objective:  I can construct grade appropriate oral claims and support them with reasoning and evidence  [ELP.4-5.4]

Success Criteria:  I can complete my model (map) and include additional information to indicate interaction of the geosphere with one or more spheres.


35 minutes

Teacher Overview:

  • On the first day of the investigation, students worked in "expert" groups (volcanologists, seismologists, geologists, and geochronologists) to examine maps and categorize the data into types - general categories for the entire world.
  • On the second day of the investigation these "experts" met in tectonic plate groups and shared their information.  Then they developed categories for their specific tectonic plate.
  • Today, students will learn about the actual scientific classification of tectonic plates (there are 3 types), and then they will make a scientific claim supported by evidence, for one of the boundaries of their plate (either the N, W, E, or S boundary)


Introduce Earth Model

I pass out copies of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 8 to each of my students.  I explain to my students, "The data you have collected over the past two days is the exact same data that scientists have collected to help them develop a theory about how the Earth's crust, or lithosphere is like a shell.  This shell is divided into "plates" that glide over a layer of molten rock in the mantle of the Earth. This layer called the asthenosphere.  I explain that at one time, it is thought that the plates on which the continents rest were all pushed together in a supercontinent called "Pangea", but because these plates have drifted and moved over millions of years, this supercontinent broke apart. I show my students on the globe how the pieces of the continents seem to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

I have created a copy of the lab sheet as a class chart  I draw a cut away model in the box showing the Earth's core, the mantle, and the lithosphere.  I label each of these, explaining that the upper part of the mantle is the asthenosphere.  I tell my students, "I want you to create this same model in the cutaway box on your papers as well."

Introduce Video

I tell my students, "This short video will explain a bit more about this theory, called "plate tectonics."  I want you to watch and listen carefully.  I don't want you to be busy taking notes, because I don't want you to get distracted.  However, I do want you to be listening for a couple of things.  

  • Pay attention to energy transfers.  Remember, signs that energy has been transferred are things like changes in temperature, such as heat, motion, light, and so on.  
  • This video is about Earth's Geosphere,  that part of Earth that extends from the center of the Earth to Earth's surface.  Pay attention to other Earth Systems that are interacting with Earth's Geosphere.



Introduce the 3 Types of Plate Boundaries

I tell my students, "As you saw in the video, the places where one of Earth's plates ends an another begins is called a "boundary."  There are 3 major types of boundaries between these plates."  

I call my students up front to sit on the carpet around the whiteboard where I have the copy of the lab sheet that I created as a class chart.  I have sketched out the words and pictures in pencil prior to class.  Consistent with Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD), I am using this as a Comparative Input Chart.  While my students are seated on the carpet, I am providing the "input" by tracing over the pictures and text that I have lightly penciled in.  I use different colored markers to discuss and draw models for each section and provide input that is proven to be better retained by students, because it is consistent with brain-based research.  

Each time a provide a bit of information, I use a strategy called "Chunk & Chew" as seen in this Video Clip 1.  This means that I provide a "chunk" of information, and then provide time for my students to "chew" on it, or talk about it.  This allows them to process information and aid in moving it from their short term memory into their long term memory. This makes the Comparative Input Strategy Chart so much more powerful!

The opportunity to process very complex information is absolutely critical for students who are learning English as a second language.  Another pair of students processes another chunk of information in this Video Clip 2.

Claims & Evidence

I tell my students, "Now that you have information about the three types of boundaries, your job is to go back to your Plate Teams, select one of your plate boundaries, and make a claim for which of the 3 Types of boundaries the one you selected exemplifies.  You will use the Claim and Evidence Table at the bottom of the second page of your lab sheet to write your claim, and list your evidence.  You will need to use the data you have mined from the maps you worked with yesterday, along with the comparative chart on this lab sheet to accomplish this task.  When you are finished, your team will present your findings.  Other teams may question your claim and evidence, so be prepared to defend your statements!" I send my Plate Teams off to work and post the following "Signposts" for them:

1.  Choose one of the boundaries from your plate.  Suggestion:  Label your boundaries as North, South, East, and West!

2.  Make a claim for which of the 3 Types of Boundaries this particular boundary exemplifies.  You may use the following stem:

I claim that the (North, South, East, West) boundary of the ________ Plate is an example of a ____________ Type Boundary.  (Be sure to state which boundary you have chosen - the Northern, Southern, Eastern, or Western Boundary of your Plate - so that we know what you are referring to!)

3.  State your evidence using data!  You may use wording from the comparative chart on your lab sheet to help you.

4.  Each team member must complete a claim and evidence statement and assist in the presentation.

5.  While you are waiting for other teams to present, copy the models from the comparative input chart.

I give my teams time to work and when everyone is just about finished, give the warning signal to get ready to present!

Team Presentations

20 minutes

Introduce the Activity

There are 5 Plate Groups that will be presenting:  North American Plate, Pacific Plate, African Plate, South American Plate, and Cocos/Nazca/Caribbean Plates.  I tell my students, "When it is your group's turn to present, you will bring your map up to the document camera, introduce your plate, present your claim, and then give us your evidence.  Remember, all team members must assist in the presentation.  I will ask the audience if there are any questions or concerns about the claim presented, so be prepared!

I check in with plate groups as they prepare, making myself available if they need assistance.  I needn't be concerned - these kids know their stuff!  I am impressed with the evidence they are mounting to support their claims, as seen in this Video Clip 1.

The plate group in Video Clip 2 definitely sound like experts!

Plate Groups Present

I call the first team up to present.  They introduce their plate, then state their claim and their evidence.  I have listed the plate name, the claim for the plate type, and the specific boundary on the board.  

The first group up is seen in this Video Clip 3  They are claiming that that the North East boundary between the African and Arabian plate is a divergent boundary.  The class agrees with their evidence.

When all teams have had an opportunity to present and defend their evidence, we give our final applause for a job well done!  

When everyone is through presenting, I display the following interactive from Anneberg - Dynamic Earth, and we get to check to see if their claims are correct!  They are - every single one.  There is one group who was partially correct, because their plate boundary is split between two different types - but I wouldn't have expected 5th Graders to figure that one out!  I am thrilled with their efforts!

One Big Idea

I tell my students, "One of the most important ideas that I want you to take away from this series of lessons, is just how powerful Earth's Geosphere is.  The constant heat, radiation,  and pressure given off from from Earth's core, is what constantly heats rock beneath Earth's surface and creates the lithosphere that these tectonic plates are floating on.  Earth is powered by two sources of energy - one is the Sun, and the other is its internal core.  Matter and Energy are constantly being transferred because of these two sources of energy.  This transfer of matter and energy is what drives many of Earth's cycles, including The Rock Cycle - which you will learn about in our next lesson."  

I tell my students we have one more thing we need to take care of before we finish up for the day!

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Burning Questions

I call my students to our meeting area and tell them, "Yesterday, we ended our class with asking "Burning Questions."  I have collected those on a chart."  I go through each question, and we note whether or not the question was answered today, or not.

Tomorrow for their "Do Now" activity - they will complete Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Check Up - Lesson 8 to assess the learning objective for this series of lessons:  I can develop a model to describe how the geosphere interacts with at least one other Earth System.