History of Earth: Part 1: Discovery

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Students will be able to gather information about Earth's formation from a resource.

Big Idea

The Earth started as a ball of dust?!!

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to get kids excited about events in Earth's early history and to let students practice their discussion and note taking skills.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Timed Brainstorm- A timed brainstorm is a great fast paced method for accessing prior knowledge and raising the energy of the class.

2) Stop and Go film- This strategy is used with movies that have a lot of content.  The teacher stops the film often for discussion and note taking and provides a note catcher 

3) Socratic Seminar- A Socratic Seminar is a discussion structure where students use a high level resource as the base of a student centered discussion.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal:  Discover some of the major events in early earth history.

Opening Question: How do you think the earth formed?

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

Today I want to hear about students understandings and misunderstandings of the formation of Earth.  I have students share ideas at their table and then share out to the class.  I grab a few of their ideas, to record them, as it is always interesting to return to them later and compare to new understandings.

Then I let students know that we were going to start by watching a movie that could answer many of our questions.

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


5 minutes

For the hook today, I want to access the students' prior knowledge of major earth events that they might have heard of before.  I've decided to do that through a timed brainstorm that encourages motivation and engagement while not taking up the entire class period. I ask the students to get out a piece of paper and tell them that I will be giving them 3 minutes to list as many Earth events as they can think of.  To model this task, I list - Formation of Earth.  I use an online timer that I can project which encourages a fast pace.  When students are complete I have them popcorn out the ideas that they came up with.  Then I tell them that we are going to be watching an amazing film over the next seven days that traces the history of Earth from its beginning to present day.  

Movie Activity

20 minutes

The film, The Story of Earth by National Geographic, is amazing.  The information covers major geological and biological events from 5000 mya to the present day.  It also traces chains of events which demonstrates the CCC Cause and Effect.  

When I first started showing this movie, I simply turned on the projector and played it through.  This didn't allow the students to truly understand the science or be able to use the content in anyway.  Now I show the movie in short 13-20 min sections.  I stop the film often to have students record notes on major events using a notecatcher.  I also use notes that are already made for students with slow processing or writing difficulties.  These modified notes make it possible for all students to complete the final project.  

Today I showed from 0:00 min to 13:11 min of the film "The Story of Earth"  This section of the film shows many major events that occurred at the beginning of Earth's history including:

- The formation of the earth.

- The formation of the moon.

- How comets brought water to the planet.

- The formation of the land.


Even though this clip of the movie is only 13:11 min, when I use it in class it takes twice that much time as I stop the movie often to clarify, have students predict, point out evidence and let students take notes.  


20 minutes

When the movie is done, I ask the students what they found the most interesting and we have an open socratic seminar like conversation about it.  I have the students pull their chairs into a circle and I let them know that I want them to have a discussion about the movie where they listen carefully to others' answers and use those answers to build off from.  I use Class Dojo to record when students are participating, actively listening, presenting a new idea and building off of another's idea.  At the end of the discussion we look at the Class Dojo points, not as grades, but to suggest how they might contribute in the future.  

Some of the questions that I used as starting off points are:

  • How did the graphics help present the information?
  • What evidence did the film makers use as support?
  • What is the difference between having a scientific theory about the formation of the earth and having a personal theory?


Below is a screencast showing how I interpret the results of a Socratic Seminar.

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2 minutes

Closing Statement:  Today we looked at some of the earliest events in Earth's history.  Tomorrow we will continue the story.

Closing Question: What events do you think you see in the film tomorrow?

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.