Geologic Maps - Patterns Can Tell Us About the Past

8 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT explain how geologic maps of their state that show varied rock formations demonstrate that the landscape has changed over time.

Big Idea

Patterns in rock formations tell a story.

Introductory Review- What Can We Learn From Geologic Maps?

15 minutes

The abstraction of thinking of the deeply distant past is a difficult concept, so in order to maintain engagement and provide additional visual and second language support, I show them this short video clip I made about some ancient rocks in the Grand Canyon.

Then, I ask students to recall and explain what we did in the previous lesson.  What can we learn from looking at the geologic map for a state?  I support and guide them towards the following responses:

  • the type of rock
  • where different rock (formations) are within a state
  • where different rock (formations are in relation to one another
  • when a rock formation was created
  • possibly:  the environment at the time the rock formation was created
  • which rock formations potentially have fossils

We review and read the following vocabulary words:

sedimentary, metamorphic, igneous

If appropriate, I read through the geologic time periods with the students.  Many of my students speak English as a second language, but all of them benefit from the simple practice of chunking words by syllables and identifying common phonograms.  In a way, the names of the geologic period serve the same role as nonsense words do in the younger grades, except that they are, of course, words with a meaning so even though the students do not need to remember them, they are words with a purpose.

Explore - Independent Practice

40 minutes

My students have access to 2:1 computers so most of them do this activity, Interpreting Geologic Maps either with a partner or independently.  I share the file with them through Google Classroom.  I also provide scaffolding for this content with sentence stems and other structure on the Geology Map Activity Independent On Level pages.  The product is further differentiated for my enrichment students by asking them to draw deeper conclusions and to provide more detail about the age and type of rock formations within each state.  

I keep a few of my struggling readers with me and focus on the reading skills first and the science content second.  I provide language work with location words using this Geology Map Activity -Independent -Extra Support page.


10 minutes

At the conclusion of this lesson, I call the students together and have them share some of their observations and questions.  I focus on accuracy of content and language.