Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

*Click to open and customize your own copy of the Plate Tectonics Lesson Plan.

This lesson accompanies the BrainPOP topic Plate Tectonics, and supports the standard of analyzing how geoscience processes change Earth’s surface. Students demonstrate understanding through a variety of projects.

Step 1: ACTIVATE PRIOR KNOWLEDGE

Display an image of Pangea, like this one:

Ask students:

  • What do you notice about the continents?
  • How do you think the shape and position of continents changed over time?

Step 2: BUILD BACKGROUND

  • Read the description on the Plate Tectonics topic page.
  • Play the Movie, pausing to check for understanding. 
  • Have students read one of the following Related Reading articles: “Real Life” or “Way Back When”. Partner them with someone who read a different article to share what they learned with each other.

Step 3: ENGAGE 

Students express what they learned about plate tectonics while practicing essential literacy skills with one or more of the following activities. Differentiate by assigning ones that meet individual student needs.  

  • Make-a-Movie: Create a documentary that answers this question: How has continental drift led to the shapes and positions of modern continents? (Essential Literacy Skill: Determine central ideas)
  • Make-a-Map: Make a concept map explaining the role of plate tectonics in the following geologic events: earthquakes, continent formation, volcanic eruption, seafloor spreading, and mountain formation. (Essential Literacy Skill: Summarize key details)
  • Creative Coding: Code a digital museum exhibit representing important scientists, discoveries, and geologic events relating to plate tectonics. (Essential Literacy Skill: Make logical inferences from explicit details)

Step 4: APPLY & ASSESS 

Apply: Students take the Plate Tectonics Challenge, applying essential literacy skills while demonstrating what they learned about this topic.

Assess: Wrap up the lesson with the Plate Tectonics Quiz

Step 5: EXTEND LEARNING

Time Zone X: Plate Tectonics: This interactive timeline game challenges players to put historical events in chronological order.

Earth System Unit: Continue to build understanding around Earth’s systems with more BrainPOP topics.

Additional Support Resources:

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