The Dynamic Earth Teacher's Guide
The Dynamic Earth unit covers content related to plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountain building. The time-line below is based on 55 minute periods meeting daily for approximately six weeks.

National Standards Grades 5-8:



  • Structure of the earth system
  • Earth's history structure of the earth system
  • The earth processes, including erosion, movement of lithospheric plates, and changes in atmospheric composition
  • Earth history is also influenced by occasional catastrophes, such as the impact of an asteroid or comet.
  • Fossils provide important evidence of how life and environmental conditions have changed.


Many of the activities in this unit are derived from and make use of the book The Amazing Earth Model Book Easy-to-make Hands-on Model That Teach, Donald M Silver; Patricia Wynne. New York: Scholastic Professional Books, 1997.

Hereafter, this book will be referenced as TAEMB
If this resource is not available, an alternative is to challenge students to create original paper models.


The following website has many many free templates for this activity. You will use this site often during this unit so be sure to bookmark it as a favorite.

Let's Book It with tech'knowledge'y

Having learners create their own models does require more time but the process of working through conceptualization and then construction is a powerful learning experience. Encourage students to use the above website as a jumping off point. For the same assignment one student might choose a circle template while another could select fan template while another picks a step page template.

Accumulate a collection of pop-up books. Look for them at garage or tag sales. The books will be used many, many times as learners use them to garner ideas and figure out the engineering aspects of pop-ups. You will read and share aloud as well as demonstrate the pop-up books at the beginning and/or end of lessons several times a week for the next several weeks. Ideally, the subject of the pop up would coincide with the content but need not always be content driven. The idea is to give students a lot of experiences with a wide range of pop up books.

Each time you share read aloud books be sure to point out the cover of the book prepares the audience for what is coming inside the pages. If there is a dedication page share that with students and explain what a dedication page is. Show students the back cover and tell them that all books have both a front and back page.

The vocabulary set has not been delineated by subtopic. Rather the intent is that the vocabulary be embedded throughout the entire unit.

Topic One: Plate Tectonics

Science Content: The theory of plate tectonics explains many geological phenomena. Plate movements can be convergent, divergent or transform. At convergent boundaries between continents and oceanic plates, such as happened in the past along the coast of California, the denser oceanic plate moved under the continental plate. As this happened, the upper layers of the oceanic plate were scraped off onto the continental plate. Thus, we now have local rocks that were formed underwater in the mid-Pacific. Geologists used the composition of these rocks and their fossils to determine the conditions (underwater) and locations (Pacific Ocean) of their formation to help them piece together this history of our local rocks.

Day 1:

Objective - Students inventory, recognize and record their prior knowledge about the earth's plates and plate interactions, layers of the earth and the dynamics of changes in the earth's surface.

1) KWL for "Earth Dynamics." Pre-assessment.

2) Introduce vocabulary list. Instruct learners to include in their KWL any terms that they are already familiar with.

3) Read/share a commercially made pop-up book. Content is not relevant. The idea is to share with learners a variety of pop-up books over the next 5 days. If learners have questions, like, "What does this have to do with Plate tectonics?" You could hint that the culminating project for this unit has something to do with pop-up books.
Day 2:

Objective - Students investigate the earth's plates and plate interactions along plate boundaries as they produce and analyse sections of plate boundaries.

Describe the evidence for and the development of the theory of plate tectonics.

1) World Map Transparencies and Plate motions and boundaries activity (see document).

2) Read/share a commercially made pop-up book. Introduce project: Pop-up book. Distribute pop-up book rubric.

Day 3:

Objective - Students are able to differentiate layers of the Earth and illusrate the basic layers of the Earth.

Layers of the Earth (see document)

Day 4:

Objective - Student identify the three types of plate boundaries. They explore the three plate boundary types of geological features. Examine how plates interact with each other to give the continents and geographic landmasses we have today. And link how convection currents contribute to the moving of continents.

1) Read aloud and share a commercially designed Pop Up Book

2) Lecture: continental drift, components of the earth's interior - Intro with video located here.

Please preview this video before showing to be aware that the word “hell” is used. An alternative though, a less graphic and less visually interesting video such as Geology: The Structure of the Earth would be a good substitute.

3) Search How Stuff Works and find a huge amount of video clips that can be used for whole class viewing. You might want to ask teams of students to use the site, select their favorite and share it with the rest of the class.

Day 5:

Objective - Students recognize that the earth's surface is in constant movement. They are able to generalize that the layers of the earth, convection currents, earthquakes and volcanoes are all connected to the science of plate tectonics and the use of fossil evidence as indirect evidence.

1) Discuss the idea of change over time and that the layout of the earth is continuously changing. Read pp 110 - 124 Moving Plates in TAEMB.

Alternatively: Challenge students to create original paper models that demonstrate the movement of plates in the Earth's crust.

The following website has many many free templates which students can access for this activity.

Let's Book It with tech'knowledge'y

Be sure to create the model yourself prior to having your students do it, in order to anticipate potential problems.

2) Photocopy and distribute pp 114-116 (TAEMB) and make available scissors, tape or glue, crayons, color pencils or markers.

3) Guide students through the Making the Model section on pp 111 and 112 (TAEMB).

4) Assist learners as needed to complete the model. Place the completed model in student's manila folder. This work sample could be included in the final pop-up book as an evidence of learning. Refer to the vocabulary list and encourage students to include terms as appropriate into the model description or labels.

Day 6:

Objective - Students continue to assimulate information related to plate tectonics and how it accounts for the locations of continents and oceans today.

1) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

2) Lecture: Plate Tectonics (see notes document). The following website is helpful. With comprehensive and colorful graphics students can access a lot of information. http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/dynamic/understanding.html

This site has a terrific flip book model that could augment the lesson. The flipbook could become a page in the pop-up book.

3) Manipulative activity. Plate Puzzle Poster Read p 119 (TAEMB) Be sure to create the model yourself prior to having your students do it in order to anticipate potential problems. Copy and distribute pp 122 and 123 (TAEMB).

Alternatively: The following website provides a "plate tectonics puzzle" which you can print out and have students use to create a puzzle of what the earth may have looked like in the past.

The continents fit together during pangaea like the pieces of a puzzle. Challenge the students to put the puzzle together to make their best estimate of what pangaea looked like. Ask students to check their work with you prior to gluing down their pieces. You will want to make sure you know where the actual continents were at the time of Pangaea by visiting this website.

Have art supplies available as per previous days.

4) Place the completed model in student's manila folder. This work sample could be included in the final pop-up book as an evidence of learning.

5) Show the metaphor example. The learner's task is to create a metaphor for the concept of plate tectonics. Guide student through the Metaphor activity.

Day 7:

Objective - Students begin to integrate and construct new information into their own schemata through a synthesis activity of creating a poetic relationship between vocabulary terms .

1) Return student's KWL worksheets completed Day 1 and stored in their manila folders. Using all the resources available to them from previous lessons, activities, reading materials and web searches, ask learnes to complete the L (Learned) section of the KWL. Ask if they were surprised by any of the information? What was most interesting? Did you think something was a fact about plate tectonics and later found it was not correct? If so, write a sentence or two about that.

2) Collect the completed KWL and file in manila folders.

3) Discuss ideas forming for the pop-up book project. How might some of the activities completed so far be used in a pop-up book.

4) Write and illustrate Cinquain poems around the topic of Plate Tectonics (refer to Cinquain document): ticket out the door. Collect and place illustrated student's Cinquain poem in their manila folders. Encourage students to refer to the vocabulary list as potential word selections for their poems.

5) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop up book.


Topic Two: Earthquakes

In addition to creating one KWL as an introductory/pre-assessment activity of Earth Dynamics, each subtopics should begin with a KWL as an introduction to the particular topic. For example, the following prompts could be used to stimulate more recall of details around earthquakes:

  • What do you already know about earthquakes?
  • How much damage do earthquakes cause? Why?
  • Where have earthquakes occurred recently?
The following are helpful websites for learners to explore to gather information about earthquakes.

Day 8

Objective - Students inventory, recognize and record their prior knowledge about the dynamics of earthquakes. Students predict how earthquakes result from plate motions.

1) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

2) KWL - Earthquakes - Pre-assessment - see KWL instructions for details.

3) Discuss how plate tectonics influence earthquakes. Look at the overhead maps (Day 2) again. Is there a connection? How much damage do earthquakes cause? Why? Where have earthquakes occurred recently? (visit usgs.gov) Use the discussion of these questions as a starting point for notes. For an outline lecture on earthquakes, see the "earthquake notes" document.

4) Earthquake Fault Model (see document)

5) Provide learners opportunity to web search earthquakes. Here are a couple of addresses that are interesting.

Day 9:

Objective - Students will create an Earthquake Family Plan or an Earthquake Survival Kit plan.

If possible, show a video of earthquake preparedness. There are several available on the internet for free download.

Have students access this eHow website. Using this website as a guide line and working with their parents/grandparents/guardians, have students create - specific to their own family - an Earthquake Family Plan.

Teacher can prepare a template for students if that would be helpful. However, this activity is more about thinking through and having conversations with family members about the specifics of what they do in the event of a major earthquake.

The completed plan will become a part of the pop-up book. Collect and file in manila folders.

Day 10:

Objective - Students will create their own original pop-up page related to the effects of earthquakes on Earth's surface.

1) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

2) Students can choose one of the following to create a pop-up page: tsunamis, floods, or changes in natural and man-made structures. Provide students with pop up books to investigate and Irvine's books to find potential models to emulate. Construction or index paper, art supplies, glue, scissors, magazines for cut and paste. This project will take about two class periods to complete.

Day 11:

Objective - Students will create their own original pop-up page related to the effects of earthquakes on Earth's surface.

1) Complete pop-up page related to earthquakes, as per Day 10.

2) Write and Illustrate a Cinquain poem around the topic of Earthquake. Use scoring guide provided

3) Distribute Earthquake KWL and ask students to complete the Learned column. Refer learners to the vocabulary list and ask them to include any learned terms.

4) Collect the original pop-up page, completed Cinquain and KWL. Place all three pieces in student manila folders.


Topic Three: Volcanoes

In addition to creating one KWL as an introductory/pre-assessment activity of Earth Dynamics, each of the subtopics should have a KWL as an introduction to the particular topic. For example, the Day 12 prompts could be used to stimulate more recall of details around volcanoes.

Day 12:

Objective - Students inventory, recognize and record their prior knowledge about the dynamics of volcanoes. Students predict how volcanoes relate to plate motions

1) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

2) Discuss how plate tectonics influence volcanoes. Look at the overhead maps again, what is the connection? What do students already know about volcanoes? How much damage do volcanoes cause? Why? How does this compare to earthquakes? Why? Where have volcanic eruptions occurred recently? (visit Volcano Hazards) Present a lecture for notes (see "volcano notes" document).

Day 13:

Objective - Students construct a model of volcano eruption.

1) Give 'em what they want: build a volcano and use Mentos and coke for the explosion, then use baking soda and vinegar and compare the two explosions.

Baking soda and vinegar volcano lab:simply add baking soda to a container with vinegar. The amounts are fun to have students guess or estimate before you begin adding. And, depending on the size of your container, you will want to adjust the amounts you add. Play around with this and let the students try to figure out an appropriate ratio. You can also find specific directions at this website.

Mentos and Diet Coke volcano lab:as soon as you open a 2-liter Diet Coke bottle, rapidly drop several Mentos in the bottle. You can attempt to put the cap back on, but probably won't have time (I wouldn't bother). Just for fun, try different types of sodas to see which one gets the best "explosion." Also, ask for students to think of better methods for adding the Mentos. This is messy and fun. You can also find specific directions here.

2) See metaphor activity. Show the metaphor example. The learner's task is to create a metaphor for the concept of volcanoes. Guide students through the Metaphor activity. Collect and add to the manila folders for potential /optional inclusion in the pop up book.

3) Refer to the vocabulary list. Ask students to identify any terms are directly related to the topic of volcanoes. You may want to create a crossword puzzle of the terms to send home as a homework assignment.

Day 14:

Objective - Students will construct and color the inside a Volcano model.

Volcano Anatomy: Be sure to do this yourself prior to having students do the activity to anticipate difficulties and/or questions

1) Copy and Distribute pp 22, 25, and the bottom of page 30

Alternatively: Use the volcano diagram from this website. Have students color and fold the volcano model as the website instructs. Be sure labels are visible.

2) Students will color and construct the Inside a Volcano model, which should then be fixed to an 8.5 x 11 single sheet for inclusion in their pop up book.

3) Collect and file in manila folders.

4) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

Day 15 and 16: Refer to this website.

Objective - Students will originate and produce original pop-up pages to demonstrate understanding of the dynamics of 2 types of volcanoes.

1) Share with students the three main types of volcanoes: composite, shield and cinder cone and some basic information.

2) Assign reading of available earth science text volcano section.

3) Students will create a their own original pop-up page related to volcanoes. Students should include one of the following to create a pop-up page: composite, shield, cinder cone, or other. Provide students with pop up books to investigate and Irvine's books to find potential models to emulate. Construction or index paper, art supplies, glue, scissors, magazines for cut and paste. This project will take about two class periods to complete. Work on pop-up books.

4) Illustrated Cinquain poem with a Volcano topic.

5) Distribute individual Volcano KWL and ask students to complete the Learned column.

6) Collect Cinquain, completed KWL and volcano pop up page and file in manila folders.


Topic Four: Mountain Building

Day 17:

Objective - Students inventory, recognize and record their prior knowledge about how mountains are formed. Students predict how mountain building is related to plate motions

1) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

2) KWL as an introductory/pre-assessment activity; see KWL instructions for details. The following prompts could be used to stimulate more recall of details around mountain building. Remember to keep these in student folders, after reviewing them for pre-assessment purposes. Students may find this a little more challenging as their prior knowledge about how mountains and mountain ranges form. Refer to the vocabulary list and encourage students to include terms they are currently familiar with.

3) Discuss how plate tectonics and mountain building are related. How is this different from the relationship with volcanoes? Earthquakes? Have these mountains always been where they are? Have they always existed? If not, where was all of this matter before it was a mountain? Look at overhead maps again. Refer back to the plate tectonics lessons.

4) Present outline lecture for mountain building (see notes document)

Day 18: Minute Rice and Rock Recycle Wheel

Objective - Students will explain the rock cycle in terms of constructive (crustal deformation, volcanic eruptions, and sediment depostion) and destructive (weathering and erosion) forces in land formation.

1) Discuss with students The Rock Cycle chapter beginning on p 55 of TAEMB

2) Copy and distribute pp 58 and 59 TAEMB and a brass fastener for each learner.

Alternatively

3) An excellent companion lab can be found here and/or there are some interesting resources related to the rock cycle here.

4) Read aloud and share a commercially prepared pop-up book.

Day 19: Remember to make this model yourself prior to assigning it to learners.

Objective - Students create mini-books showing how a mountain range forms when two plates collide. Students begin to integrate and construct new information into their own schemata through a synthesis activity of creating a poetic relationship between vocabulary terms .

1) Photocopy p 117 TAEMB

Alternatively: After examining the ways mountains begin to form, have students develop their own pop-ups illustrating the processes learned.

2) Provide scissors, tape, color pencils, crayons and/or markers

3) Attach the mini-book to a single 8.5 x 11 paper

4) Collect and place in manila folder. This will become a page in the pop up book.

5) Illustrated Cinquain poem with a mountain building topic

6) Distribute individual mountain building KWL and ask students to complete the Learned column. Refer to the vocabulary list and encourage students to include terms learned that apply to the concept of mountain building.

7) Collect Cinquain and completed KWL; file in manila folders

Day 20:

Objective - Students will begin Putting it all together: Make connections between the four topics.

1) Students will develop a mind map of these connections. This work will become the front cover for the pop-up book. Refer to the vocabulary list students should include all the terms or as many as possible. Remember to encourage illustration and other graphic representation of terms and relationships.

Day 21:

Objective - Students will continue to Put it all together: Make connections between the four topics through a collage composition.

Collage (see Collage Instructions document)

Day 22:

Objective - Students will continue to Put it all together: Make connections between the four topics through synthesis of ideas in a book cover.

Cover construction and dedication page work day (see pop-up book instructions document)

Day 23:

Objective - Students will critique and appraise their own understanding and work around the topics involved in Earth dynamics.

Work day and self-evaluation: students will use the pop-up book rubric provided to them at the beginning of the unit to evaluate their books and look for areas to improve.

Day 24: Editing and binding (see pop-up book instructions document)

Day 25:

Objective - Students will critique and appraise their peer's understanding and work around the topics involved in Earth dynamics.

Peer review: students will critique classmates' books based on the rubric

Day 26: Pop-up books due, reflection (see document)

Additional helpful websites

Earthquakes Hazards Program

Paper Forest (Pop-up Book Blog)

Geology: Plate Tectonics (UC Berkeley)

World Map Oultine

Earthquake Faces (Earthquake Hazards Program)

Explorations in Earth Science (Purdue University)

Volcano Hazards Program Fact Sheets and Posters

This Dynamic Planet (USGS)

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