The Layers of the Earth
The first lesson in my Earth science units is always the layers of the Earth. This is a great place to start for two reasons. First, compared to later lessons in Earth science, the layers of the Earth is pretty simple. This allows students to build confidence in their abilities at the beginning of the unit. Second, literally all of Earth science is built on the foundation of the layers of the Earth. For example, before students can understand the rock cycle they need to know about the mantle.
One of the most important parts of learning about science topics is learning the vocabulary. Science passages are almost impossible to understand if you don’t know what the words mean. To help students master material on the layers of the Earth, I teach the vocabulary before I give them any reading assignments on the topic.
Here are some vocabulary pages you may find helpful.
I also know that we all learn best when we have choices. I like to make information available to my students in as many ways as possible. Here are just a few of the videos on the layers of the Earth available on YouTube. The National Geographic documentary is quite long. This might be a good option for students who are especially interested in the topic or consistently finish assigned work quickly.
Looking for something more hands on for those creative kids? Let them go to town with some play dough! Paper plates also make great Earth models because they are round and cheap. I did see some pretty amazing models of the layers of the Earth on Pinterest for the really creative teachers out there. Using rice crispy treats and colored candies would definitely have gotten my attention in middle school. A layers of the Earth cake would be another delicious way to learn. The reality is, a lot of these cute and creative crafts aren’t realistic in the traditional classroom, but you can let your artistic students express themselves using the materials you have available. Challenge them to create their own models of the Earth, and you will probably be surprised with what they create.
For me, reading is usually the best way to learn about a topic. I can easily reread information that is confusing, make notes in the margins, and use the reading passage as a resource as I work. My absolute favorite reading passage to introduce the layers of the Earth is one of my own resources. I created it years ago when I was teaching Earth science with zero classroom resources. I have updated it over the years, so it remains helpful to other teachers.
It includes three versions of the reading passage. Two are differentiated for student reading ability and one is a digital version with links to more information within the passage. The digital resource is perfect for your curious students who always want to know more. You also get a notes page for students to record what they learn and a multiple choice question page. You can use the multiple choice questions as a comprehension activity or an assessment to see what they have learned about the layers of the Earth.
Do you have a great resource to teach the layers of the Earth? Are you having trouble teaching a specific concept to your class? Either way, leave a comment!