The Rock Cycle
Hello, Earth science teachers! If you are reading this blog, you are probably planning a unit on the rock cycle and are looking for some ideas. Well, you are in the right place.
First of all, if you haven’t taught your class about the layers of the Earth yet, I would recommend doing that at the beginning of your unit on the rock cycle. You can find my blog post all about teaching the layers of the Earth here.
Now, for the rock cycle. This topic can seem overwhelming to students at first because it is so big, and everything is interconnected. I always like to start with igneous rock. It is the easiest to understand, and it was the first type of rock found on Earth. You can introduce igneous rock using volcanoes, or you can talk about Earth history. When Earth first formed, it was so hot the ground was molten rock (also known as lava). When the lava cooled, it formed the first igneous rocks.
Once students have a solid understanding of igneous rocks, you will want to teach them about metamorphic rocks. This is the perfect time to do some compare and contrast activities. Seeing how the rocks are different will help solidify the different processes involved with the creation of the two rocks.
After teaching how metamorphic rocks are formed, you could introduce subduction zones to explain how metamorphic rocks can become magma again. This may be helpful to students who like to understand the whole picture of a topic, but it also might be confusing to other students who don’t think as wholistically.
The next step would be to introduce weathering and erosion. Students need to know how sediments form before they can understand sedimentary rock.
I only introduce the rock cycle after my students have learned about the three types of rock and weathering and erosion. Now, instead of being overwhelming, the rock cycle is a way to organize a lot of information.
There are a ton of great videos on the rock cycle. Here are some of my favorites. I especially love the MrParr songs at the bottom of the list.
Weathering and Erosion
The Rock Cycle
The rock cycle is the perfect excuse to bring some treats into the classroom. If you look on Pinterest, you will see tons of pictures of the Starburst Rock Cycle Activity. Basically, your students use Starburst candies to recreate each of the three types of rocks. Here is the link: Starburst Rock Cycle
Of course, learning the vocabulary is key to understanding the rock cycle. Here are some free vocabulary pages to use with your students! You can use these pages to help students review what they have learned or introduce them to new vocabulary. Understanding vocabulary words is a key part of reading comprehension.
I also have a resource for reviewing and assessing the rock cycle. It includes a simple video, a reading passage, and two quizzes. You can get it at Teachers Pay Teachers or here.
How do you teach the rock cycle? Share your ideas in the comments!