Unit Plan: Plate Tectonics

Science / Grade 8

Big Ideas

The Theory of Plate Tectonics is the unifying theory that explains Earth’s geological processes.

Concepts:

  • Convection
  • Density
  • Forces
  • Theories
Essential Questions

Students will keep considering…

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?
Evaluative Criteria
  • An accurate explanation of how earthquakes develop
  • An accurate understanding of the processes under the Earth’s crust
  • Interpreting information from data to support their arguments
  • The use of multiple representations (diagrams, tables, graphs, etc…) to support their understanding of the topic
  • The use of The Theory of Plate Tectonics to determine our risk level for earthquakes in the Lower Mainland
  • A clear and understandable explanation, suited to the audience

Adaptation: Have students label a diagram of the earth

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Extension: Students can create an analogy to the syrup and cracker

Adaptation: Have students label a convection diagram

Looking for accuracy of explanation and if they used multiple representations to help explain

Accuracy

Reflection, thoughtfulness and accuracy of journal entries

Qualitative and Quantitative observations

Monitoring Progress

Pre-assessment: Use the class brainstorm to see what the students know about the topic already and what questions need to be answered.

Do a class wonderwall – have students put up questions they have about the earth so that you can address the questions throughout the unit.

Some sample True/False Questions

True/False

1. Continents are smaller now than they were in the past.

2. The size of the earth is gradually increasing over time because of seafloor spreading.

3. Tectonic plates float on melted magma that is just below the surface of the earth.

4. The Earth’s mantle is made up of molten rock.

5. The edge of a continent is a plate boundary.

6. The amount that a tectonic plate moves during a person’s life is measurable.

7. Earthquakes are rare events.

8. Scientists cannot predict earthquakes.

9. Vancouver will not fall off into the ocean.

10. Earthquakes occur only on the Ring of Fire.

11. Volcanoes can form when a plate moves over a hot spot.

12. Magma comes from Earth’s outer core.

13. An inactive volcano may erupt again some day.

14. Volcanic eruptions occur randomly.

15. All mountains can become volcanically active.

16. Rocks give us clues about the Earth’s history.

Density:
Students may not have experienced the concept of density formally at this point. This is an opportunity to do a density lab where you can graph the data and explain the difference between qualitative and quantitative data. As well as students using mathematical formulas

See link to density lab in Resources

Potential Students Misunderstandings:

  • Plates are metres thick
  • Plates are melted rock
  • Earth’s plates are separated by empty gaps
  • Rocks are always solid
  • The layer beneath Earth’s plates mostly consist of liquid rock material
  • The layer beneath Earth’s plates mostly consist of solid rock material
  • Continents only move inches over hundreds of years, not feet or miles
  • Continents and ocean basins move, but so slowly that they will barely have moved after hundreds of years
  • Earth’s plates move by floating on a layer of melted rock
  • Earth’s plates cannot bend
  • Mountains form by the piling up of pieces of rock
  • Continental plate material is only pushed upward when it pushes into continental plate material on another plate
  • When two plates move away from each other, loose rock material fills the empty gap that forms between them
Resources

Books

  • BC Science 10
  • What If? By Randall Munroe
  • Science Formative Assessment by Page Keeley
  • Making Thinking Visible by Ron Richhart

Websites

 

Reflection

How will teachers and their students reflect on and evaluate the completed project?

Teacher:
Next time I teach this unit I would…

Allow students to select the short stories that link to Identity.

Student:
My students needed:

Process:
Product:
Content:

Potential Student Misunderstanding:

Stage 3 – Learning Plan

 

EXECUTE THE LEARNING

PLAN LEARNING EVENTS:

  • These learning events/activities are suggested activities only. 
  • In some cases the plans are not fully completed lesson plans. 
  • The teacher may choose some lessons/activities to span over several lessons. 
  • Teachers may add, revise and adapt these lessons based on the needs of their students, their personal preferences for resources, and the use of a variety of instructional techniques.

Learning events are enriched for students when teachers consider the “WHERE TO” acronym and guiding organizer by Wiggins and McTighe.

> Click here for more information on WHERETO

Where To

Where: Where are we going in this lesson Why? What is expected of my students during and after this lesson? • Present the performance task to students early in the unit • Post essential questions; students can generate their own questions as well • Check for  misconceptions
How: How will I hook and hold student interest during this lesson? • Use a provocation as an entry point • Present students with a mystery or challenge
Equip: How will I equip students for expected performances? How will I make sure to teach the foundational skills so that they can understand and complete tasks? • Access understandings and experience with solid instructional practices • Consider strategies that work for divers e learners • Incorporate literacy 44 strategies
Rethink and Revise: How will I help students reflect, rethink and revise their ideas, writing, and tasks? • Have students rethink the big idea • Have students reflect on  their learning  to build understanding
Evaluate: How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning after each lesson/task? Some ideas for self-evaluation include:

• Ticket out the door • Rubrics and checklists • Formative assessments and feedback

Tailor: How will I tailor learning to varied needs, interests and styles? (refer to the NVSD Adaptations Checklist). • Differentiate to your students with the product, the process and the content
Organize:   How will I organize and sequence the learning in each lesson and transition to a new lesson? • Start with the end in mind
Please note that the order in which teachers present this to their students is not mandated to the order of the acronym.

 

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

 

Lesson 1 - Layers of the Earth

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

      • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
      • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
      • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
      • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

 

Hook: Layers of the Earth song, on Youtube

KWL with the class using the guiding question: How many layers of the Earth are there? What are they?

  • Students will know the layers and composition of the layers of the earth (A)
  • Label a diagram of the Earth’s layers (A)
  • Describe the composition of the Earth’s layers on the same diagram (A)
  • Density (T & M)

> Density level differs on the chemical make-up of the substance (extension – have students look up the different chemical make-up of the layers and possibly look up the density value of the substance. Adaptation – students can compare more dense and less dense between 2 objects)

> Talk about how the different chemical makeup of each layer allows the layers to occur and not mix

> Inquiry – different substances with different densities and students are to layer them like the layers of the earth. Students should be able to use density to explain how it works

> Adaptation – class demo that the teacher does with the substances to show that the layers do not mix

Science Journal: Analogy- show a picture of a chocolate bar and have students develop an analogy of how the layers are related to the layers of the earth (T). See an example below:

1. Place a Milky Way candy bar on a paper napkin.
2. Cut down the middle of the candy bar.

  • The chocolate on the top of the candy bar represents the crust of the Earth. This is the thinnest layer. It is made up of soil and rocks. The land we walk on and the land under the oceans are part of the crust.
  • The caramel layer represents the mantle. It is made up of hot molten rock. This molten rock is what erupts from volcanoes in the crust.
  • Notice the light brown layer and tell them it represents the outer core. It is made up of liquid iron.
  • The bottom layer of chocolate is the inner core of the Earth. This layer is made of solid iron and is the hottest part of the Earth. The temperature of the inner core is almost as hot as the sun.

3. Don’t forget to eat the layers of the Earth!

Lesson 2 - Convection Currents

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

    • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
    • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
    • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
    • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

What’s happening in the Earth?

Hook: Boil rice in water – Students will observe rice move in a circular motion. Students will make observations of what they are observing in their science journals (A & M)

  • Discussion/notes on convection and how convection works (A)

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  • Convection demo with water and food colouring (A & M)
  • Connect to the layers of the earth and how the layers are moving beneath the earth’s surface (A & T)

Science Journal:

  • Draw boundary between lithosphere and upper mantle and take notes on how and why convection currents occur and how the convection current affects the lithosphere
  • How does temperature differences affect the movement of materials?
  • Using the words mantle, crust, heat, less dense, movement, describe convection currents in the Earth
Lesson 3 - Tectonic Plate Movements

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

How does movement within the earth cause changes at the surface?

Hook:  Corn syrup and continental drift – corn syrup and crackers on top. Heat syrup, becomes less dense and the “continents” start moving apart

  • What does the syrup represent?
  • What do the crackers represent?
  • What is more dense? How do you know?
  • Using the words mantle, crust, heat, less dense, movement, describe convection currents in the Earth

Activities

  • Odd One Out – give students a set of key terms (3 words) and have them circle the Odd One Out and describe why it does not fit with the others (M)
  • Plate Tectonic puzzle – evidence of the plates moving, create Pangea (A & M)
  • Tectonic plates map – color and label the specific plates (A)

> If possible have a blown up map of British Columbia and label the plates surrounding BC

  • On Solid Ground – article on Wegner’s development of his theory  (M & T)

> Thinking Routines – Connect-Extend-Challenge. Have students share out to class (page 132 in Making Thinking Visible)
> Class brainstorm of the evidence for the movement of the plates from the article

Science Journal:

  • What four types of evidence were used to prove that a continent was once part of a larger continent? Adapted – just list; Extension – support with evidence
  • How did people historically think about Earth’s surface?
  • How does Wegner’s Theory of Plate Tectonics help us understand the changes to Earth’s surface?
Lesson 4 - Tectonic Plate Boundaries

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

 

What processes occur at the plate boundaries that could impact Earth’s features?
Why do we think plates are moving?

Hook: What causes mountains to form, earthquakes to shake and volcanoes to erupt? Class discusion

  • Explore – plate tectonic gizmo (explore learning.com)– use computer simulation to explore the various types of plate boundaries and their consequences students can begin to fill-in their own notes using the template below
  • Notes on boundaries organizer (A)
Type of Boundary Sketch of Boundary Direction of movement Description/features Example
Diverging
Transform
Converging
(Collision)
Collision
(Subduction)
Ocean-ocean
Ocean-continent
  • Inquiry – Model convergent, divergent and transform boundaries using oobleck, pieces of rigid foam insulation or foam core, tiles or pieces of hardboard. (A, M, & T)
  • Go back to tectonic plate map and add data about the plate boundaries. Label each type of plate boundary (May want to have a blown up map of BC and surrounding areas to have a better understanding of place) (A & T)
  • Myths or stories about how the local Earth’s features were formed (M & T)

Science Journal:

  • graphic organizer – Venn diagram of the plate boundaries (M & T)
Lesson 5 - Measurement of Earth’s Plate Movements

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

 

Using GPS technology to measure Earth’s movements (M)
Science Journal:

  • How do scientists use GPS to measure movements in Earth?

 

Lesson 6 - Geological Formations and Changes to the Earth

The Learning Events should always be prefaced by focusing on the essential questions:

  • How do plate interactions help to determine risk to humans and the environment?
  • What causes the surface of the Earth to change? 
  • How does what we see today unveil the Earth’s past?
  • How can we predict and understand changes to the surface of the Earth?

What do geological formations (mountains, trenches, volcanoes) tell us about how the Earth changes and will continue to change?

Hook: Show a video of earthquake or volcanic damage? Without sound, have students infer what it was about.
Inquiry: (M & T)

  • Give students a copy of the world map and the USGS data for recent volcanic and earthquake activity (each group different color)
  • Have the 2 groups come together and compare their maps
  • Superimpose their maps on a map of the plate boundaries
  • Discussion Questions:

> Is there a relationship between volcanoes and earthquakes?

> Is there a way to determine what parts of the world are prone to earthquakes and volcanoes? How do you know?

> Look for pattern and relationships between plate boundaries and earthquake data

Reading activities: (M)

  • Recent articles about earthquakes or volcanoes that have occurred and what kind of damage they have done.

> Seven Factors that contribute to the destructiveness of an earthquake (Smithsonian.com) article

> What If? Richter 15 article

  • Myths or stories about the formation of Earth’s features (local)

> The Great Quake and the Great Drowning

> Huu ay aht Earthquake (1700’s in Nanaimo)

  • Famous Earthquake accounts (musical plates online)

> How did earthquakes affect the personal lives of the people you read about?

> How did earthquakes affect their communities as a whole?

> Were there differences in the reactions of the writers from different time periods? What were they?

Some activities to do with the readings:

  • Chalk talk
  • Circle of Viewpoints – perspective taking
  • Sentence – phrase – word

The following resources are made available through the British Columbia Ministry of Education. For more information, please visit BC’s New Curriculum.

 

Big Ideas

The Big Ideas consist of generalizations and principles and the key concepts important in an area of learning. The Big Ideas represent what students will understand at the completion of the curriculum for their grade. They are intended to endure beyond a single grade and contribute to future understanding.


Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

Core Competencies

orangecommunicationCommunications Competency

The set of abilities that students use to impart and exchange information, experiences and ideas, to explore the world around them, and to understand and effectively engage in the use of digital media

bluethinkingThinking Competency

The knowledge, skills and processes we associate with intellectual development

greensocialSocial Competency

The set of abilities that relate to students’ identity in the world, both as individuals and as members of their community and society


Visit the Ministry of Education for more information

Curricular Competencies & Content

Curricular Competencies are the skills, strategies, and processes that students develop over time. They reflect the “Do” in the Know-Do-Understand model of curriculum. The Curricular Competencies are built on the thinking, communicating, and personal and social competencies relevant to disciplines that make up an area of learning.


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 Additional Resources

 

First People's Principles of Learning

To read more about First People’s Principles of Learning, please click here.

For classroom resources, please visit the First Nations Education Steering Committee.