In this lesson, students access their prior knowledge of sorting with a card sort and a book before being asked to apply their understanding of sorting to rocks. This will help students understand the concepts of hardness, texture, layering, and particle size as they relate to rocks.
Dave's Down-to-Earth Rock Shop, by Stuart J. Murphy; ISBN 0064467295
Let's Go Rock Collecting, by Roma Gans; ISBN 0064451704
Rocks and Minerals, by DK Publishing; ISBN 0789497604
Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals, by Chris Pellant; ISBN 0789491060
Background for Teachers
Children are excited to learn about rocks, especially when the
learning is hands-on! Take this opportunity to have students collect
and bring in rocks. The lessons will be more engaging if the students
have been responsible for collecting the rocks.
In this lesson, students access their prior knowledge of sorting with
a card sort and a book before being asked to apply their understanding
of sorting to rocks. This will help the students prepare to think
critically and remind them that there are many different ways to sort
the same set of objects.
To be successful, the students will need to understand the concepts
of hardness, texture, layering, and particle size as they relate to rocks.
The literature shared in this lesson, and the rock adjective game will
both help to facilitate this understanding.
Intended Learning Outcomes
1. Demonstrate a positive learning attitude.
5. Understand and use basic concepts and skills.
Invitation to Learn
The teacher gives each student or team of students a deck of
cards. Students are invited to sort their cards. Once finished they are
asked to share with the class how they have sorted their cards. The
teacher emphasizes that there are many different ways to sort the cards
- Ask students to share what they know about time capsules.
Discuss how time capsules are usually buried and left alone for
many, many years to show how much things have changed over
time, but that with your special time capsule you can see how
much things have changed over minutes instead of years. On
their time capsule form have each student list as many ways as
they can think of to sort rocks. Have the students place their
lists in the time capsule.
- Read Dave's Down-to-Earth Rock Shop to the class.
- Encourage students to make text-to-text, text-to-self, and text-
- Give each group of students a box of rocks and some hand
lenses. Ask the students to examine the rocks closely and work
together as a group to compile a list of adjectives, that describe
- Discuss group results and compile a class list on the board. Use
this opportunity to reinforce vocabulary and concepts such as
hardness, texture, particle size, and layering.
- Have the students fill in the Bingo blackline master with the
adjectives on the board.
- Play Bingo with their cards and the terms in your class list.
As each adjective is called out ask the students to review the
rocks on their desk and hold up any that are described by the
- As a class, discuss the different ways that rocks were sorted in
the book Dave's Down-to-Earth Rock Shop. Invite the students to
work in groups to find different ways to sort the rocks on their
- Circulate among the groups to informally assess their
- Hand out a Rock Sorting Challenge to each group and ask them
to discuss how they will sort their rocks and what materials
they will need to organize their sort. Meet with each group to
scaffold and facilitate their plans.
- Have each group read their Rock Sorting Challenge to the class
and show their rock collection.
- Display their collections in the classroom.
- Have each student create a new list of all the ways they can
think of to sort rocks on the Time Capsule form.
- Open your time capsule and have the students compare their
old and new lists to see how many new ways of sorting they
have come up with.
- Invite students to select a rock. Ask them to measure and
record as much information about their rock as they can. Have
them imagine that a rich man has offered to give them $1000
if they can find their exact rock in a field of rocks using the
information that they record.
- Take two samples of granite and tap both with a hammer
to demonstrate how strong they are. Take one sample and
repeatedly bake and plunge in ice water. This speeds up the
erosion process that naturally occurs during the winter and
summer seasons. After ten cycles of freezing and thawing tap
the sample again with the hammer. The sample will crumble
into its three component pieces. Invite students to sort the
particles by color.
- Advanced learners can be introduced to Moh's Scale of Hardness
and given the appropriate tools for determining rock hardness
- Rock Field Guides may be introduced to advanced learners.
- Review academic language using pictures and other appropriate
graphic organizers for ESL students.
- Invite the students to collect appropriately sized rocks at home
to use for the sort. This needs to be done up to a week before
beginning the lesson.
- Encourage families to go rock hunting and sort their rocks by
color, hardness, texture, layering or particle size. Invite them to
share and display their collections in your classroom.
- Informally assess their responses to the Bingo game and their
ability to match adjectives with their rocks.
- Assess the rock collections created by the class groups and their
verbal explanations to the class.
- Review student responses on their final Time Capsule form.
- Invite students to create and sort a rock collection at home and
present it to the class.
Hänze, M., & Berger, R. (2007). Cooperative learning, motivational effects, and student
characteristics: An experimental study comparing cooperative learning and direct
instruction in 12th grade physics classes. Learning and Instruction. 17(1), 29-41.
Researchers compared student achievement in classrooms with
cooperative learning instruction and traditional direct instruction.
The method of instruction was found to interact with student's self-
concept; students with low academic self-concept profited more from
cooperative learning instruction than from direct instruction because
they experienced a feeling of greater competency.
Mintz. E. & Calhoun, J. (2004). Project Notebook: Science notebooks emerge. Science and
Children. 42(3), 30-34.
Teachers from South Carolina, attempting to meet the needs of
their diverse student population, create a program implementing
science notebooks. They believed that science could be used as a
vehicle for increasing student achievement across the curriculum.
Science notebooks, used in conjunction with an inquiry-based science
curriculum, emerged as the natural vehicle for helping to create an
effective science program.