K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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  • Minerals and math: Students will develop ways to create self-devised rules for classifying minerals and relate this information to scientific ways of classifying minerals according to their characteristics. They will then compile this information into a chart and convert parts of the chart into a line or bar graph.
  • Rocks really rock! A lesson on the classification of rocks: This lesson will help students classify various rocks according to specified criteria. It will also help students classify a given rock using selected mineral identification tests. Students will use a graphic organizer to display their findings.
  • Mount Jefferson State Natural Area: Discover the plants and animals as well as rocks and minerals that can be found at this state park in Ashe County.

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Learning outcomes

During the unit, students will:

  • classify rocks
  • learn about the properties of rocks
  • become “geologists”
  • learn what happens when rocks bump into each other

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

5 days


Technology resources

  • computer
  • overhead projector


  • Instruct students to bring in ten rocks of various sizes.
  • Invite students to recall their experiences with rocks.
  • Rock Cycle.
  • Explain the classification system of rocks (sedimentary, igneous, metamorphic).
  • Share The Magic School Bus Inside The Earth by Joanna Cole.


  1. Rock classification. Provide a variety of rocks for groups of students to sort in various ways (size, color, kinds, etc.) Groups will graph and discuss results. As an extension, students can choose a rock and do a Circle Thinking Map to describe it.
  2. Make a rock. Students make a model of a sedimentary rock using homemade playdough, beads, glitter, rock fragments, buttons, etc. They will roll their playdough into the collected items to make their own rock. As an extension, have students name their rock (Meganite) and make a Bubble Thinking Map to describe it.
  3. Cookie Mining activity (reclamation). This activity introduces the students to mining and the importance of taking care of the land as it’s mined. This can be done as a whole group activity, using a transparency of the activity sheets. Follow instructions and rules on attached activity sheet and spreadsheet.
  4. Be A Geologist. Students become geologists and measure, weigh, and test a rock of their choice using the instructions on the activity sheet.
  5. Bumping Rocks. Students learn how rocks change and become round. Place one sugar cube on one sheet of black construction paper. Place the remaining six sugar cubes in the empty milk carton. Pretend the cubes are rocks. Close the milk carton and shake it twenty-five times. Empty the carton onto another sheet of black construction paper. Place it next to the whole sugar cube for students to observe and write about it in their science journals. Return four of the sugar cubes back in the carton and shake fifty times. Empty carton onto the remaining sheet of black construction paper. Discuss observations and instruct students to write about what happened in their science journals.


  • Check for understanding and participation in student bservations and discussions.
  • As each step of Cookie Mining Spreadsheet is completed, circulate around the room to check the students’ sheets for accuracy.
  • Completed Be A Geologist activity. Before starting the lesson, gather, clean, and number rocks. Make an answer key to use as you check the students’ work. For example, white with gray streaks, 2 inches long, 2 lbs.
  • Science journal entries.

Supplemental information

For more information about thinking maps, see Thinking Maps: Tools for Learning by David Hyerle, Ed D. Innovative Learning Group, 1995.

Background information

Rocks cover the entire surface of the earth, even below bodies of water. This is called the earth’s crust. Some areas of the crust are covered by dirt or soil, which consists of crushed rock.

There are three types of rock: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.

  • Igneous: Melted rock called magma is under tremendous pressure and sometimes rises through cracks in the crust. When it solidifies, it is called igneous rock. Magma may cool underground or break through, creating volcanoes that pour lava (magma) above ground. Cooled magma is igneous rock.
  • Sedimentary: Sedimentary rocks consist of rocks that once were igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, or organic material. These materials are deposited in layers by wind, water, or ice. As the layers build up, the pressure packs it together and squeezes out most of the water and forms solid rock layers. Sediments may consist of rock fragments ranging in various sizes, from boulders to grains of sand and silt. These rocks may also be deposits of minerals in the form of crystals or organic sediments (shells, skeletons, and plants). Fossils are found in sedimentary rocks.
  • Metamorphic: Metamorphic rock is igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic rock, which is subjected to tremendous pressure and heat by movement of the earth’s crust or contact with magma. The original rock changes in appearance and often in mineral composition. For example, granite (an igneous rock) becomes gneiss and calcite in limestone (a sedimentary rock) changes to marble.


These activities will take several days to complete. The students’ work samples can be saved and displayed during a Science Fair night at school.

  • Common Core State Standards
    • Mathematics (2010)
      • Grade 1

        • Measurement & Data
          • 1.MD.4 Organize, represent, and interpret data with up to three categories; ask and answer questions about the total number of data points, how many in each category, and how many more or less are in one category than in another.

    • North Carolina Essential Standards
      • Science (2010)
        • 1.E.2 Understand the physical properties of Earth materials that make them useful in different ways. 1.E.2.1 Summarize the physical properties of Earth materials, including rocks, minerals, soils and water that make them useful in different ways. 1.E.2.2 Compare...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Mathematics (2004)

Grade 1

  • Goal 4: Data Analysis and Probability - The learner will understand and use data and simple probability concepts.
    • Objective 4.01: Collect, organize, describe and display data using line plots and tallies.

Science (2005)

Grade 1

  • Goal 2: The learner will make observations and use student-made rules to build an understanding of solid earth materials.
    • Objective 2.01: Describe and sort a variety of earth materials based on their properties:
      • Color.
      • Hardness.
      • Shape.
      • Size.
    • Objective 2.02: Describe rocks and other earth materials in more than one way, using student-made rules.