220.127.116.11 Earth Materials
Describe similarities and differences between soil and rocks.
For example: Use screens to separate components of soil and observe the samples using a magnifier.
MN Standard in Lay Terms
Earth materials are rocks, sand, soil, and water. These earth materials are used in everyday life for building, growing plants, and providing surfaces for walking and driving.
From NSES: Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful in different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use. Soils have properties of color and texture, capacity to retain water, and ability to support the growth of many kinds of plants, including those in our food supply.
MN Standard Benchmarks
18.104.22.168.1 Group or classify rocks in terms of color, shape, and size.
22.214.171.124.2 Describe similarities and differences between soil and rocks. For example: Use screens to separate components of soil and observe the samples using a magnifier.
126.96.36.199.3 Identify and describe large and small objects made of earth materials.
This video has no sound and is just a montage of rock and mineral images. It can be a good follow-up after students have observed their own rocks, or teachers could use the images as examples of describing words such as glittery, smooth, rock, etc. There are many science videos on YouTube on the topic of rocks and minerals. The challenge at first grade is that most of these videos emphasize the three types of rocks and the rock cycle. While it is fine to introduce the concepts, emphasizing these ideas overshadows the importance of allowing students to make age appropriate observations.
This song video is perfect for the first grade standard but does not include any rock images. Students can learn the song to reinforce vocabulary.
NSES Standards: Content Standard D:
As a result of their activities in grades K-4, all students should develop an understanding of properties of earth materials. p. 130
Earth materials are solid rocks and soils, water and the gases of the atmosphere. The varied materials have different physical and chemical properties, which make them useful at different ways, for example, as building materials, as sources of fuel, or for growing the plants we use as food. Earth materials provide many of the resources that humans use. Soils have properties of color and texture capacity to retain water, and ability to support the growth of many kinds of plants, including those in our food supply. p.134 NSES
Processes that Shape the Earth: Changes in the Earth's Surface: Chunks of rocks come in many sizes and shapes, from boulders to grains of sand and even smaller. 4C/1AAAS
Benchmarks of Science Literacy:
Chunks of rocks come in many sizes and shapes, from boulders to grains of sand and even smaller. Change is something that happens to many things. Animals and plants sometimes cause changes in their surroundings.
Benchmarks of Science Literacy
Common Core Standards:
Use basic concepts of measurement in real-world and mathematical situations involving length, time and money.
188.8.131.52 Measure the length of an object in terms of multiple copies of another object.
Language Arts Standards:
184.108.40.206 With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
From Driver, R. (1994). Making sense of secondary science. London, England: Routledge.
- Students of all ages may hold the view that the world was always as it is now, or that any changes that have occurred must have been sudden and comprehensive. Atlas of Science Literacy
- Children recognize rocks by their weight, hardness, color and jaggedness.
- They tend to apply the word "rock" intuitively, and often to mineral samples. To the children studied, rocks had to be large, heavy, and jagged. Smaller fragments were described as stones.
- Rock was first regarded as being made of only one substance, with consequent difficulty in recognizing granite as rock.
- Children were also confused when deciding whether a sample was natural or not, house brick being regarded as rock because it contains some natural material. The opposite view was also taken: that a cut and polished piece of marble is not a rock and is not natural because to be natural it must be "untouched by mankind."
- Children may classify rock specimens as "crystal rocks" and "normal rocks" and the word "crystal" is used to describe both rock and mineral specimens, but only if the sample is thought to be attractive in appearance.
- The words "boulder," "gravel," "sand," and "clay" have specific scientific meanings relating to the average size of fragments. Children in Happs's study did not have this awareness and they used the words in an everyday way:
- Boulder: children usually saw a boulder as a larger, rounded piece of material which has rolled down a hillside;
- Gravel: this word was usually used only to describe the loose material at the sides of roads;
- Sand: children associated sand with beaches or desert;
- Clay: this was thought of as sticky, orange stuff found underground.
Lowry, L. (Ed.). (1997). NSTA pathways to the science standards. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
In Jim Murphy's class, students have been studying the physical properties of earth materials. Over the past weeks, they have used hand lenses to gain a close-up view of small rocks, soils, and grains of sand collected from a local beach. Students discussed the similarities and differences between these materials. Their observations sparked various questions. Mr. Murphy asks:
- How do particles of sand and dirt differ from each other?
- Which particles would make the dirt better for growing plants?
- Can dirt turn into rocks? Can rocks turn into dirt?
- Are all grains of sand the same size?
Mr. Murphy selects one of the questions and has his students discuss how a scientist might approach finding the answer.
Mr. Murphy selects a question about the size of the grains of sand because this inquiry can be completed within a reasonable time frame and requires the use of scientific tool (sieves). He also likes the fact that his students can make use of the sand samples they had collected during the warmer months.
He demonstrates the use of a set of sieves and allows the students to examine them. Then he asks them to think of questions that might be answered by using the sieves. He accepts all reasonable suggestions, such as:
- Are dirt particles bigger than sand particles?
- Do different beaches have sand of different sizes?
He then supplies student groups with sets of sieves and challenges them to sort the grains of sand. He offers sand from two different sources. As the students will discover, one sample is mostly coarse grained; the other, mostly fine grained.
When the students have completed their inquiry, Mr. Murphy asks the groups to share their findings. He challenges them to think of different ways to describe their results. One group displays its data as a pictographs. Another group uses a bar graph. A third presents its finding in cartoon frames.
Mr Murphy encourages the students to venture beyond concrete observations and draw inferences from their observations.
- Are some particles magnetic?
- Do any particles float?
- Will some particles react with vinegar?
Experiences like this one, driven by students' questions, have proven to be a powerful tool for meeting the goals that Mr. Murphy had set at the beginning of the year.
Selected Labs and Activities
1. FOSS Pebbles, Sand and Silt: Investigations 1: First Rocks - Students sort three different types of rocks, write observations and do tests on the rocks to make more observations. FOSSweb: Pebbles, Sand and Silt
2. FOSS Pebbles, Sand and Silt: Investigation 2: River Rocks - Students sort rocks in a variety of different ways. Then students use screens to sort rocks by particle size. FOSSweb: Pebbles, Sand and Silt
3. These lessons engage students in rock collection and observations. Students start on a rock hunt and then make observations and drawings about the rocks they found. Rock Exploration or Rocks Ant view
4. A challenge lesson that leads students through sorting rocks by shaking in a closed container. Then students are introduced to the names of different sizes of rocks. Virtual Lessons in sorting rocks in a closed container
5. This lesson provides a worksheet to guide students through the steps of making observations about a rock. Use it after students have learned the describing vocabulary words for rocks. Describing rocks
6. In this lesson, students collect rocks in their schoolyard and then "interview" a rock as a way of describing the rock. Then they identify ways the rock can be used. Collecting and describing rocks
1. FOSS Pebbles, Sand and Silt: Investigation 2: River Rocks - Students sort rocks in a variety of different ways. Then students use screens (sieves) to sort rocks by particle size. FOSSweb: Pebbles, Sand and Silt
2. FOSS Pebbles, Sand and Silt: Investigation 4: Soil Observations: Students examine soil with a hand lens, shake it with water in a vial to separate out the parts and collect a variety of soil samples. FOSSweb: Pebbles, Sand and Silt
3. Soils Curriculum that explores different components and types of soil: Carolina curriculum
4. Printable worksheet for students to make observations about different types of soil: Soils lesson from teachervision
5. Students go for a walk to collect soil samples: Geology walk
6. A simple lesson plan for studying soil: Proteacher soils study
1. Unit plan for exploring the importance of earth materials by observation and reading children's literature. Hands-on rock and soil activities paired with children's literature
2. FOSS Pebbles, Sand and Silt: Investigation 3: Using Rocks - students explore how earth materials are used to make things like sandpaper, beads and bricks. FOSSweb: Pebbles, Sand and Silt
3. Ideas for places to find rocks: Finding ways earth materials are used in the community
4. Printable activity on ways people use rocks: Ways people use rocks
1. Rock Collections: FOSS lessons (above) provide rocks for the classroom and therefore a variety of rock types and sizes are a given. Many of the lessons suggested above have students find their own rocks, either on a rock hunt at home or the whole class engages in a rock hunt at school. Students then use the rocks they found as a basis of their study. To assure a variety of rock sizes, it is advantageous to have a classroom collection to complement the students' collection.
2. Field trips:
Local gravel pits or mines may provide tours for students.
Teacher background resource: Minnesota Minerals Workshop is a great opportunity to learn about the geology of Minnesota with professors leading field trips to various geological sites. Many Minnesota geological classroom resources are provided. Minnesota Minerals Workshop
'97 Framework Earth and Space Science providing opportunities for all students to observe earth materials, their properties, and how they change over time.
Book and video list of Earth materials resources: Earth Materials Booklist
- IF YOU FIND A ROCK by Peggy Christian
- EVERYBODY NEEDS A ROCK by Byrd Baylor
- WHEN CLAY SINGS by Byrd Baylor
- SYLVESTER AND THE MAGIC PEBBLE by William Steig
Pebbles, Sand and Silt list from Lynne Bleeker's book list: Lynne Bleeker's science workshop books list
- Clay: rocks so small it is hard to see just one; particles that are even smaller than silt.
- Dull: not sharp or shiny.
- Gravel: rocks that are smaller than pebbles.
- Humus: bits of dead plant and animal parts in the soil.
- Particle: a piece of rock.
- Pebble: a rock that is smaller than a cobble.
- Pointed: having sharp edges or corners.
- Rock: a solid earth material. People who use rocks for making things sort them by size.
- Rough: bumpy; not smooth.
- Sand: rocks that are smaller than gravel.
- Separate: to take apart the ingredients of a mixture.
- Settle: to establish a place or position.
- Shiny: bright.
- Silt: rocks that are smaller than sand; particles that are often found in sand.
- Size: how large or small something is.
- Smooth: flat, level; not rough.
- Soil: a mixture of humus and different-sized earth materials.
- Sort: to arrange by property.
Brain Pop, Jr. has movies and quizzes to introduce concepts to students in grades K - 3. Here is a video on rocks and soil: Brain Pop, Jr.
AOL kids has a number of activities that support soil studies: AOL kids soils lesson
A student created website with pages to teach about soils: Soils support lesson
Photographs of minerals and how we use that mineral in everyday life: Rock photographs
An interactive game for students to identify earth materials used in the world: FOSSweb: Pebbles, sand and silt
These lessons have explicit cross-curricular connections listed. The lessons engage students in rock collection and observations. Students start on a rock hunt and then make observations and drawings about the rocks they found. RockExploration or Rocks-Ant view
An integrated unit called "Rockology" with many cross-curricular activities: Rockology
Assessment of Students
1. Show students a rock. Ask students to use three words to describe the rock.
2. What is in soil?
3. What are things in the world that are made of rocks and earth materials?
4. How would you separate rocks of different sizes?
Assessment of Teachers
1. What types of rock and soil exist in Minnesota?
2. How do people use earth materials and how do they get them?
3. What are the processes that make soil?
A. From: Corder, G. (2008) Supporting English Language Learners' Reading in the Science Classroom. In E. Brunsell (Ed), Readings in science methods, K-8: An NTSA press journals collection (pp. 223-227). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Corder discusses three ideas to support English Language Learners in the Classroom:
1. Setting a Language Objective.
In general, stating an explicit objective for a lesson is considered a good teaching practice. An example of an objective in a science classroom might be "The student will determine the density of the sample." This example is a content objective and identifies "what a student should know and be able to do" (Echevarria et al. 2004, p. 21). English language learners' needs, however, extend beyond the science content alone. They need opportunities to listen, speak, write, and read English. Research suggests inclusion of language objectives along with content objectives. (Echevarria, Vogt, and Short 2004, p. 22). Language objectives range from lower order, such as, "The student will underline unfamiliar words in the passage," to higher order such as "The student will read the four authors' descriptions and synthesize a model." The language objective's level should vary based on the language proficiency of your students. All objectives must be comprehensible and explicitly communicated to students. The manner in which you direct students to an objective will determine its effectiveness: First, post the objective in a location that gives students access; second, orally state the objective; third, refer to the objective at the beginning and end of an exercise that demands reading.
2. Supplying Background Information.
Many English language learners enter our classrooms with a different set of experiences than their fluent English-speaking counterparts (Echevarria, et al. 2004). This means that many of them lack the background knowledge required for reading that many texts may take for granted. Therefore, teachers must supply that necessary background knowledge.
It may be necessary for you to "model how to follow steps of directions needed to complete a task" (Echevarria et al. 2004, p. 25) such as a lab or project. As you model, you can think aloud by orally stating the objects you are manipulating and your thought process as you proceed. Modeling supplies English language learners with a visual image and accompanying terminology from which they can draw when encountering those terms and concepts in a reading passage.
When students encounter unfamiliar words, a reading passage becomes more difficult for them (Dale and Chall 1948; Klare 1974). To counter this, you can pre-teach key vocabulary. All difficult terms should be considered, even those that are not considered science vocabulary. For example, you can create and maintain a word wall by defining, discussing, and posting words that students identify as unfamiliar. This technique provides valuable pre-reading instruction, while creating a resource to which students can quickly refer and reinforce English language gains.
3. Linguistic Modification of Text
Researchers have identified several specific characteristics that affect a text's level of difficulty, and you can draw on their findings when simplifying your own texts:
First, passages with longer words and longer sentences are more difficult to read (Bormuth 1966; Flesch 1948; Klare 1974).
Second, passive voice is not always as clear as active voice ( Forster and Olbrei 1973; Savin and Perchonock 1965; Slobin 1968). An example of passive voice is "The cause had been identified by scientists." An example of active voice is "Scientists identified the cause."
Third, a long string of consecutive nouns elevates reading difficulty (King and Just 1991; MacDonald 1993).
Fourth, a coordinate, or independent, clause is more difficult to read than a subordinate, or dependent, clause (Botel and Granowsky 1974; Wang 1970). A coordinate clause can stand by itself as a sentence, while a subordinate clause cannot.
Fifth, an abstract statement is more challenging to comprehend than a concrete statement (Cummins et al. 1998). An example of an abstract statement is "Record your data." An example of a concrete statement is "Record the volume of the cylinders in Table 1."
B. "Kit Inventory" Activity
Michael Klentschy, superintendent of El Centro Public Schools, El Centro, California, taught this activity at the NSTA Science and ESL conference in St. Louis, MO, April 2007.
Before teaching, collect the materials that will be used in a unit or lesson. Have cards ready to write the name of the materials for a word wall and designate a portion of the room for the word wall. You could also display the word wall on a display board for future use.
Divide the class into teams of three or four students. Have one student volunteer to introduce the first item. Show this one student the item and have them answer the following questions: What color is it? Where have you seen it before? What is it used for? Put the object in an opaque bag and the student then shares with the class the answers to the above questions. The student groups have 1 - 2 minutes to predict what they think the object is. Student groups share their ideas. Then the object is revealed and posted along with its word card on the word wall. Keeping the object or a picture of it next to the word card provides a resource for students as they proceed through the unit of study and need to find words for objects in the lesson.
This first grade unit called "Rocks" goes beyond the scope of the Minnesota standards but might be appropriate for gifted students. It includes more advanced vocabulary and the three types of rocks which are not a part of the Minnesota standards. Rocks unit with intensive vocabulary
A. From: Brown, P. L., & Abel, S. K. (2008) Science for All. In E. Brunsell (Ed), Readings in science methods, K-8: An NTSA press journals collection (pp. 215-217). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Gay (2000) describes culturally responsive teaching as having these characteristics:
It acknowledges the legitimacy of cultural heritages of different ethnic groups.
It builds bridges of meaningfulness between home and school experiences as well as between academic abstractions and lived sociocultural realities.
It uses a wide variety of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles.
It teaches students to know and praise their own and each others' cultural heritages.
It incorporates multicultural information, resources and materials in all the subjects and skills routinely taught in schools.
Culturally responsive instruction should include authentic activities. Authentic activities provide students with the opportunity to explore how the subject under study is socially relevant and connected to their everyday lives. Instruction should move away from using a collection of disconnected hands-on activities and toward interaction and manipulation of ideas that are valuable beyond the school walls.
B. From: Allen-Sommerville, L. (2008). Capitalizing on Diversity. In E. Brunsell (Ed), Readings in science methods, K-8: An NTSA press journals collection (pp. 221-222). Arlington, VA: NSTA Press.
Eight Successful Field Tested Strategies:
- Assume that students can learn.
- Use exciting and challenging hands-on activities.
- Talk to students about their learning styles.
- Develop a repertoire of content strategies and activities.
- Learn about the history and culture of the various groups.
- Help students see themselves as future scientists and appreciate the multicultural history of science.
- Build opportunities for success into the curriculum and create climates conducive to learning.
- Provide diverse learning experiences.
C. Display posters depicting scientists from the students' cultural background doing science in the classroom. An easy way to do this is to take photos of your students doing science.
From Brunsell, E. (Ed.). (2008). Readings in science methods, K-8. Arlington, VA: NSTA Press:
Steele lists a number of ideas for teaching strategies to be used with special education students:
1. Collaborate with special education and general education teachers.
2. Create lessons based on themes or big ideas.
3. Incorporate explicit instruction on the lesson topics.
4. Use graphic organizers and visual representations.
5. Model behaviors and strategies you want students to follow.
Study strategies include:
1. Study guide use.
2. Material review tips.
3. Note-taking practices.
Administrators observing a class will see students observing rocks or other earth materials and looking for similarities and differences between rocks. Or the students will be following the changes in an experiment set up to find out what happens when different sizes of rock particles are separated with screens or by settling in water.
This first grade teacher's web page has a list of rock websites for students to explore: Rock websites
Field trip to Lilydale brickyards provides opportunity to search for fossils: Lilydale brickyards