Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Floating Plates on the Earth

Lynn Buchanan


Science students develop a concept map to help them organize information, on Plate Tectonics, after reading a selection. Students then organize notes into an outline to further demonstrate knowledge of this topic.


The student knows that the solid crust of Earth consists of slow-moving, separate plates that float on a denser, molten layer of Earth and that these plates interact with each other, changing the Earth's surface in many ways (e.g., forming mou


-An Earth Science textbook, or a source including information on Plate Tectonics
-Concept map diagram or pattern (associated file)
-Teacher Notes (associated file)
-Sample quiz/worksheet (see associated file)
-Notebook paper
-Overhead or chalkboard
-Markers or chalk
-CD Beth’s Rock collection Volume 1 – Songs of Science for Our Times at, P.O. Box 1802 Blue Springs, MO 64013


1. Locate a source on plate tectonics including an explanation of the types of boundaries.
2. Review teacher notes and selection you will be using.
3. Make copies of the concept map. (Attached file)


Day 1
Have “Isn’t it Ironic” from Beth’s Rock collection Volume 1, playing as the students enter the classroom.
(Great CD for science teacher!!!)

1. Announce to the class “The ground is moving.- Ask if anyone can tell? (How?)

2. Review any prior information students have learned about this topic.

3. Discuss possible evidence that the earth’s plates are moving.

4. Read the selection on Plate Tectonics as a group. (Or have it assigned prior to class)

5. Review the information contained in the selection. (Or notes in the attached file)

6. Explain the benefit of using a concept map.

7. Draw the beginning of a concept map (using the board or overhead)

8. Title the map Earth’s Plates.

9. Using class discussion, construct a concept map. Include types of movement, names of the boundaries, the effects of the boundaries.

10. Review outline format and requirements.

11. Have students individually prepare an outline detailing the information gained.

12. Circulate as students prepare outlines to answer questions and provide feedback.

13. Circulate and check student outlines for required information:
Definition of Plate Tectonics.
Description of the composition of the plates, and layers involved.
Description of the three types of plate movement.
Name the 3 types of plate boundaries.
Identify the effect on the earth’s surface of the three types of plate interaction.
Give an example of the effect of each type of plate interaction.

14. If required information is not included offer feedback for revision. Allow students to make revisions.

Day 2
1. Assess understanding of concepts presented with an active responding activity, worksheet or quiz format.


Formative assessment is ongoing during the concept map activity and the development of the individual outlines.
Assess student understanding of the concepts presented in an active responding activity, worksheet or quiz format, where students can demonstrate an understanding of the movement of plates, the types of boundaries, the effects of the boundaries on the earth’s surface. A sample quiz/worksheet is included in the associated file.

Web Links

Web supplement for Floating Plates on the Earth
Teutonic Plates

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.