You can probably tell based on my blog name.... I like rocks. I don't claim to be an expert geologist, but I have a deep love for pretty rocks, am fascinated by them and how they form, and have quite a collection.
Students often think rocks are boring until you put some pretty samples in front of them and get the juices flowing on how they formed. Why do some rocks have small crystals, others have large crystals, and others have no crystals at all? How come some rocks have large holes and others have layers? If you get some cool samples in their hands I promise they get excited.
(Tip: bigger is better. Students get a lot more excited looking at a large geode than they do a tiny one. Save up for a few larger pieces and have students rotate around the room, opposed to buying multiple small samples).
Here are some fun ways to teach the rock cycle to students:
1. ROCK CYCLE GAME: Have students take a ride through the rock cycle with this interactive activity. Students will roll a cube and head to different stations in the classroom (igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic) and collect tokens along the way.
2. STARBURST ROCK CYCLE: Want to model the rock cycle? This lab is always a favorite! Grab some starburst and have students cut, mold, and melt them to represent stages of the rock cycle.
3. INTERACTIVE: Learner.org has a rock cycle click-and-learn interactive for students.
4. INTERACTIVE DIAGRAM: This diagram allows students to click and learn about each step of the rock cycle. This is a great option if you have laptops in your classroom! Students will also use Google maps to see each rock type out in nature.
5. CARD SORT: I'm a big fan of card sorts as a quick formative assessment activity. Have students sort the cards under the proper heading.
6. INDUSTRIAL USES: How are different rocks (and minerals) used industrially? In this card sort activity, students will pair a rock (or mineral) with an industrial use card. This activity makes rocks and minerals more relevant.
7. VIRTUAL ROCK BOX: If you don't have access to samples, students can explore these rock types virtually.
8. VIRTUAL ROCK IDENTIFICATION: Want students to identify rocks based on their characteristics? This site has virtual labs where students need to identify igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
9. STATION LAB: I love station labs because students are more engaged when they get to get up and move around the room. This station lab includes 8 stations for students to explore rocks and take a deeper dive into the rock cycle.
10. ROCK CYCLE SONGS: We all know that it's hard to remember what we ate for dinner last night, but can sing a song we learned the lyrics to in 6th grade. Adding music to text makes thinks stick! Check out this Youtube video that teaches students about the rock cycle to the tune of "We will rock you," or "Life is a highway."
I hope these help you during your geology unit! If you want to check out some fossil lesson plans, check out this blog post. I also have a blog post with resources for minerals!