Causes of Tectonic Plate Movement Lesson Plan

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Tectonic plate movement has been changing the surface of the earth for a very long time. Your students will learn more about tectonic plate movement as they watch a video and create flipbooks for each type of movement.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define tectonic plates
  • identify causes of tectonic plate movement
  • explain how tectonic plates move


  • 1.5 - 2 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • HS-ESS2-3. Develop a model based on evidence of Earth's interior to describe the cycling of matter by thermal convection.
  • HS-ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems

Evidence from deep probes and seismic waves, reconstructions of historical changes in Earth's surface and its magnetic field, and an understanding of physical and chemical processes lead to a model of Earth with a hot but solid inner core, a liquid outer core, a solid mantle and crust. Motions of the mantle and its plates occur primarily through thermal convection, which involves the cycling of matter due to the outward flow of energy from Earth's interior and gravitational movement of denser materials toward the interior.

  • ESS2.B: Plate Tectonics and Large-Scale System Interactions

The radioactive decay of unstable isotopes continually generates new energy within Earth's crust and mantle, providing the primary source of the heat that drives mantle convection. Plate tectonics can be viewed as the surface expression of mantle convection.


  • Computer with projector
  • Copies of the lesson quiz
  • Printer paper cut in half (this activity also works with quartered sized paper)
  • Hole punch
  • Pieces of yarn or silver rings for flipbooks
  • Student computers

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