Continental Drift Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan brings classrooms information about Alfred Wegener's continental drift theory. Students will watch a video lesson and then participate in hands-on activities that illustrate the theory.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe Wegener's theory of continental drift
  • Summarize evidence that supports Wegener's theory

Length

This lesson will take approximately 45-90 minutes.

Curriculum Standards

MS-ESS2-2.

Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.

MS-ESS2-3.

Analyze and interpret data on the distribution of fossils and rocks, continental shapes, and seafloor structures to provide evidence of the past plate motions.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

Vocabulary

  • continental drift
  • cynognathus
  • glossopteris
  • lystrosaurus
  • mesosaurus
  • Pangea

Lesson Instructions

Materials needed: world map

Activate prior knowledge by showing students a world map. Ask students for their theories on how each of the continents was created. Direct students to notice the shapes of Africa and South America to search for relationships.

Watch Alfred Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift. Pause at 1:19 to ask:

  • Who is Alfred Wegener?
  • In Wegener's time, what did most people believe about the continents?

Continue watching the video. Pause at 2:35 to pose the following questions:

  • What evidence did Wegener find that led him to believe that all the continents were once together?
  • What were some other theories to explain Wegener's evidence?
  • What is Pangea?

Watch the remainder of the video with students.

  • What additional information did Wegener find to support his theory of continental drift?
  • How was Wegener's theory received by other scientists and geologists?
  • What evidence surfaced after Wegener's death to support his theory?

Have students turn and talk to a partner to discuss their thoughts on Wegener's theory and justify their answers.

Use the printable worksheet to check for understanding.

Continent Puzzles

Materials needed: cardstock, colored pencils, scissors

Divide students into small groups. Provide each group with a set of materials.

Have students create a world based on Wegener's theory of continental drift.

Students will draw one large continent like Pangea on cardstock. Students will name their continent.

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