Fossil Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Use this lesson plan to teach students types and characteristics of fossils. Students can examine how they form, and then make some 'fossils' of their own.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define key terms
  • explain characteristics of fossils
  • demonstrate understanding of fossil formation


  • 45 minutes, plus time for objects to dry


  • Plaster
  • Water
  • Empty milk cartons or small paper cups
  • Sea shells or other small objects
  • Leaves and sticks
  • Clay dough

Key Vocabulary

  • Fossils
  • Body fossils
  • Trace fossils
  • Permineralization
  • Mold fossils
  • Cast fossils
  • Whole body preservation

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


  • Place an example of a fossil on student stations, or show an image of one on the board. Connect students to lesson by asking them to examine the fossil and describe what they see. Share and discuss answers.
  • Tell students they will be learning about fossils. Share prior knowledge.
  • Preview or pre-teach vocabulary, then begin our video lesson Fossil: Definition, Types, Characteristics & Examples. Allow students to take notes, or print transcripts for them to highlight.
  • Pause at 1:28. Make sure students have recorded relevant information and definitions, then discuss:
    • How do scientists use fossils to learn more about the past?
    • How are body and trace fossils the same and different?
    • What are examples of body fossils? Trace fossils?
  • Resume the video and pause again at 2:33. Ask:
    • What are some ways fossils form?
    • Why is it a big deal for scientists to find fossils that are preserved without any changes?
    • What is an example of a preserved fossil?
  • Play the remainder of the video. Allow students to use the lesson summary and your guidance to define terms, and check for understanding of major concepts. Discuss:
    • Why is fossilization rare?
    • What needs to happen for fossilization to occur?

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