Fossil Record Lesson Plan for Elementary School

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 is a tool for helping students learn about fossil records. Students will be able to answer questions using textual evidence to support their answers and summarize how paleontologists create a timeline of prehistoric events.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson on fossil records, students will be able to:

  • Cite textual evidence when answering questions about the text.
  • Summarize relative dating.
  • Use content-specific vocabulary to describe how information is gained from fossils.


90 minutes

Common Core Curriculum Standards


Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.


Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.


Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.


  • ancestor
  • decay
  • evolve
  • fossil record
  • fossils
  • organisms
  • paleontologists
  • prehistoric
  • relative dating
  • timeline


  • Copies of the worksheet
  • Copies of the lesson
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Crayons
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Paper plates
  • Flour
  • Sand
  • Pebbles
  • Small paper cups
  • Modeling clay
  • Small plastic dinosaurs
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Pictures of fossils from various prehistoric eras

Reading & Discussion Questions

  • Preview vocabulary with students before reading the lesson.
  • Read Fossil Record: Lesson for Kids as a class, and discuss the following questions:
    • About how old is the Earth?
    • Turn and talk: Name some animals that have gone extinct.
    • How do we know about animals that lived before humans?
    • What are fossils?
    • What is the difference between fossils and fossil records?
    • What is a paleontologist?
    • How does a paleontologist develop a timeline of a fossil record?
    • What kinds of information does relative dating provide?
    • What have paleontologists learned about whales through their fossil record?
  • Ask if there are any questions; then give the students the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding.
  • Check the answers as a class.


Exploring Fossils

Materials: Copies of lesson, paper, pencils, crayons, plaster of Paris, modeling clay, plastic dinosaurs, small paper cups, paper plates, flour, sand, pebbles, paint, paint brushes, pictures of fossils from several prehistoric eras

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