Fossil Record Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

If your class is studying fossils, use this lesson to learn about the fossil record. Students will use clay and other art supplies to recreate fossils and summarize the evidence from the fossil record about a specific organism. An extension activity is included that challenges students to make a paleontology TV show.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • Describe the fossil record
  • Identify what fossil records can tell us about organisms
  • Describe what the fossil record tells us about specific organisms


60-90 minutes (plus additional time for the extension activity)

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.9-10.4, 11-12.4

Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 or 11-12 texts and topics.


  • Pictures of different types of fossils
  • Copies of the video lesson transcript (suggested)
  • Clay
  • Poster board
  • Art supplies


  • Show the class pictures of different types of fossils. Ask the class to identify what they are. Discuss what they think fossils can tell us about life before our time.
  • Play the video lesson Fossil Record: Definition and Examples for the class.
    • Consider giving the students paper copies of the lesson transcript to follow along with during the video.
  • Discuss the following questions:
    • What is the fossil record?
    • How can the fossil record help us know more about extinct organisms?
    • How can the fossil record help us understand the history of organisms that still exist?
    • What does the fossil record tell us about dinosaurs? What evidence in the fossils confirms this?
    • What does the fossil record tell us about horses? What evidence in the fossils confirms this?
    • What does the fossil record tell us about humans? What evidence in the fossils confirms this?

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