Layers of the Atmosphere Lesson Plan

Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

What are the layers present in Earth's atmosphere? This lesson plan uses both a video and text lesson to outline key points for students. An activity gives the class hands-on experience with the layers.


1 to 2 hours

Learning Objectives

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

  • define 'atmosphere'
  • list the layers of Earth's atmosphere
  • describe key features of each layer of the atmosphere
  • summarize the gaseous makeup of Earth's atmosphere

Curriculum Standards


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.


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 6-8 texts and topics.


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).


Compare and contrast the information gained from experiments, simulations, video, or multimedia sources with that gained from reading a text on the same topic.



  • Write the following question on the board for the class: 'What is the atmosphere?'.
  • Ask students to take five minutes to craft a one to two sentence response to the question on their own papers.
  • Have the students share their responses during a class discussion as you write some common points made on the board.
  • Play the video lesson What is Atmosphere? - Layers, Gases & Pressure, pausing at 2:38.
    • How did our descriptions of atmosphere compare to the information provided in the video?
    • The video indicates that various gases make up the atmosphere. What types of gases might this refer to?
  • Play the remainder of the video lesson for the class now.
    • Were we able to correctly identify any of the gases that make up the atmosphere?
    • Based on our geographical location on Earth, where might our atmospheric pressure lie?
    • Let's take a closer look at the different layers of the atmosphere.
  • Pass out the paper copies of the text lesson now, one per student.
  • Ask the students to take turns reading aloud a few lines each from the introduction, and 'What is the Earth's Atmosphere?' section of the text lesson.
    • Who can name the different layers of the atmosphere?
  • Now have the class take turns reading aloud the 'Layers of the Atmosphere' section of the text lesson, highlighting key points on their papers as they go.
  • Give the class some time to share what they've highlighted on the text lesson copies during an open class discussion.
  • Review the important points about the layers of the atmosphere with the class before continuing.
  • Ask the class to take turns reading aloud the remainder of the text lesson now.
    • How can the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere be relatively low and yet vital to our survival?
  • Pass out the worksheet to the class now, one copy per student.
  • Instruct the students to work independently to complete the worksheet now.
  • Review each question and answer from the worksheet with the class now, asking students to self-check their answers as you go.

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