Plate Tectonics Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Take a peek beneath the earth's surface and teach students about plate tectonics with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson and complete hands-on activities to increase understanding and make ideas stick.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • define and explain the science of plate tectonics
  • explain the geological effects of plate tectonics


1 - 1.5 hours


  • Copies of the text lesson Plate Tectonics: Lesson for Kids and lesson quiz , one for each student
  • Aluminum pie plates or other shallow dishes
  • Styrofoam plates
  • Water
  • Map of shapes of the plates that make up Earth (like the one found in the lesson) - you will want the maps to be about the same size as the Styrofoam plates
  • Scissors
  • Permanent markers
  • Milky Way miniature candy, one for each student
  • Plastic knives

Key Vocabulary

  • Mantle
  • Plates
  • Plate tectonics

Curriculum Standards


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


Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in 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.

Warm Up and Preparation

  • Prepare for the lesson and activity by giving each student a map and a Styrofoam plate.
  • Have students place their map on top of their plate and trace around each tectonic plate, pressing hard so it leaves marks on the plate.
  • Now ask students to cut apart the tectonic plates on the foam plate and label each. Set aside for later.

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