Plate Tectonics Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Let your students be geologists for the day while studying plate tectonics. Teach basic theories and the layers of the earth, then guide students through hands-on application during an activity.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain theories related to plate tectonics
  • accurately use plate tectonic-specific vocabulary
  • demonstrate understanding of concepts related to plate tectonics in demonstration and application


1 to 1.5 hours


  • Graham crackers, paper plates & marshmallow fluff, if doing the demonstration
  • Index cards
  • Plate tectonics jigsaw puzzle worksheets, which can be found with a simple online search (one for each student or partner group). Cut out pieces to be arranged by students, or have students cut them out.

Key Vocabulary

  • Plate tectonics
  • Plate
  • Tectonics
  • Crust
  • Mantle
  • Continental lithosphere
  • Asthenosphere
  • Plate boundary
  • Mantle convection
  • Ridge path
  • Plate subduction
  • Subucting
  • Slab pull
  • Mid-ocean ridges
  • Divergent plate boundary
  • Mid-Atlantic Ridge
  • Convergent plate boundary
  • Transform plate boundary

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.2

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.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.3

Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.4

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 texts and topics.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.5

Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).

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