Types of Volcanoes Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kristen Goode

Kristen has been an educator for 25+ years - as a classroom teacher, a school administrator, and a university instructor. She holds a doctorate in Education Leadership.

This lesson is designed to give students an understanding of the three different types of volcanoes: composite cone, shield, and cinder cone. Students will also work in groups to create presentations about each of the different types of volcanoes.

Learning Objectives

By the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain what a volcano is
  • name the three different types of volcanoes
  • discuss the features of each type of volcano


60-75 minutes

Curriculum Standards


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.


Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.


Develop a model using an example to describe ways the geosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and/or atmosphere interact.



  • Begin by introducing the lesson.
    • Ask students to share what they already know about volcanoes.
    • Read the description of the lesson aloud to students.
  • Next, begin showing the video.
    • Show the first section, ''Volcanoes.''
    • Stop at the 1:00 mark.
    • Discuss:
      • What is a good definition for volcano?
      • By what three characteristics do we differentiate the different types of volcanoes?
      • What are the three different types of volcanoes?
      • When comparing to a football team, what type of player does the composite cone volcano compare to? Why?
      • What player does a shield volcano compare to? Why?
      • What player does a cinder cone volcano compare to? Why?
  • Now show the next part of the video, ''Composite Cone Volcanoes.''
    • Stop at the 2:22 mark.
    • Discuss:
      • What is a composite cone volcano?
      • What other names do we sometimes use for composite cone volcanoes?
      • Name two mountains in Washington state that are composite cone volcanoes.
      • Name the famous composite cone volcano that erupted in Pompeii.
      • What would an eruption from a composite cone volcano be like?
      • Explain why the sides of a composite cone volcano are so steep.
      • Why is the term composite used to describe this type of volcano?
  • Continue showing the video with the next section, ''Shield Volcanoes.''
    • Stop at the 3:13 mark.
    • Discuss:
      • What is a shield volcano?
      • How did shield volcanoes get their name?
      • Why are these volcanoes flat?
      • What would an eruption from a shield volcano be like?
      • What famous chain of islands are actually shield volcanoes?
  • Continue with the next section, ''Cinder Cone Volcanoes.''
    • Stop at the 4:14 mark.
    • Discuss:
      • What is a cinder cone volcano?
      • What is another word for volcanic cinders?
      • Explain how a cinder cone volcano differs from a composite cone volcano.
      • In what three US states do we find several cinder cone volcanoes?
  • Finally, show the ''Lesson Summary'' piece of the video.
    • Play through the end of the video.
    • Discuss:
      • What are the three types of volcanoes?
      • Share what you know about a composite cone volcano.
      • Share what you know about a shield volcano.
      • Share what you know about a cinder cone volcano.
      • What part of the United States did you notice tends to have a lot of different types of volcanoes?

Check for Understanding

  • To check for understanding, have students complete the quiz.
  • Review the answers as a class.


To provide additional learning and review, move through the following activity.

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