Volcano Lesson Plan for Elementary School

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Most students are naturally interested in volcanoes. This two-day lesson plan uses two text lessons about volcanoes to teach students about geology, while having fun with hands-on activities and games.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define the vocabulary associated with volcanoes.
  • Explain how destructive and constructive plate boundaries are involved in the volcano making process.
  • Give a characteristic of each type of volcano: cinder cone, shield, and composite.
  • Explain why volcanoes erupt.
  • Discuss two types of eruptions (explosive and calmer).


  • Two 60-minute class periods


Note: each day has different materials.

Day 1

  • Pre-made 'Find Someone Who….' worksheets
    • Create a worksheet that asks volcano trivia. For example: Find someone who…
      • Can name one volcano
      • Knows what the difference is between lava and magma
  • Paper plates (one per student)
  • Oreo cookies (two per student)
  • Images of the three types of volcanoes
  • Copies of How are Volcanoes Formed? Lesson for Kids, one per student.
  • Copies of Volcano Formation quiz, one per student.

Day 2

Curriculum Standards


Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize 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.


By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Vocabulary (day 1 and day 2)

  • Magma
  • Plates
  • Volcano
  • Crust
  • Lava


Day 1:

  • Hand out the 'Find Someone Who' worksheets and instruct students to find someone who knows the answer to each trivia question. After a few minutes, have students return to their seats (even if they haven't answered all of the questions).
  • Tell students they now get to learn all about volcanoes.
  • Hand out the lesson How are Volcanoes Formed? Lesson for Kids and a paper plate to each student.
  • As students take turns reading out loud, they will take 'paper plate notes'.
  • Stop after the 'What Is a Volcano' section. Have students use a section of the paper plate to make a cross section of the earth's layers with an image of a volcano. Label the vocabulary terms associated with the lesson. Have students leave some space to create the three types of volcanoes mentioned (later in the lesson).

Oreo Activity

  • Read through 'How Are Volcanoes Formed?'. Have students turn the paper plate over, dividing it into four parts: 'Destructive Plate Boundary,' 'Constructive Plate Boundary,' 'Explosive,' and 'Calm'.
  • Have students model Destructive Boundary with an Oreo cookie.
    • Have students break the top cookie in half (leave the bottom cookie whole) and then push the two top cookie portions towards one another. Note what happens to the cream filling. Take a moment to discuss this type of boundary.
    • Students should write a definition and draw an image that shows this type of boundary in the 'Destructive Boundary' square on the paper plate.
  • For Constructive Boundary modeling with an Oreo cookie:
    • Break the top portion of the cookie in half and push the two halves apart. Note what happens to the filling. Take a moment to discuss what happened with the class.
      • Students should write a definition and draw an image that shows this under 'Constructive Boundary.'
  • They can now eat the Oreos!


  • Resume reading the lesson. After reading the section 'What's in a Volcano' add the appropriate terms to the volcano that was drawn on the front of the plate.
  • After reading 'Why Do Volcanoes Look Different', show real images of each type of volcano. Then work with students to add these three types of volcanoes to the front of their paper plate notes.
  • Finish the reading and return to the 'Find Someone Who…' from earlier to see if they can answer all of the questions now.
  • Give students the Volcano Formation quiz to check for understanding.

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