Volcano Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Did your students' interest in volcanoes end when they realized that vinegar and baking soda wasn't going to win the science fair? This lesson plan shows how volcanoes actually are a result of plate tectonics through a video lesson and a lab activity.

Lesson Objectives

This lesson will help your students do the following:

  • describe how a volcano works
  • analyze the role of volcanoes in plate tectonic theory


40 minutes plus 30 minutes for the activity


  • Two pieces of coarse sandpaper for each student

Curriculum Standards


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 11-12 texts and topics.


Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.


Analyze the author's purpose in providing an explanation, describing a procedure, or discussing an experiment in a text, identifying important issues that remain unresolved.

Key Vocabulary

  • Volcano
  • Magma
  • Lava
  • Active volcano
  • Dormant volcano
  • Ring of fire
  • Extinct volcano
  • Tectonic plates


  • Ask students if they have ever created an erupting volcano using baking soda and vinegar to make a volcano. Ask if they know what causes the 'lava' to erupt? Is that what really happens in real life? What causes true volcanic eruptions?
  • Now watch the lesson What is a Volcano? - Definition & Eruptions, pausing for key terms and to ensure understanding at these points:
    • 1:46 - What is the difference between magma and lava? Which comes out of a volcano? What separates a volcano from another mountain?
    • 5:13 - How would you classify volcanoes? What type of volcanoes are scientists most worried about? Why do they still worry about dormant volcanoes?

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think that studying active and dormant volcanoes is so important?
  • How would you best explain plate tectonics in an analogy? What role do volcanoes play in that analogy?
  • What role do you think earthquakes have in predicting volcanic eruptions?

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