Volcano Unit Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

A volcano eruption is an impressive geological event that has the capacity to change the landscape. This unit plan outlines instruction for teachers building lessons about volcanoes.


What are volcanoes? How are they formed? Your students may have many questions about this natural phenomenon. This unit plan will help you build lessons that enable them to find the answers. This instructional unit describes volcanoes, volcano formation, and types of volcanoes. It includes references to informational texts and videos, as well as active learning opportunities that middle school students will find engaging and memorable.

Build Background Knowledge

Students will gain background knowledge about volcanoes by reading Lauren Tarshis' novel I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980. Although the book is fiction, it is based on true events in recent American history in which a mountain in Washington State unexpectedly erupted. Students will find the book engaging and informative. The I Survived the Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980 Discussion Questions will guide students to discuss the early warning signs of an eruption, describe the eruption, and speculate what may have caused the eruption.


The Volcano Lesson Plan helps students understand the role of plate tectonics in the formation of volcanoes. Students will watch a video lesson and discuss vocabulary related to volcanoes before participating in a lab activity in which they create heat by rubbing sand paper together similar to the way tectonic plates rub together.

Students will explore plate tectonics further through the Plate Tectonics Lesson Plan. This asset begins with a video about plate tectonics and is followed by a demonstration of the way tectonic plates move using marshmallow cream and graham crackers. Students will follow-up this lesson by playing a game that tests their knowledge.

Students will learn about the three different types of volcanoes through the Types of Volcanoes Lesson Plan. Students will watch a video lesson that explains shield, cinder cones, and composite cones. Students will engage in a discussion that compares and contrasts these types of volcanoes and then will create a presentation, such as a diorama, that depicts one of these types.

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