K-3, Unit Five, Activity 2: "Rock Stories"

Students role-play a guided imagery story of the rock cycle (adapted from Keepers of the Earth, Joe Bruchac, Chapter 8).

Grades: 1–3
Time: about 1/2 hour
Subjects: Language arts, earth science


  • Copy of story
  • Outside location with sloping hill


  1. Tell students that they are going to pretend to be a rock, but they will change through a long, long period of time.
  2. Have them start the role-play by sitting along the top of a small hill (a dry ditch bank will work well). Have them close their eyes and listen carefully until there is an action part to act out. Read or paraphrase the following story:

    Imagine you are a rock about the size of an apple. You live on a warm hillside above a huge valley. The river roars far down below, but up here it sounds like a small “shhhhh….” In the winter you are worried about a crack right behind you. Water fills the crack on warm days, and during the cold nights, it freezes and expands the crack, inching you closer and closer to the edge. (students inch toward downhill).

    One warm spring, the mud around you is soft and wet from the rains, The ground suddenly begins to shake from a small earthquake (students shake), and you slowly start tipping over and rolling down the hill! (students act out as you read). On the roll down hill you get dizzy and two of your sharp corners break off (ouch!). You roll all the way down the hill and splash into the river.

    The river is fast! It starts carrying you downstream, bouncing you on the bottom, breaking off more of your corners until you are round – a perfect river rock (students roll into a ball). Rolling along the bottom, you get smaller and smaller -- until you are just a moving ooze of sand.

    One day the river suddenly stops and the water tastes salty. You are in the ocean! Finally you can rest, and you do – for thousands of years. While you are resting, the other sand-people, like you, start resting too – on top of you (students layer over each other – 2 or 3 deep). You feel like you are getting squashed and you stick together with your friends and become one rock (a sandstone) again. But you keep sinking and sinking because more sand is layering over you, and you change again into another rock – a really squashed one!

    You get pushed down so far into the earth that it gets very warm – so warm you start to melt! (students ooze out from their layers) Suddenly, you feel like you are in a fast elevator, shooting up through a crack in the earth (students run uphill). You blast from the ground way up in the air (jump) and land on the slope of a big volcano! It is so cool that you harden right away into another kind of rock made of what was melted rock. And here you sit, on the edge of a mountain, looking down into a valley at a river far, far below. I wonder what will happen to you now?

  3. Now ask the students, "Do rocks ever change?" "How long does it take?" "Does it seem like you went in a big circle (cycle) when you were a rock?"
  4. Depending on the age of your students, you may want to introduce the three types of rocks: sedimentary – other rocks ground up and squashed together; metamorphic – squashed really hard and cooked, but not melted: igneous – melted and then cooled to harden

Have your students draw a simple diagram of what happened to them when they were pretending to be a rock (ie. the rock cycle).

Last updated: November 3, 2017

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