I have Tectonics Background

Teacher candidate reads I Have Tectonics card
A teacher candidate reads his I Have Tectonics card.


To provide a quick, interactive review of vocabulary related to plate tectonics and local rocks.

Geology concepts

Plate tectonics, Franciscan Complex, plate boundaries, vocabulary review


I have tectonics is the latest version of a participatory vocabulary review, called Supersonic Tectonics (because we cover a lot of geology in a short amount of time). It originally was intended for teacher workshop participants, or as part of a geology training for park staff. I use this activity most often with teachers or other adults. However, it has been used successfully with both middle school and high school students.

For several years, I used a series of “active listening cards,” very similar to the current “I have” cards, to lead a guided overview of plate tectonics and the Franciscan rocks. Each participant held a card with a word on one side and a definition on the back. I instructed the members of the audience to listen for their word. The first time they heard me speak their word, they were to stand up, say “Stop, Roxi!” and then read the information on their card. While this was a fun way to review a lot of vocabulary (middle school students particularly liked the idea of having permission to stop the teacher from talking), I seemed to be the only person comfortable with leading the lesson. Each card required the teacher to provide an introduction and linking sentences between each card. The leader also needed to remember the most sensible way to order the words.

After seeing one of my Supersonic Tectonics presentations for a local university teacher credential course, Lisa Eschenbach, regional education specialist for the National Park Service, asked if the “I have, who has” format might work for this vocabulary lesson. I had seen this format used as a review of a lesson, or at the end of a training session. I would need to adapt the “I have” format to be suitable either as a culminating activity or as an introductory activity in a workshop.

I arranged the cards in a sequence: layers of the earth, then plate boundaries, then rocks of the Franciscan Complex, and ending with the Cookie Tectonics demo. The card texts and images with assembly instructions are in the Teaching Techniques and Tools folder on this CD. As long as you start with the “I have tectonics” card, you will know the order of everything else.

The big advantage of this new way of doing Supersonic Tectonics is that anyone can lead it, once you can lead a Cookie Tectonics demo. Also, participants tend to remember “their” card; so during a day-long workshop, they will refer back to their word in the course of other activities and lessons.

The “I have tectonics” version of Supersonic Tectonics is a handy way to review a lot of vocabulary in a short amount of time. Since educators always seem to have to introduce a lot of terminology before delving into an educational unit, the “I have” format is handy for almost any subject matter.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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