Lesson Plan

Layers of Time

Illustration of deer and stratified soil by Brian Crosby

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Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
4.W.7, 4.W.8, 4.W.9
State Standards:
State: Arizona
Subject: Science                    
Grade Level: 4-5
State Standards:
Additional Standards:
Next Generation Science Standard
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.


Guiding Questions: What is stratigraphy? What is the law of superposition? How can archaeologists study stratigraphy to determine the age of archaeological objects?
Students will:
Explain what stratigraphy is.
Describe the law of superposition.
Understand how stratigraphy can be used to determine the age of archaeological objects.


Print copy of background materials and the activity sheet for each student.


Download Background Information

Download Activity – Student Worksheet

Download Answer Key


  1. Have students look at the drawing on the Background Information/reading. Have the students make a prediction about what they might be learning about. Does it relate to anything you might have learned before? (Example: layers of the earth, such as crust, mantle, inner and outer core.)

  2. State objective and go over vocabulary and ask for connections or prior knowledge of stratigraphy or archeology/archeologist.

  3. Read the background information with students.

  4. Complete problems 1 and 2 with students. Have students complete the rest of the worksheet individually, with a partner, or in a small group.

  5. Go over correct answers by mixing groups or have students pair with a NEW partner.

Assessment Materials

Exit Slip:

Have students list two things they learned about stratigraphy using appropriate vocabulary.

Supports for Struggling Learners

Use tactile motion: explain that using finger tracking on the layers moving down means moving back in time to older layers of the earth.

Enrichment Activities

Have students write a paragraph about how the objects in the activity sheet (jar, projective point, etc) got to that layer of earth.  Who left it there? When did they live? Remember the further down, the further back you must go in time.

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Last updated: May 21, 2015