ALEX Lesson Plan


Investigating Soil

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Melissa Campbell
System: Fort Payne City
School: Williams Avenue Elementary School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34561


Investigating Soil


This lesson provides an introductory-level experience with soil. During the experiment, students will combine soil with water and conduct observations. The observations made will lead to greater understanding of soil's basic properties.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
13 ) Plan and carry out investigations to examine properties of soils and soil types (e.g., color, texture, capacity to retain water, ability to support growth of plants).

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
E4.4: Earth materials that occur in nature include rocks, minerals, soils, water, and the gases of the atmosphere.

NAEP Statement::
E8.6: Soil consists of weathered rocks and decomposed organic material from dead plants, animals, and bacteria. Soils are often found in layers with each having a different chemical composition and texture.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Planning and Carrying out Investigations
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Earth's Systems
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Identify the properties of soil.
  • Plan and carry out an investigation that examines the various types of soil and soil properties.
  • Describe the data collected that will serve as the basis for the evidence.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • color
  • absorbency
  • texture
  • capacity
  • properties of soil
  • types of soil ( sand, silt, clay, humus)
  • infiltration
  • particle size
  • structure
  • consistency
Students know:
  • Soil properties (particle size, color, texture).
  • Soil types ( sand, silt, clay, and humus).
  • Relationship between soil types and water.
Students are able to:
  • Plan and conduct simple tests using various soil types.
  • Collect, describe and evaluate data.
  • Articulate and explain from evidence the properties of soil and soil types.
Students understand that:
  • Similarities and differences in patterns can be used to sort and classify soil types by property.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Water and Landforms

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.4.13- Observe the properties of soils (e.g., color, texture, capacity to retain water, ability to support growth of plants); Identify different types of soil (e.g., silt, clay, sand).

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Through observation and examination, students will investigate basic properties of soil.

Students will diagram and describe the basic properties identified and discussed.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Each group will need: 1 liter of water, 4 cups of soil, funnel, 2-liter plastic bottle (washed and with the label removed)

Each student will need: science journal, copy of the foldable, pencil, crayons or colored pencils, scissors, glue

Teachers using stations during the exploration will also need plastic scoops or measuring cups and varieties of soil placed in plastic tubs. The soils should be of each main variety; loamy soil, clay soil, and sandy soil.

Technology Resources Needed:

Teacher computer with internet connection and a screen/board for viewing, student tablets

Homepage for soil-net :This website offers a wide variety of handouts and activities related to soil. There is even a variation of this experiment on the site.

Virtual Soil Walk

What is Soil Made Of? Activity Page Link

Hand Texturing of Soil: Activity Page Link

Soil Read Aloud (10:19)


This is an introductory-level lesson, and therefore can be completed without much prerequisite learning. Students will need to be familiar with science drawings or diagramming.

Become familiar with the Soil read aloud. If needed, the teacher can pull vocabulary for small or whole group instruction. Vocabulary anchor or sentence strips can be created. Teachers using stations during the exploration will need to collect several varieties of soils in plastic tubs.

Teachers and/or students will want to prepare the foldable and place it in their science journals before beginning the investigation. Each foldable will need to be cut on the 3 short horizontal lines to make flaps and then folded on the center vertical line before gluing it into the journals. *Teachers unfamiliar with foldables can go to Dinah Zike examples here. The foldable in this lesson is an example of two- and three-tab foldables.


1. The teacher will show the Soil read-aloud to students, using class discussion to clarify unfamiliar terms. A class anchor chart of vocabulary can also be created.

2. Students and teachers will review safety rules and investigation instructions before getting into groups.

3. Students will pour the water into their plastic bottle.

4. Using the funnel, students will add the soil to the bottle.

5. Students will screw the cap on their bottle tightly.

6. Students will make and discuss their first observations, recording their thinking on the foldable in their journals.

7. Students will shake the bottle with the mixture vigorously for about 30 seconds.

8. Students will make and discuss their second observations, recording their thinking on the foldable in their journals.

9. Students may share their partially completed foldables, along with their observations, while waiting on the 15-minute mark and the 1-hour mark.

  • During this wait time, teachers may want their students to participate in further small-group exploration. This can be done by having students review the Soil read-aloud at their tablets, then using their science journals to record and share 3 soil facts, 2 soil questions, and 1 fact or idea they would like to explore further.
  • Students may also use the tubs of soil to complete sections of the Hand Texturing of Soil Activity. If used, the hand texturing activity will lead to extended knowledge of the 3 main types of soils(loamy, sandy, clay) and the physical properties of each type.

10. At the 15-minute mark and the 1-hour mark, students will make their third and fourth observations, again discussing and recording their thinking.

11. Completed foldables can be shared and evaluated. Discussion emphasis, and any resulting hypotheses, should be on the various observations made, and how those observations might relate to the different physical properties of varieties of soil.

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Assessment Strategies

1. The teacher will observe student discussion during the investigation.

2. The teacher will evaluate the students' completed foldables.


1. Students will view and discuss the Virtual Soil Walk. They will then explore the soil on the school playground and create a virtual soil walk using that soil.

2. Students will research the soil in their area, along with the plants that grow best there. They will then apply this information to designing a school garden.


1. Students will be allowed to use word bank for completing foldable.

2. Students will be allowed to complete the foldable with a peer helper.

3. Students will complete What is Soil Made Of? with the teacher to increase vocabulary acquisition and content understanding.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.