ALEX Lesson Plan


How Grand is the Grand Canyon?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Ginger Boyd
System: Geneva County
School: Slocomb Elementary School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35242


How Grand is the Grand Canyon?


In this lesson, students will conduct an experiment to compare similarities and differences with wind and water erosion.  Students will create a narrative story describing a particular rock formation based on evidence in the rock patterns, including an estimated time frame, plants and animals that may have been living in the environment, and the type of erosion that formed their rock formation.

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

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
ELA2015 (4)
24. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. [W.4.3]
a. Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator, characters, or both; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally. [W.4.3a]
b. Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations. [W.4.3b]
c. Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events. [W.4.3c]
d. Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely. [W.4.3d]
e. Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events. [W.4.3e]
SC2015 (4)
12. Construct explanations by citing evidence found in patterns of rock formations and fossils in rock layers that Earth changes over time through both slow and rapid processes (e.g., rock layers containing shell fossils appearing above rock layers containing plant fossils and no shells indicating a change from land to water over time, a canyon with different rock layers in the walls and a river in the bottom indicating that over time a river cut through the rock).

Local/National Standards:

4-ESS1-1 Identify evidence from patterns in rock formations and fossils in rock layers to support  an explanation for changes in a landscape over time.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will be able to:

1) define wind and water erosion and identify similarities and differences with both processes.

2) create a narrative story describing how a rock formation was changed over time based on evidence in rock patterns identified in the rock formation itself. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

For the Stream Box:

  • clear plastic container
  • sand
  • plastic condiment squirt bottle
  • safety goggles (one pair for each student)
  • wooden block (to tilt one end of the box)
  • small rocks
  • water

For Wind Box:

  • clear plastic container
  • straw
  • sand
  • small rocks
  • safety goggles (one pair for each student)

Under Attachments:

  • Water and Wind Erosion Chart
  • Water and Wind Erosion Activity Lab (task cards)
  • Water and Wind Erosion Box Directions (for the teacher)
  • Awesome Rock Formation Narrative rubric

Technology Resources Needed:

iPads, Chromebooks, notebooks, or other internet connected device (one per group of 3 students)




For Students:  This lesson should be taught after a lesson on the rock cycle.  This lesson focuses primarily on sedimentary rocks from the rock cycle.  

For Teacher:  The Grand Canyon is famous for the beauty of its many rock layers exposed and for the stories they tell. Scientists from all over the world come to study the rocks at the Grand Canyon.

Most of the rock layers at Grand Canyon are sedimentary rock. Sedimentary rock forms when the sediments (dirt) of rivers, streams, seas, or deserts are laid down and cemented together over long periods of time.  

The principle of superposition is used to determine relative ages of rock layers (strata). According to this principle, before the topmost layer of rock was laid down, the layer below it must already have been deposited. Any layer will be older than the layer above it and younger than the layer below it. So, the layer on the bottom is older than the layer on the top.  

Remind students to use safety goggles during lab procedures

Instructional Preparation:

An online brainstorming tool called Answer Garden is used during the Before/Engage activity. Create an Answer Garden prior to introducing the lesson. Enter the topic "Use one to two words to describe the formation of the Grand Canyon."  Then scroll down to the bottom of the page and hit Create. If you want to have more control, there are several options you can use to customize your  Answer Garden.  

The lab activity located in the during section should be set up prior to this time. The setup procedures for the Water and Wind Erosion Box are located in the attachments. This activity can be completed as a whole group or in small group stations.



Using iPads, Chromebooks, Notebooks, or other device connected to the internet, have students visit the teacher created Answer GardenShow students the picture of the Grand Canyon from the PBS LearningMedia website.  Ask students to type one to two words describing the formation on the Answer Garden website.  Allow time for student responses. Then explain that this is a picture of the Grand Canyon and the different rock layers "tell a story" about what happened to the Earth many years ago.  The order of the layers helps create a history of what happened and fossils in each layer help scientists estimate the age of the rock. One way geologists know the history of the Grand Canyon is by studying each rock layer.  Tell students, "Our class will create our own Geological Story today."

Watch the video, "How Does A Canyon Become Grand".  Facilitate a discussion about the process of erosion.  Explain to the students that for today's lesson we will focus on erosion by wind and water (the 2 primary processes that formed the Grand Canyon).   


Separate students into groups of 4 and distribute the Water and Wind Erosion Chart (one per student).  Tell students that today they will investigate both wind and water erosion. (The lab activity should be set up prior to this time. Directions for setting up the Water and Wind Erosion Activity Lab are located in the attachments. This activity can be completed as a whole group or in small group stations).  Set the classroom timer and allow groups ten minutes per station to complete the activity and the Water and Wind Erosion Chart. (In an effort to reduce group time, consider setting up two sets of stations for a total of 20 minutes.)


Once all groups have completed the activity, facilitate a discussion about students' findings from the Water and Wind Erosion Chart.  Pose the questions, "How are these two processes similar?"  "How are they different?"  


Show the students "Making North America/Uncovering Layers of the Grand Canyon". Tell students geologists can tell the story of a rock by looking at its layers.   Show the 20 Most Famous and Awesome Rock Formations in the World website with the pictures of the "Awesome Rock Formations" on the Smartboard and ask students to choose one of the pictures to "tell the story" of the rock formation. Students will write a narrative describing the rock formation based on evidence in rock patterns from the rock formation they choose and how it was changed over time. Students should include an estimated time frame of their rock formation and the type of erosion that formed their rock formation.  What kinds of plants and animals were living in the environment at the time their rock formation was being formed?  Students are encouraged to use their imaginations. Stories will be posted on the bulletin board for other students to read.

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Assessment Strategies

Summative assessment for this lesson is based on the rubric for the Awesome Rock Formation Narrative. Formative assessment for this lesson is based on the Water and Wind Erosion Chart.


Students can research other canyons in the United States by visiting 16 Most Amazing Canyons in America. Students can create a PowerPoint using Google Slides including information about how their canyon might have been created and its location.  


Students who need additional help with this lesson may need to watch the videos again.  Students may also need additional time to complete their Rock Formation Narrative.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.