You are on page 1of 9


UNIT OVERVIEW Earth is made up various living and nonliving materials. In the Minerals,
Rocks, and Soil unit, students learn about the properties, classification,
and uses for many nonliving Earth materials. Elements form minerals,
and minerals form rocks. Different rock types—igneous, sedimentary, and
metamorphic—can transform through the rock cycle. Through the processes
of weathering and erosion, rocks change, break, and move. Minerals mix
with organic material to form the soil on which plants and animals rely.
People use Earth resources by mining, drilling, and refining raw materials
and have become dependent on them for many purposes.
Certain reading resources are provided at three reading
levels within the unit to support differentiated instruction.
Other resources are provided as a set, with different titles
offered at each reading level. Dots on student resources
indicate the reading level as follows:
low reading level
middle reading level
high reading level


inerals, rocks, and soil—along with air, sunlight, and water—are the
nonliving portions of Earth’s ecosystems. The interaction of living and
nonliving components defines an ecosystem and allows for great biodiversity.
By learning about minerals, rocks, and soil, students will come to understand
the processes by which they are formed, how they change through time, and
their importance to Earth and its inhabitants. Nutrient-rich soil is home to
many organisms and provides the foundation for much of the life on Earth.
Humans have come to rely on Earth’s resources for many purposes, including
building materials, electronic components, household items, car parts,
cosmetics, and energy sources. While seemingly abundant, Earth’s resources
are limited and must be preserved for future generations.

Other topics
This unit also addresses topics such as: mining, moon rocks, fossils,
quicksand, and special uses of minerals, including gold.


© Learning A–Z All rights reserved. 

he spark is designed to get students thinking about the unit’s topics and
to generate curiosity and discussion.


Minerals. and soil each are. For vocabulary work. sometimes including one called magnetite. students will learn more about minerals. PRIOR KNOWLEDGE I nvite students to explain their understanding of what minerals. Rocks. Below are questions to spark discussion. rocks. rocks. Many of the unit’s vocabulary terms are related to the spark activity and can be introduced during the spark. if at all. and soil. and Soil UNIT GUIDE Materials n cupful of playground sand n hand lens n paper plate n strong magnet Activity Place students in pairs or small groups. and soil. eventually forming sand and soil. n n n © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. Sand also contains . Encourage them to describe the sand in as many ways as they can. Throughout the unit. rocks. This mineral is highly magnetic and therefore is attracted to a magnet. Students may also run the magnet through the sand and observe whether anything within the sand is attracted to it. rocks. and soil.sciencea-z. Probing Questions to Think About Use the following questions to have students begin thinking of what they know about minerals. Have them pour a cupful of playground sand onto a paper plate. What is sand? Where does sand come from? Do all grains of sand look the same? Why do you think this is so? Why are some grains of sand smaller than others? Did the magnet pick up anything from the sand? Why do you think this is so? Where are you most likely to find sand in nature? Why? Use this activity to begin an introductory discussion about minerals. Ask students to examine the sand using a hand lens and to discuss their observations with their partner. Invite a volunteer from each group to share observations with the class. including how it feels. large rocks are broken down into smaller and smaller pieces.  hat is the difference between a rock and a mineral? W What are rocks and minerals made of? Are all rocks the same? How do they differ? 2 www. Over time. Ask them to explain how all three are related. see the Vocabulary section in this Unit Guide. Explain that sand is an Earth resource that results from the breaking down of rocks.

Cut or Fold Minerals. and soil? Tell students they will learn more about these topics soon. tight patterns DEFINITION CARD www. Rocks. and Soil unit page on the Science A–Z website. how? Are © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. Additional vocabulary lists are provided in the teaching tips for Investigation Packs and FOCUS Books. For a complete list of materials provided with the unit. or gravity fossil t he remains of a plant or animal that turned to stone over a long period of time igneous rock r ock formed by the cooling and hardening of hot magma or lava 3 www. and Soil the solid rock underneath soil or loose rocks. Rocks. Selected unit resources are available in more than one language. crystal a mineral that forms in regular. These terms and definitions are available on Vocabulary Cards for student practice. tight patterns deposit t o set down one or more layers of material in a new place. . and Soil Minerals. often making the metal stronger WORD CARD DEFINITION CARD $ Minerals. and/or other unit resources. rocks. and Soil bedrock (noun) Minerals. and Soil UNIT GUIDE n n n n n n n  hy are there so many different sizes of rocks? W Why are only some rocks worth a lot of money? Is soil the same wherever you go? Why or why not? What do a mountain and a pebble have in common? Can weather affect the land? If so. Students may read books and other passages. discuss science ideas as a class. VOCABULARY Use the terms below for vocabulary development throughout the unit. Rocks.Minerals. How do people use minerals. and Soil a metal that is a alloy (noun) combination of two or more metals. Rocks. Rocks. work in groups to complete hands-on experiments and investigations. rocks. and Soil crystal (noun) WORD CARD © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. the building blocks of everything p on Earth erosion t he process of transporting and wearing away rocks or soil as loose particles are moved by water. Resources are available for printing or projecting. Rocks. see the Minerals. Rocks. and many student resources are also available for students to access digitally on . watch videos. Core Science Terms These terms are crucial to understanding the unit. Rocks. the lowest of three main layers of soil WORD CARD DEFINITION CARD $ Minerals.sciencea-z. and Soil a mineral that forms in regular. complete writing tasks. and take assessments. as water or wind can do to sediment elements  ure substances. Minerals. wind. UNIT MATERIALS Each unit provides a wide variety of resources related to the unit topic.sciencea-z. and soil important for plants and animals? Explain. They can be found in boldface in the Nonfiction Book. the Quick Reads.

such as to get materials from underground energy resources s upplies of materials that can be used by people to do work and to supply power humus t he organic component of soil that is composed of plant decay inorganic not having to do with or coming from living organisms lava melted. and Soil UNIT GUIDE metal a material. often making the metal stronger bedrock t he solid rock underneath soil or loose rocks. usually hard and shiny. caused by natural forces Other Key Science Terms The following vocabulary is not essential for comprehending the unit but may enrich students’ vocabulary.Minerals.sciencea-z. the lowest of three main layers of soil drill t o use a tool to make a hole. solid material that is made of minerals and is found in nature rock cycle t he series of changes that rock undergoes as it shifts between different types sedimentary rock r ock formed when sediment is pressed together over time soil the top layer of the ground. liquid rock beneath Earth’s surface matter anything that takes up space and has weight mine to take minerals from the ground by digging or blasting ore a rock that has useful metals or other minerals inside it 4 www. in which plants grow. that allows electricity and heat to move through it metamorphic rock r ock formed when any type of rock goes through changes caused by extreme heat and pressure mineral a . © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. alloy a metal that is a combination of two or more metals. liquid rock that reaches Earth’s surface magma melted. natural material that does not come from a living thing resources s upplies of things that are valuable or very useful to people rock a hard. Rocks. dirt weathering t he process of wearing away or otherwise changing Earth’s surface.

tight R B 2. © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. Dots on the cards indicate the reading levels of the Nonfiction Book or the Quick Reads in which each term can be found. The cards can also be used for center activity games such as Concentration. Wind made when Most of __ . the build of every list. Students can use these cards to review and practice the terms in small groups or pairs. see Students can use the Word Smart vocabulary Graphic Organizer to organize information on the science terms. and letters ininorder limited . We and is many kinds 10. it substances_______ ent to each term 7. encourage them to create a science dictionary by recording new vocabulary terms and definitions in their SAZ Journal. arocks ent rces moved by ice. The science terms can be used in oral practice. We form are from to ______ ent rocks together is differ ____________ 4 s press apart. in which rocks. For further vocabulary practice and reinforcement. a mater mater Nam e or Fill in the Blank ial. d at the differ . 3 to set down 2 new place. ROC KS.Minerals. These rocks and at the park. dirt layer d. Use natural _____ the thing term from _____ material ing block entary not come _____ Earth 4. and Soil UNIT GUIDE organic having to do with or coming from living organisms process t o cause something to go through steps that will change or improve it raw material a substance in its natural form refine to remove unwanted materials from a substance subsoil t he middle layer of soil. You may want to assign each student one to three words to share his or her Word Smart knowledge with classmates. The in the other learned or lava statue one of marble We also magma d out as ure. in which most plants have their roots Vocabulary Activities Nam e MINERALS __________ You may choose to introduce all the terms that will be encountered in the unit before assigning any of the reading components. which m place.scie 10 © Learning rights A–Z All reserved. rocks weatheringsupplies of thing __________ with the wearing away transporting or very s that are and rals cycle rocksrock partic mine useful or soil valuable les are to peop as loose 9. ________ moves ______ of this . in the squar way we to anoth wisely. the remains is made park. so rals in y. L S V I M MINERALSregular. which contains more rocks than topsoil topsoil t he top layer of soil. tight topdsei 2 le patterns m ncea-z. . 10 www. ROCKS. Rocks. vocab ulary _______ Words Date _____ terms . Then ________ rtant 1 write ____________ 9 __ are impo ____________ and ______ 10 3 a miner ! al that trip rocked 6 forms Directions: blank Fill in each Unscramb in regula r. AND Word Sea SOIL __________ Directions: __________ and circle Below are defini __________ it in the tions of puzzle. which ______ 6 ed about ________ called we learn type was ____________ 5 of rock but rocks. the of a plant found thattrip to a local break erosion top layer in natur there are turne or anim d to stoneer said easy to a field e al plants s. grown shape or a new root had soil to change A tree . Students who have the same word should first compare their Word Smart sheets with each other and then report to the larger group. to set A down one 6. We because ______ below. in a rock ncea-z. unscra mbleht this __________ can go __ Date on the I thoug each a lot about All rocks them are play. chang natural example __________ AND SOIL they chang Earth’s was an _____ Directions:__ as to use the park _____ rtant ____________ _____ To answe rals it is impo Mine _____ the ______ the8 circle r the riddle _____ d that supply. .scie ncea-z. _____ . ROCKS. or then find L K D M diago nally. one or more layers of as water material or wind in can do to sedim a lisofs ent 1 the remai 8 to stone ns of a plant or anima over a long period l that of time turned 4 osunegi kcro 4 rock forme d by the 5 cooling and harde ning of theawginre 5 hot magm a or lava the proces surface. 2 3 ___ Answer: 4 5 6 7 ___ ___ 8 9 ___ . 5 www. My teach over a long d of time they were grow. The when hot rocks starte and press rocks form __ . through rocks. This ss called these layer and crack is a proce www. can do place. a mine W V J W ral AND SOIL S I K Q patterns that forms in . s of wearing away or caused 7 by natura otherw ise chang l forces ing Earth’ s Riddl e: 9 Why did the sedim entar y rock feel Beca use insulted? peop le took it Credit: © Sarawut ___ ___ Padungkw ___ ___ an/123RF © Learning A–Z All 1 ___ ___ rights reserved. minerals material that of deposit metamorp 5. solid igneous or gravi water. my class in the __ mine ________ On Frida to __ found ______ © Learning ____________ ______ 2 A–Z All ____________ cause rocks were rights www. rch L K P W C M Q H K X G K E F I A K F I D V R M G E R B W E Z F L S G S O O H L W N T O K Z E R E Z Y Y T F G Y S G B V F O C U T F A N S V J I S W E S L O Y O P R O M R T E D S I J M I M S L O N F C T Z N T B E A T H E S T O V I E I E D W K M N M S A M C J X D P A K H K T L S M I O I K T S L N E M S E C Q M R A Z C E E R N L B P I S U K E C H T E Y O T W K N T S A I I S I J K H R M R N J J A E S E T Y T L P O U A J B T R C R R U H E S N L I E P K U 1.resou le hard. vertic T O term and _ L N .numb ered word and learned __________ some of live and spaces write it er. If all level dots m The Word Work activity sheets offer fun puzzles and practice with key vocabulary terms from the unit. One last type rock types about other cools. These e heat ____________ d extrem was ______ 7 they experience rock rock. These ed it. you can choose from the vocabulary Graphic Organizers. Vocabulary Cards with the key science terms and definitions are size. a solid.sciencea-z. As students read. may appea L S r horizo Figure out each __________ ntally. ty hic ofrocks lookewind.scie Over time. of the groun went on perioarea. as water to sedimDate _____ through and heat 3. type of MINERALS type of when one this ed of Nam e e from . more layer ial in a usually _that new hard s of or wind __________moveallows electricity and shiny. the term may come from another resource in the unit. To build customized vocabulary lessons with terms related to the topic. for the ycrtsla es. water ______ 3 water also and ______ 1 at the park and example wind and the rocks saw an rocks. Have students use each term in a spoken sentence. pure once. the proce ularyon that sedim s from a __________ corre living thing does ct vocabss of 8.

Q: Do rocks last forever? A: Yes and no. not in the scientific sense. sedimentary. each of the major rock groups—igneous. and deposition are forces that constantly change and reshape Earth’s surface. and Soil UNIT GUIDE BACKGROUND and Use this section as a resource for more background knowledge on unit MISCONCEPTIONS content and to clarify the content for students if misconceptions arise. Q: Rocks seem very strong. Small parts or particles of rocks can undergo changes through the rock cycle. limited Earth resources. Finally.748 Minerals. Can wind. the material that makes up rocks is never lost. rocks change and break down over time through the processes of weathering and erosion.Minerals. imperceptible changes can become enormous changes when they continue over millions of years. particularly over great expanses of time. . Rocks. erosion. water. Igneous rock is made from magma that once might have been any of the three rock types. Through the rock cycle. Even minute. Q: Once a rock is made. 6 www. and ice are erosional forces that can have a dramatic effect on rocks and soil. A rock’s unique composition and the process by which it is formed determine its type. and Soil A Science A–Z Earth Series Word Count: Q: Are rocks and minerals the same things? A: No. and form new rocks. Rocks and minerals are natural. © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. They are formed over millions of years through natural processes. can it ever change? A: Yes. Almost all rocks are made up of minerals (some contain organic material). and Soil Written by Rachel Kamb Visit www. and they usually contain more than one type of mineral. both sedimentary and igneous rocks can be transformed into metamorphic www. Sediments from the weathering of any of these three kinds of rock can be compressed to form sedimentary rocks. Q: Can people make rocks and minerals? A: No. Minerals. However. While companies may sell synthetic stone products. these are not true rocks. Rocks. Even large mountains are eventually weathered away. Refer to Using the Internet below for more ways to extend the learning. While they seem hard and unyielding. and metamorphic—can be transformed into any other type. Rocks. and ice really break them and wear them down? A: Absolutely! Wind. Minerals are made from individual elements or combinations of elements. Weathering. and existing metamorphic rock can undergo further changes when exposed to intense heat and pressure under Earth’s surface.sciencea-z.sciencea-z.

and soil are extremely important to all plants and animals. eat plants that have grown in soil. For example. A small piece of rock will weigh less than a larger piece of rock of the same type. clay is used in floor tiles. minerals. and Soil UNIT GUIDE Q: Are rocks always heavy and hard to break? A: No. or does rock turn into soil? A: Both processes occur as part of the rock cycle. Weathering causes large rocks to break apart into smaller and smaller pieces that eventually become sediment and part of soil. Rocks. including humans.Minerals. while calcite or mica in the same rock may be softer and easy to scratch or peel away. © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. Each element is made of only one kind of atom and cannot be broken down into other substances. which are very hard. A rock’s characteristics depend on the minerals that make it up and how the rock was formed. fluorite is used to make the fluoride found in toothpaste. such as pumice. 7 www. Q: So what is everything made of—elements or atoms? A: Both! For all intents and purposes. both living and nonliving. Plants and some animals live and grow in soil and depend upon minerals in the soil for growth and development. Rocks that are formed below the ground under high pressure and heat. and so on. including humans. such as marble. and soil for many things.sciencea-z. For example. Rocks. Elements are basic substances that combine (in compounds) to make up all matter. a rock may contain quartz crystals. are very light and can often float on water. are very dense and heavy. Some rocks. Erosion moves rocks and soil to areas where layers of sediment build up. Q: Rocks and minerals may look pretty. Pumice is made when frothy lava cools quickly on Earth’s surface. Almost every product in your daily life requires some kind of mined mineral. but are they actually important? A: Yes. aluminum is used to make bicycles. Many animals. When these layers of sediment are subjected to pressure over a long period of time. iron and steel are used to make pots and pans used for cooking. they are. Each atom of a particular element has a specific combination of subatomic particles that distinguishes it from atoms of any other element. minerals. Q: Does soil turn into rock. sedimentary rock . elements are the building blocks of all matter. Humans also rely on rocks.

com Mineralogy4Kids is a website for children. the site offers a poster with scannable QR codes. and Soil UNIT GUIDE © Jupiterimages Corporation EXTENSION ACTIVITIES Using the Internet Most search engines will yield many results when the term . download the image for quick access to these award-winning videos. Use the visual glossary link to look up geology terms and follow links for more in-depth information. published by the United States Geological Survey.html Learn about the geology of Bryce Canyon—and many other national parks that have amazing geologic features—on this website published by the National Park Service. Follow the Rock Cycle link for an excellent explanation of this process. The chemistry department at the University of Nottingham provides informative videos related to elements.wr. in which students can submit questions to be answered by an expert.nps.usgs.php This site. www. This site also includes an Ask a Mineralogist feature. or soil is entered. Rocks. www. www. Click on an element’s symbol to access a video explaining the properties and uses of that element. Follow the Minerals in Your House link to learn which minerals are used for everyday items.Minerals.htm © Learning A–Z All rights rocks. 8 www. http://geomaps. such as how igneous rock forms. called the Periodic Table of Videos. You can also perform a more specific contains useful information about rocks and minerals for both teachers and students. such as: n n n n geology for kids soil composition diagram mineral identification careers in geosciences n n n n rocks and minerals of Minnesota interactive rock cycle weathering vs. Under KidsGeo allows children to choose chapters for topics they would like to learn more about. Follow the Geology Online link for educational chapters or the Geology Games link to play a fun Rock Types game.kidsgeo. Students can become an official Geodetective and receive a free patch from the Park Service by learning three new things about geology. Be aware that some sites may not be educational or intended for the elementary classroom. More specific inquiries are recommended. www. erosion local gem and mineral museums Below are some links with excellent resources for students and/or teachers.sciencea-z.

Research/Home Connection: Students can conduct research as a family/home project or in the library/ media center to extend the learning about a topic in one of the Quick Reads or other unit resources. Challenge them to build an organized rock collection by sorting and identifying rocks. 9 www.mii.  ield Trip: Bring students to a rock Have students keep a science journal to record drawings and observations of all their favorite specimens. such as cell phones or tennis rackets. Writing: Invite students to write a first-person narrative from the perspective of a rock going through the rock cycle.Minerals. and to put into perspective the passage of geologic time. Technology: Have students conduct a supervised Internet search to find out what nonliving materials are in familiar objects. or science F center that has an extensive rock collection. Using a rock and mineral guide. Project: Have students survey the classroom looking for items that contain rocks and minerals. such as: www. For example. explain common uses of . Research: Ask each student to bring in one interesting rock. help students identify each rock and its mineral composition.sciencea-z. Brainstorm ways in which students can slow harmful erosion in their community. Arts/Project: Have students make a paperweight by decorating a rock found in their neighborhood. Students might be surprised to find that most things contain some form of nonliving Earth resource. For extensive writing instruction. Several websites. Rocks. including how to write a personal narrative. Guest: Invite a geologist or a mineralogist to the classroom to explain the distinction between minerals and rocks. clear-cutting a forest hillside may cause soil erosion with the next heavy rainfall. Community Service/Field Trip: Bring students to a local natural or developed area to search for examples of human-caused erosion. Runoff from a parking lot may be eroding nearby soil. see . Create a labeled class collection. and Soil UNIT GUIDE Projects and Activities n n n n n n n n n n © Learning A–Z All rights reserved. mineral museum. Instruct them to describe at least two transitions or changes that occurred during the “life” of the rock. Project/Home Connection: Have students collect rocks around their home and neighborhood.