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How Fossils Form

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: Natural History & Geology

Grade Level: 6-12

Common Core Standards
RS.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
RS.9-10.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context.

Content Areas: Science, Reading

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals: Students will be introduced to the various ways fossils are formed. Students will gain an understanding of geological time.


  1. Ask students to define the term "fossil." Accept all reasonable suggestions and guide the discussion to include fossils from different times and formed in different ways. If possible, having some fossil samples would help stimulate the discussion.
  2. Once all the class's ideas are expressed, introduce the definition provided on the worksheet. Point out that most living organisms decompose when they die. Soft parts (e.g. skin, muscle tissue, leaves) decompose quickly, while hard parts (e.g. bone, shell, woody stems) decompose more slowly.
  3. Have students read the article independently, in pairs, or as a whole class.
  4. Have students answer the questions on the worksheet following the reading.
  5. When students have finished answering the questions, discuss their responses. Have them add or revise their own responses during the discussion.

Assessments: Evaluate worksheets for accuracy and completeness.

How Fossils Form worksheets (pdf); Fossil samples (optional)

Special Considerations: Weak readers may benefit from supportive grouping, pre-reading, or reading aloud.

Extensions: Students may be interested in learning more about and doing a mini research project on a particular type of fossil.
Students may want to learn about the fossils that are most common in their location or a particularly unusual local fossil (e.g. Charlotte Whale).