Identifying Fossils Lesson Plan

Unit Plan:

Natural History & Geology

Grade Level:


Common Core Standards:

  • RS.6-8.1. Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts.
  • RS.9-10.3. Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out technical tasks.
  • 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, Technology

Recommended Length/Duration:

45-60 minutes

Learning Goals:

Students will explore the various kinds of fossils associated with different geological periods. Students will learn to use an online research tool.


  1. Have available a variety of fossil samples gathered in the field or as part of a classroom collection.
  2. Introduce the activity by sharing the various fossil samples. Point out noteworthy characteristics, similarities and differences.
  3. Read aloud or have students read independently the introduction on the worksheet. Reinforce the basic inputs of location and shape for identifying fossils.
  4. Introduce the step by step directions for navigating the Paleontology Portal website. Read through these together if necessary.
  5. Have students work in pairs or independently to identify their samples using the Paleontology Portal tools. The teacher should circulate to help direct the inquiry and trouble shoot technical problems.
  6. Have students fill out their worksheets as they work through the identification process.
  7. Once most students have identified their sample, have them share their findings. If any students were unable to make a positive identification, discuss the features that created problems for them.


Worksheets can be evaluated for completeness and accuracy.


Fossil samples, Access to internet, Fossil Identification worksheet

Special Considerations:

Some fossils may be impossible to positively identify. Be prepared with alternative samples so that everyone will be able to work through the search guide successfully.


Students may want to identify additional fossil samples. The Paleontology Portal website has many other features that students may wish to explore;