Fossils Mini-Lesson

Objective: Students will learn what fossils are and will begin to get an idea of how they form a picture of the past.

Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Teacher Background

Fossils are the remains or evidence of animals or plants that have been preserved naturally. They range in size from huge dinosaur skeletons to MORE

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Print or Project

  1. A Visual Overview: Show the slideshow of photos to your class. Each has a descriptive caption and kid-friendly copy for your students to read. (Please note that there is also more extensive teacher note copy just for you.)
  2. Creative Caption Review: Once you've been through the slideshow for an overview, go back through it again. This time ask students to explain why the captions do (or do not!) work. (Example: Do you think the caption "Only Bones?" is a good one for the slide showing the insect trapped in amber? Why or why not?)

Click the thumbnail slides below to see the captions and kid-friendly copy up close.

  1. Continue the Conversation: Ask students if they've ever seen a recreation of a dinosaur in a museum. Remind them that paleontologists don't really know what dinosaurs looked like when they were alive; however, they make educated guesses with the information they have to help artists make "best guesses" about the dinosaurs' appearances.
  2. Write about it: Have students pretend they are the paleontologist who identified the first living coelacanth that was caught in 1938. Ask them to write a letter to a fellow scientist telling him or her the news!

Extension Activities

Reinforcements: These worksheets will be useful as you further develop your teaching unit. The Word Power worksheet will give your students vocabulary practice with key terms from this mini-lesson and the related activity will help reinforce key concepts on fossils.


Fossils Word Power
Grade: 4 - 6
Students practice earth science vocabulary relevant to fossils by using each defined word in a sentence.



Making Model Fossils
Grade: 5 - 8
Students learn about fossils and how they are created. They use plaster to make their own fossils.



Excerpted from:

Eyewitness: Fossil

Stunning real-life photographs of the spectacular remains of ancient lives offer a unique "eyewitness" view of what fossils are, how they were formed, and how they lived millions of years ago.

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