I really enjoyed teaching a unit earlier this year on rocks and minerals. I taught my students the following song, and it really helped them remember the three types of rocks:
Rock Cycle Song (Tune: Row Row Row Your Boat)
has been formed in layers
Often found near water sources
with fossils from decayers.
Then there's igneous rock
here since Earth was born
molten lava, cooled and hardened
that is how it's formed.
These two types of rocks
can also be transformed
with pressure, heat, and chemicals
metamorphic they'll become.
Visit this link for an awesome learning focused unit on rocks. You will have to scroll down a bit to find it. There are other great learning focused units there as well.
As an introduction to our unit, I gave each student a plastic bag and asked them to collect 5-6 small-medium sized rocks. I asked them to try to find and bring in rocks that looked different. On the first day, have students take out their rocks and list all characteristics of their rocks that they observe in their science journals and draw a sketch of them. Have several places around the room labeled with a different characteristic such as, heavy, shiny, dull, etc...and have your students sort them rocks into the most fitting category (some may fit in more than one place).
To end the unit, we made model rocks with sand, gravel, and white glue. Give each student a piece of newspaper and a piece of wax paper to put on top. Give each student a small plastic cup and fill it with a spoon full of sand. Then, give them a little spoon full of gravel. Have your students add a litte water to get their materials to stick together and then add white glue a little by little until the materials clump together. Pour the mixture on wax paper and let it dry for a couple of days! Voila! You have a rock!
Other activities we did:
1) To help students understand what rocks are made of, I give them a chocolate chip cookie. I explained that rocks are made of minerals or smaller pieces. The chocolate chips and nuts (depending on what type of cookie you use) are the minerals that make up the rock.
2) To reinforce each type of rock, we sampled three types of chocolate candy (kit kat-sedimentary rock, Snickers-metamorphic, and Musketeers-Igneous)
3) To demonstrate the rock cycle, give students two pieces of playdough. Have them form the sedimentary rock by making layers and putting them on top of each other. Then, have them press the playdough together with pressure (and heat) to make a metamorphic rock. To help them understand igneous, ask them what happens to play dough if you leave it out over night? This is how igneous rocks are formed. Lava cools off and becomes hard!
4) We observed properties of different types of rocks and minerals and recorded observations, sorted based on properties, and compared how they were alike and different in our science journals.
5) We also learned about different ways to identify minerals by using streak, luster, color, magnetism, and hardness tests. Then, we try to use those tests to identify a "mystery" mineral.
Do any of you study rocks and minerals in your classrooms? What sort of activities have you used?