How About Teaching Science with Literacy? - Weathering Lesson

Science and Children Andrew West, Kelsey Sullivan, Jana Kirchner
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Activity , Lesson/Lesson Plan , Model
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This resource includes a three-dimensional weathering lesson embedded in an article describing strategies for whiteboard use in the classroom. Students engage in a group/class discussion as they explain how rocks change over timebefore modeling changes to earth's surface by wind, water, ice, and life. Their observations become the evidence used to explain changes these agents cause to earth's landscapes. Literacy as it relates to science writing is connected to extensively throughout the lesson, focusing on the use of sentence starters and whiteboards to help students both construct and communicate their thinking.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
Access Restrictions

Available by subscription - The right to view and/or download material, often for a set period of time, by way of a financial agreement between rights holders and authorized users.

Performance Expectations

4-ESS2-1 Make observations and/or measurements to provide evidence of the effects of weathering or the rate of erosion by water, ice, wind, or vegetation.

Clarification Statement: Examples of variables to test could include angle of slope in the downhill movement of water, amount of vegetation, speed of wind, relative rate of deposition, cycles of freezing and thawing of water, cycles of heating and cooling, and volume of water flow.

Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single form of weathering or erosion.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
While Performance Expectation 4-ESS1-1 is explicitly stated as the focus of this lesson, the resource is a much better fit for 4-ESS2-1. In order to fully address this Performance Expectation students could observe changes in the school landscape after a wind or rain event; possibly documenting such changes to their school's landscape over time. Classrooms might also take a "neighborhood field trip," observing areas where weathering is evident. The lesson might also be extended to explore the role of rainfall in a region and its relationship to the different weathering processes.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students are expected to construct explanations connecting the weathering agent being investigated to the changes they see in their models. From here, students might apply their observations and new found understanding to photos of rock formations and landscapes, then construct explanations about what events might have caused the rock formation to change over time. The photos should represent events similar to the phenomenon explored in class. The explanations generated from these photos will establish observed relationships, and provide evidence in support of or to refute claims made.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
As a prelude to the lesson, the teacher may use guided questioning to elicit ways that weathering occurs. As responses are listed on class whiteboard, students would be asked to provide evidence for their choices. Once lesson has concluded, students could refer to class whiteboard, explaining or refuting evidence garnered from lesson.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Students could observe before/after photos, videos, of the effects of weathering. They could also analyze their own illustrations during discussions about possible cause/effect landscape changes. Students might realize how rock formations change in shape; teacher guidance/questioning might be needed to help students to understand ways in which solid rock may weather into grains of sand. (The topic of erosion is not introduced in this lesson.) Concept of cause/effect relationships might be reinforced during teacher presented videos discussed in the resource.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Although the focus of the resource appears to be on the use of whiteboards, it does allow students to create weathering models and express their ideas about ways landscapes (rocks) may change. The concept of weathering and how it affects the earth's landscape is reinforced for students through their hands-on activities. The focus of the lesson supports students in making sense of the phenomena of weathering and allows them to observe landscape changes through their simulations. The alignment is strong because it enables students to make a claim and provide evidence based on initial observational data, engage in a student-centered investigation, revise claims and determine next steps.

  • Instructional Supports: Students are provided with the opportunity to express, clarify, (with teacher modeling) and justify their ideas. Students are engaged in real-life, meaningful simulations involving weathering, responding both orally and in written form as they represent their ideas. Teachers are provided with many explicit examples of ways to elicit student in-depth responses, however, differentiation of instruction strategies are not included. It could be helpful to struggling students if sentence frames were implemented, as lengthy whiteboard responses might be difficult for some students. Teachers might choose to use "Weathering and Erosion", a unit listed on NSTA/NGSS Hub site, as a cross-reference to this resource. See

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Teachers may strengthen student understanding as the science content is clarified during class discussion. (See Instructional Supports) Formative assessment occurs as students share their thoughts in real time and is provided in the form of an "exit slip", in which students apply what they have learned in the weathering lesson Copies of the "exit slip" as well as PowerPoint resources, while depicted in the lesson, are not referenced or provided as a download for teachers. Teachers may create their own "exit slip", using appropriate photos with similar written content.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This lesson does not include technological interactivity for students.