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Lesson Plans
You’ve Got to Be Cool to Make Igneous Rocks

Christopher Ward
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Grade Level
Time Alloment
Three to four 45-minute class periods


This lesson can be used as an introduction to igneous rocks. Students should have familiarity with the rock cycle and the three types of rocks before doing this lesson. It is assumed that students have studied and know the definition of rocks and minerals. Students should have studied what the common rock forming minerals look like. Through selected Web sites and video, students will learn the relationship between the rate of cooling and formation of igneous rocks and the other factors that can determine the type of igneous rock formed. Students will use building blocks to simulate how igneous crystals are formed. Students will experiment with salts on microscope slides and fake snow on a watch glass to see the effects simulated. Students will then develop their own controlled experiment to prove that the rate of cooling does affect the size of crystals. Students will then classify several igneous rocks based on the information they learned. You are supplied with variations and choices of activities to meet the needs of your class.

Learning Activities

Students will be able to:

  • Describe how igneous rocks are formed
  • Design a classification system to group igneous rocks
  • Develop a controlled experiment to prove that the rate of cooling affects the size of the crystals
  • Use the Internet to research information from primary sources
  • Classify the types of igneous rocks
  • Describe how the length of cooling time changes igneous rocks
  • Classify simple igneous rocks based on crystal structure


National Science Education Standards

Content Standard A
As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry and understandings about scientific inquiry.

Content Standard B
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of properties and changes of properties in matter, motions and forces, transfer of energy.

Content Standard D
As a result of their activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop an understanding of structure of the earth system.

Content Standard G
As a result of activities in grades 5-8, all students should develop understanding of science as a human endeavor, the nature of science, the history of science.

Technology Foundation Standards for Students

1. Basic operations and concepts. Students are proficient in the use of technology.

5. Technology research tools. Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

6. Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools. Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions. Students employ technology in the development of strategies for solving problems in the real world.

New York State Standards in Science – Intermediate

Standard 1: Analysis, Inquiry, and Design
Students will use mathematical analysis, scientific inquiry, and engineering design, as appropriate to pose questions, seek answers, and develop solutions. (Scientific Inquiry)

Standard 2: Information Systems
Students will access, generate, process, and transfer information using appropriate technologies.

Standard 4: The Physical Setting
Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science.

Standard 6: Interconnectedness: Common Themes
Students will understand the relationship and common themes that connect mathematics, science, and technology and apply the themes to these and other areas of learning. (Models)

Media Components


Shockwave for the extension activity


Earth Revealed Introductory Geology Episode 6

Web Sites:

Igneous Rocks

This is the University of Saskatchewan Department of Geological Sciences Igneous Rock Web Site. It covers how igneous rocks are formed, how they occur, how they are classified and the minerals they contain. Excellent pictures.

Igneous Rocks and Self-Test

This is the California State University at Long Beach Igneous Rock Web Site. It gives an overview, and talks about the types of igneous rocks. It gives rock pictures and has a quiz at the end.

Rock Cycle

This is the University of British Columbia Introduction to Petrology Web Site. Brief. Nice coverage of the rock cycle and how igneous rocks are classified.

Igneous Rocks

This is the Georgia Perimeter College Igneous Rocks Web Site. Good coverage of all aspects of Igneous rocks with pictures.

Igneous Rock Notes

This is the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Web Site on igneous rocks. Good coverage of all aspects of Igneous rocks with no pictures.

Self-Test for Igneous Rocks

This is the James Madison University Department of Geology and Environmental Science Web Site. Too much information, but there is a nice Igneous Rock Self Test with pictures. This site is for the student who wants more.

The Rock Hound Page for Igneous Rocks

This site is simpler than the rest. Use this for students who may have a difficulty reading or for lower grade classes. The site has good information with pictures and a good animation showing how igneous rocks are formed.


Per class:

  • 400 ml beaker with 300 ml saturated salt solution with 5 eyedroppers – NaCl
  • Ten 250 ml beakers with 100 ml saturated salt solution – CuSO4, 10 strings, 10 pencils, 10 thermometers, 10 copper sulfate crystals, 5 eyedroppers
  • 1 can snow or Christmas spray (to produce artificial snow – not puffy snow)
Per group of 2-4 (in a basket or lab area):
  • Set of Common Igneous Rocks and Minerals in a paper bag (Igneous Rocks: Granite, Rhyolite, Basalt, Obsidian, Gabbro; Minerals: Quartz, Feldspar, Biotite Mica (black). Include other igneous rocks you can find.
  • Paper bag for above
  • 4 magnifying glasses (1 per student)
  • 1 watch glass
  • 6 microscope slides
  • Wax Marking Pencil
  • Metric ruler
  • Bag with 50-100 building blocks and two sheets of paper
  • Microscope or good magnifying lens
  • 1 Web Task sheet per group
Per student:
  • 1 pair safety goggles
  • 1 Student Sheet #1: Rocks
  • 1 Student Sheet #2: Rocks