Plate Tectonics with Playdoh

I have a giant bin of playdoh that was shared with me from a fellow colleague (gotta love the sharing of materials!). When my ninth graders were studying plate tectonics, I knew I wanted to put the playdoh to use with model making.  If you don’t have playdoh (or clay) to use, you can create your own (perhaps using this recipe), purchase some from the local dollar store, or buy a classpack like this one or this one(I am not currently an Amazon affiliate, I just enjoy their free shipping for prime members which I received at a discount using my graduate student email address.)

There are already a ton of resources for playdoh/clay to be used with plate tectonic explorations.  Before I created my own activity, I tried finding an activity that was already created.  Although I didn’t use the activities I found, I wanted to share the results of my searching with you.  It was definitely one of those “wish I knew about this resource when I began teaching the unit instead of after” moments.

For my purposes, I needed a simple culminating review activity.  To begin with, I created the following vocabulary checklist.

Checklist of Plate Tectonic Terms

I had students work in pairs.  Each pair could create any models to represent the terms on their checklist. Students already had exposure to all of the terms on the checklist, but I allowed them to reference their textbook and notes as needed.

As partners created their models, I walked around (and around and around) and had each pair orally describe how their model (or models) represented the terms.  If I agreed with their representation, I allowed them to cross those terms off their checklist.  Sometimes students would be able to cross off 5 terms and other times they could only cross off one.  It was a great way for students to get instant feedback.

Plate Tectonic Checklist

Here is the Google Doc version so you can download this freebie for yourself.  I used a document so you can edit/change the vocabulary if needed.  It fits two to a page and I only gave one checklist to each pair of student so minimal paper is used.

You can also view the document below.  (For some reason the check-boxes don’t show up in the preview, but they show up in the download.)

I had students spend about 20 minutes on this activity.  In this time, most student did not finish crossing all the words off their checklist.   That was fine with me because they were engaged in review the entire time, which was the point of the activity.

Happy model making!

Mrs. Harris Signature


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