Teaching Fast and Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface Fourth Grade

Fast and slow changes posters help kids understand changes to Earth’s surface. To improve conceptualization, add hands-on earth science activities.

Ms. Sneed Teaches Fast and Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, stood at the color copy machine. One by one, the earth science posters emerged:

  • weathering
  • erosion
  • deposition
  • earthquake
  • volcano
  • landslide
  • tsunami

Ms. Sneed’s teaching partner, Mr. Frank, walked up behind her. “Looks like someone’s teaching fast and slow changes to Earth’s surface.”

“Want me to make you a copy?”

“Sure do! I’m ready to get started with the slow changes activities. Within a few weeks, my kids will also work on activities related to fast changes: mapping volcanoes and reducing impacts of natural disasters.”

Focusing on Slow Changes

The following day, both teachers referred to the posters as they taught. First, they defined weathering. Next, they moved on to erosion. Finally, they discussed deposition.

Three posters - weathering, erosion, and deposition - help kids conceptualize slow changes to Earth's surface.

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After their students had some background information, the teachers set up some slow changes activities. Using DIY erosion tables, kids experimented with sand, water, and much more.

Focusing on Fast Changes

A week or so later, the teachers added four new posters. As their students listened, they introduced earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and tsunamis.

Four posters help teach fast and slow changes to Earth's surface - earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and tsunamis.

To delve deeper, the students used their latitude and longitude skills. Given 27 coordinates, they plotted notable volcanoes of the 21st century to locate the Ring of Fire.

For the grand finale, the teachers added a series of engineering design activities. Kids learned to define a problem with criteria and constraints, brainstorm solutions, build prototypes, and more. Since each activity dealt with one fast change scenario, they learned more about earth science too.

Assessing Fast and Slow Changes to Earth’s Surface


After all earth science activities had been completed, Mr. Frank and Ms. Sneed distributed flashcards.

Before kids took their flashcards home to study, they played a game. In small groups, students took turns holding cards up to their foreheads. The group members could see the term, but they couldn’t. As group members shouted out hints, the student guessed the term.

“Hey,” said one student, “this is like Head Banz.”

“Yep,” replied the teacher, “and after this, you won’t need much studying.” That game really reinforced the vocabulary!

To review fast and slow changes, kids use flash cards.
Assessing Fast and Slow Changes

The following day, the kids took the test.

Kids take a test to assess their knowledge of fast and slow changes to Earth's surface.

Later that day, as Ms. Sneed graded the assessments, that famous teacher smile spread across her face. “Yep! They aced it!”

Enjoy Teaching

For more than 30 years, I enjoyed teaching upper elementary students – mostly fourth grade. Now I tell my tales through a fictitious educator, Ms. Sneed. Like you, she grapples with day-to-day classroom challenges. And like you, she meets those challenges head-on. Hopefully, each of her stories will give you some ideas and inspiration.

Brenda Kovich
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