Earthquakes and Volcanoes


Earthquakes and Volcanoes introduces students to the causes and effects for both of these natural phenomena. Students will discover many facts about each of these disasters and will be able to explain what causes an earthquake or volcano. They will learn several related terms as well.

The “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page provides a number of additional suggestions for things you can do during the lesson. One such suggestion is to have students build a model of a volcano to present to the class. Another option is to assign students historical volcanic eruptions or earthquakes to research and present to the class.

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What our Earthquakes and Volcanoes lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Earthquakes and Volcanoes explores the causes and effects of these two natural disasters. Students will learn the causes and effects and will be able to explain which ones relate to which disaster. They will discover many facts throughout the lesson, as well as important vocabulary that relate to earthquakes and volcanoes. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. For this lesson, you will simply need colored pencils in addition to the handouts. You may also, however, review some videos involving these natural disasters to show students throughout the lesson if you want to.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add or substitutions to make for activities already in the lesson. For the Earthquakes and Volcanoes lesson plan, these options include assigning students to build a model volcano to present to the class. You could make this an in-class assignment as opposed to an at-home project and have students work with partners or in groups. Another suggestion is to have students build a model of a house and demonstrate the effects of an earthquake on the home. You could plan a volcano and earthquake week that involves showing a different video related to the subject every day. You could also have students research specific events involving one of these two natural disasters and present their findings to the class.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page adds an extra paragraph of information for you to use. It states a few extra guidelines and ideas to help you as you administer the lesson plan to your students. Depending on where you live, your students may have felt an earthquake or tremors. Along the same lines, you might live near a volcano. If you can, use this to your advantage as you talk to students about these natural disasters. There are also several empty lines that you can use to write additional notes for your lesson.



The Earthquakes and Volcanoes lesson plan contains three content pages. Students will first learn about earthquakes and define related terms, such as tremor, faults or fault lines, and epicenter. They will discover, for instance, that the ground is always moving. While they may not be able to feel the movement, the earth’s crust constantly moves, more often in some places than in others. The cracks in the earth’s crust are called fault lines. A diagram on the first page labels the parts of an earthquake.

Students will discover the concept of magnitude as well. A seismograph records the motion of the earth’s crust all over the world and can thus measure the size, or magnitude, of an earthquake. If the magnitude is high, there will likely be much more damage in any affected areas. Earthquakes with lower magnitudes usually generate less damage. Students will also recognize how a single earthquake can affect the surface of the earth hundreds of miles from the epicenter. If an earthquake occurs under water, it can cause a tsunami. A tsunami can cause major damage and flooding if it reaches the coastline.


Next, students will learn about volcanoes, what causes eruptions, and what effects may occur as a result. They will learn that one effect of an earthquake is that it can be the cause of a volcanic eruption! The lesson defines the terms magma and lava and explains how the two differ from each other. Magma is the hot molten rock deep beneath the surface of the earth. It rises upward and can reach the earth’s surface. When a volcano erupts, the hot liquid rock becomes lava. Magma, then, is the hot liquid rock inside a volcano; lava is the hot liquid rock outside the volcano.

The lesson also describes how scientists classify volcanoes. The three classifications are active, dormant, and extinct. Active means a volcano recently erupted or may possibly erupt again. Dormant means the volcano has not erupted for a very long time, but it’s possible it will erupt in the future. Only extinct volcanoes will never erupt again. Normally, these include volcanoes that have not erupted for thousands of years.

Students will learn that there are about 1500 active volcanoes in the world today. In the United States, you can find volcanoes in Hawaii, California, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington. Students will discover that, similar to how an earthquake can cause a volcano to erupt, a volcano can cause an earthquake or tsunami! It can also cause flash floods, rock falls, mudslides, and avalanches. The last page shows a diagram that labels the different parts of a volcano.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Crust: the top layer of the earth
  • Earthquake: a natural disaster that occurs when blocks of the earth slip past one another and move the earth’s crust
  • Fault/fault line: a crack in the crust
  • Hypocenter: the location below where the earthquake starts
  • Epicenter: the area directly above the hypocenter on the surface of the earth
  • Tremor: a small vibration that follows an earthquake
  • Seismograph: a device that records the motion of the earth’s crust at locations all around the world
  • Magnitude: the size of an earthquake
  • Tsunami: an underwater earthquake that results in a very large ocean wave
  • Volcano: a rupture on the crust of the earth that allows hot lava, volcanic ash, and gases to escape from a magma chamber below the surface
  • Magma: hot, molten rock deep below the earth’s surface
  • Lava: liquid rock (magma) that erupts from the volcano


The Earthquakes and Volcanoes lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their grasp of the material they learned throughout the lesson. You can refer to the classroom procedure guidelines to know when to hand out each worksheet.


There are two worksheets for the activity. For the first worksheet, students will color the volcano on the page and label the different parts. They will then draw a picture below it that shows what the “underneath” of a volcano looks like. You can review the answer key for an idea of what they should draw. Students can also include any other details that they want to.

The second worksheet shows a diagram of an earthquake. Students will label the diagram using the four words in the word bank. They will then color the two pictures of houses below the diagram.


For the practice worksheet, students will read 15 terms. They will mark whether the term relates to an earthquake (E) or a volcano (V). Then, they will write the definition in the space next to it. You can decide whether or not you allow students to reference the content pages when they need help.


The homework assignment lists 12 multiple choice questions. Students must circle the correct answer for each question. You can choose whether or not students can use the content pages for reference.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The final pages of this lesson plan provide answer keys for the worksheets, including the activity. For the activity, the answer key provides a primitive version of what students should do for the volcano. The goal is for them to understand that magma is inside and beneath the volcano. It also outlines where the labels should go. The practice worksheet answer key defines the terms using the information from the content. Students’ answers should reflect these definitions fairly closely. The answer key for the homework assignment highlights the correct answers in red. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade


Science, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1.C, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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