Fossils introduces students to different types of fossils and explains how they form. Students will learn related vocabulary and understand the world of a paleontologist. They will discover how these special rocks help scientists explain the way life was for extinct animals.

There are a few suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you might want to add. One suggestion is to see if students can find other types of fossils by researching them online. You could also have them create plaster-of-Paris fossils as an end-of-lesson activity.

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What our Fossils lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Fossils teaches students how some of these special rocks form and some different types. Students will discover interesting facts about each type and learn some related vocabulary. By the end of the lesson, they will know the traits of various fossils and be able to explain how they form. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th 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 only need a few items: scissors, glue, and construction paper. You also need to ensure you have internet access as students will use it for research during the lesson.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section for the Fossils lesson plan provides a number of extra suggestions or alternative ways to present certain parts. One option is to have students research other examples of different types of fossils and present what they find to the rest of the class. You could also find additional resources to help students build a fossil. This section suggests the plaster-of-Paris method, but there are many others. You can research different methods to decide which is best for your classroom.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on this page offers a little more guidance for the lesson. It mentions how students likely know what fossils are but not necessarily how they form. You may want to teach this lesson in conjunction with the Dinosaurs lesson plan as they relate well to each other. The extra lines on this page give you space to write any extra notes you have before you present the lesson to your students.


Background Information

The Fossils lesson plan contains four pages of content. The first page provides students with some background information. It describes how fossils include more than just old bones. In fact, there are several types that are not bones and form in different ways. The first page also discusses the study of the past, or paleontology, and the scientists who study in this field. They study fossils simply to learn about a plant’s or animal’s life from the past and discover other information about Earth.

Students will learn that many fossils are the remains of plants or animals that are extinct, or that no longer exist on the earth today. Scientists have found them all over the world, on every continent, and in a variety of conditions. This includes in mountains, under water, in valleys, in ice, and so many more places. Students will discover that many paleontologists estimate that only a small percentage of animals or plants have been or ever will be found in fossil form. In other words, they don’t believe most animals or plants that lived ages ago have surviving fossils. This could be a good research point for students to learn even more.

Types of Fossils

The next few pages describe a few types of fossils and how they form. The first group includes the remains of dead organisms or the imprints such organisms left behind. The second involves trace fossils, or things that an animal made while it was living and that have since turned to stone. The third group is mummified animals. Each section provides examples of each specific type of fossil and explains what makes each group unique.


Students will learn that this group undergoes a process science calls fossilization. Bones and teeth are hard mineral parts that become fossils after an animal dies. They are unlike the rest of the animal’s body. After a long time, the chemicals in the body undergo a number of changes. Other parts of the body eventually deteriorate and leave behind the skeletal pieces. Students will learn that as a bone slowly decays, water that contains minerals seeps into the bone. It actually replaces the chemicals in the bone with other minerals that are hard as rock. It is then a fossil! This process explains why bones look different when they are old.

By the end, students will understand the many different ways a fossil can form. The most common method to preserve something that died is fossilization. This is when minerals fill empty spaces in plants and animals and harden. This process preserves the shape of the original plant or animal. The least common, but most effective method, is mummification in ice.


The second category involves things that animals made while they were living but that turned into stone. There are a few types of trace fossils: animal tracks, animal waste, and animal eggs. Students will discover what scientists can learn when they find any of these types. From animal tracks, paleontologists can study the speed, stride, number of feet, and bone structure of the foot of that animal. For instance, if they found the tracks of a T-Rex, they would know that it walks on two legs and had a stride of 12 to 15 feet! They would even learn that the T-Rex walked on its toes and not its full foot. In addition, they would learn about the behavior of that animal, such as whether or not they lived in herds and how they carried their tail.

From animal waste, scientists learn about the animal’s diet, including whether or not something they ate might have led to that animal’s demise. It also helps them explain the area in which the animal lived. From eggs, they can discover which animal the egg is for. If an egg contains the developing parts of a dinosaur, they can match it to the correct type of dinosaur. These eggs range in size anywhere from 3 to 21 inches!


The third group of fossils includes mummified animals. This process happens when the soft tissues of an animal’s skin and organs remain after thousands of years. This would require that something preserve the body long enough for these tissues to dry completely. Scientists find these types of fossils, including humans, in arid or dry parts of the world. Otzi the Iceman is a famous, well-preserved mummy of a man who lived over 5,000 years ago. In 1991, paleontologists discovered him along with some of his belongings in a block of ice. These artifacts help scientists learn how people might have lived long ago.

Key Terms

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

  • Fossils: the remains of plants and animals that lived a long time ago
  • Extinct: when something no longer exists, such as when a certain animal species dies off and there are none left on the earth
  • Paleontology: the study of fossils and life from long ago
  • Paleontologist: the people who study the past
  • Fossilization: the process of a dead organism becoming a fossil
  • Trace fossils: something that may have been left behind by an animal while it was alive but has since turned to stone
  • Sedimentary rock: rock that forms from sediment like sand, mud, and smaller pieces of rock


The Fossils lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each of these handouts helps reinforce students’ understanding of the material. Refer to the classroom procedure guide, which outlines when to hand out each worksheet. The answer keys for the worksheets are at the end of the lesson plan.


For the activity, students will cut out the pictures and labels of different fossils. They will then match the image to the correct label and glue them onto a piece of construction paper. After doing a little research, they will add information that describes each fossil.


The practice worksheet contains 12 multiple choice questions. Students will read through each statement or question and circle the correct answers. You can decide whether or not you allow them to use the content pages for help.


There are two sections of the homework worksheet. The first section requires students to number the steps of fossilization in order. For the second section, students must match terms in a word bank to the statements they describe. There are six terms but 10 statements, so they will use some terms more than once.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Science, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.6, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.5, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.6.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.9

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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Geological Time

This is a great resource to reinforce index fossils.

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Great Resource

These lessons are great to use as supplemental sources to teach concepts. I love that they provide reading passages, assessments, and a video!

United States United States


This was a good unit study. Great use of variety to keep interest up.


Fossils for 4th grade

Awesome resource for my STEM students. They LOVE using Learn Bright. Interesting, informative, and comprehensive. I will ABSOLUTELY be back for more topics. *Teacher Hack* I turned the worksheets into a Google form quiz - automatically graded assignment!


Great Lesson PLans

The information went right along with my standards and helped my students fill in the missing information that they needed. Thanks