How I Taught Geologic Time Scale

If you have ever been given the task to teach Geologic Time Scale, then you know that sometimes it is not the most interesting lesson. There are tons of large words and abstract time that are hard to fathom. Knowing that this is the first time my students had ever heard of the concept, I set out to make it as interesting and interactive as I could. I pulled from several sources and I think I came up with a good game-plan.

PLEASE NOTE: Now I know that for 5e style lesson plans you are supposed to have an investigation at the beginning and flip the traditional way of teaching. However, for this lesson, in particular, I did not follow that format. 

The Kick-Off

I knew in order to gain some engagement I needed to get the students making connections (other than dangling the ideas of dinosaurs in front of them). So, I came up with a personal timeline competition. I set a timer for fifteen minutes and I gave them directions to make a timeline of their life on register tape. At the end of fifteen minutes students, who are sitting in house groups, voted for the best in their group and that timeline went head-to-head against the other house groups. If their timeline got chosen, they got points for their house (we have a house system that we are kicking off at our school).


This simple activity gave students a chance to share their lives and experiences, while also making a connection to time. Time for humans is very short, but geologic time is long, to say the least. It went great in all of my classes and the timeline was something that we built/referred to as the lesson continued.

Notes, Activities and Exit Tickets…oh my!

For my notes about the geologic time scale, I turned to Kesler Science. I love Kesler science and the way his stuff is presented. Although some of his labs are a bit too complex for my sixth graders. This resource, however, did not disappoint.


I purchased the complete 5e lesson plan, but I ended up not using his station activities this time. I simply ran out of time with my pacing guide and had another interesting activity to use instead.

What I did use was his amazing powerpoint. I really like the way his powerpoints are set up. He explains concepts, provides guided questions and then a quick activity to have students complete. It breaks up the monotony of notes and helps to check for understanding as you go.

I did tweak this powerpoint a bit by going through and underlining key words for the provided modified notes. I also created a recording sheet for the quick activities and made the end questions an exit ticket. If you would like that recording sheet to use let me know 🙂

After we took notes I wanted my students to have some visuals for the geologic time scale. I used the chart of the geologic time scale, provided as a homework assignment the Kesler lesson, for the students to color code and put in their notebook.


I also created a set of doodle notes to reemphasize the four main eras of geologic time. This was a piece of prior knowledge students needed for our next activity – THE AMAZING RACE.

Final Project – The Amazing Race


While looking for resources to use for the geologic time scale, I found an awesome idea based on the amazing race. It is basically a research project where students research information about the eras and periods in the geologic time scale. Students are in essence racing through time. As they finish researching each particular period they collect destination flags – similar to the tv show. They also have roadblocks at different times called time travel cards. Once they complete the task, they collect a roaming gnome.


At first, I was very excited, but nervous about how this would work. My students ended up loving it and were “tricked” into doing some amazing research. I highly recommend this activity as a culminating project.

Of course in true Jessi fashion, I created a powerpoint with a timer. It contained the logo of the amazing race, as well as, the theme song. It really set the stage for students to be excited and focus in on the tasks for the day.

Final Thoughts!

I am so pleased with how this lesson turned out. It is definitely something that I will use in years to come. If you would like more information about any of the products mentioned simply click the images above for that resource. I have hyperlinked all the images to take you to the products.

Do you have any other awesome ideas to use when teaching geologic time? Please let me know in the comments below.


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