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Rock Classification
 Know the three types of rocks, how they are formed, and the characteristics unique to each type of rock


In this activity, you will:

 Look at rock samples and a key that will help you classify them.
 Classify the rock samples. The rocks are igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.

QUESTION:_How would you identify rocks based on their characteristics?



 hand lens, 24 rock samples, cup, water


1. Compare and Contrast

How are igneous and metamorphic rocks alike?

How can you tell igneous and metamorphic rocks apart?

2. Analyze Examine a sedimentary rock sample in which you can see particles that are held together. In
addition to sight, what other sense could help you classify the rock?
Observe and Analyze
1. Students must correctly classify the rock samples as igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic using the
classification key.
Sample data: 1, mineral crystals and speckled, igneous; 2, sea fossils, sedimentary; 3, wavy bands and shiny,
2. Students could have experienced some difficulty in matching the characteristics of their samples exactly to
the descriptions in the key. Samples that did not fit easily into a category will vary depending on the samples
Accept all reasonable suggestions for improving the key.
1. Igneous and metamorphic rocks are similar in that they are both made of mineral crystals that fit tightly
together and may be large enough to see without magnification.
The minerals in metamorphic rocks tend to be lined up in bands or layers, or metamorphic rocks tend to be
2. Touch could help identify a sedimentary rock made of relatively large particles.
3. Answers will vary from student to student.
A key for a music collection might start with questions such as what type of music it is, when it was recorded,
or who the recording artist is.
Lab Preparation
 Copy and distribute the Rock Classification Key to each group of students. Review how to use it.
 You might increase the number of rock samples to ten, if possible. Do not use slate (too similar to shale)
or limestone (can be difficult to identify without testing with hydrochloric acid).
 Prior to the investigation, have students read through the investigation and prepare their data tables. Or
you may wish to copy and distribute datasheets and rubrics.
Lab Management
INCLUSION Encourage students with vision impairments to handle the rock samples to feel their textures.
 Remind students that visual properties include size of particles or mineral
 If students do not understand how to use the classification key, demonstrate the process with one rock
Knowledge Targets:
· Know what a dichotomous key is and its purpose
· Know the three types of rocks, how they are formed, and the characteristics unique to each type of rock
· Know the rock cycle and how the three forms of rock can change into each other
· Know that minerals are the building blocks of rocks, have unique properties, and are valuable resources
· Know the difference between chemical and mechanical weathering
· Erosion shapes the earth by water, wind, and ice
Add Skills Targets

Skills Targets:
· Use scientific tests to identify rocks and minerals
· Demonstrate an understanding of how rocks an minerals are used in real life situations
Add Reasoning Targets

Reasoning Targets:
· Using deductive reasoning, classify and identify rocks using a dichotomous key
· Connect the purpose of rocks and minerals with their characteristics
· Make a connection about the relationship between rocks and minerals and understand how different combinations of each determine
the different type of rock formed
· Investigate and research examples where natural forces on or within the earth are changing or have changed rocks through the rock
cycle. Identify these natural forces and explain their roles in the rock cycle.