Earthquake Volcanoes Tectonic Plates Plotting Activity Distance Learning

Sunrise Science
Grade Levels
6th - 8th, Homeschool
Formats Included
  • PDF
  • Google Apps™
58 pages
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Sunrise Science
Includes Google Apps™
The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).

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This activity will help your students to discover the relationship between the location of Earth’s earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tectonic plate boundaries. Most activities of this nature require students to plot the earthquakes and volcanoes using latitude and longitude coordinates, but for this version, students will use a simple X-Y grid to plot 30 different earthquakes and 9 different volcanic eruptions.

***UPDATED December 2020: This activity now includes a differentiated Google Slides Digital Version!!!***

Students will choose two colors to represent earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.0 or greater and those with magnitudes of less than 8.0. All of the 30 earthquakes included on the list were of magnitude 6.7 or greater. Their dates and locations are also included. For the volcanic eruptions, students will use a triangle symbol ( ▲  ) on their maps.

There are three differentiated versions of the maps and earthquake lists to accommodate your different learners.

For the second part of the activity, students will trace the Earth's tectonic plate boundaries onto their maps and make at least three observations of their map. They should notice that the earthquakes occur over or very close to the boundaries, that many of the strongest earthquakes happened along the coast of Chile and in Indonesia. They should notice that many of the plotted quakes appear to be in lines, that many occurred along the edges of continents, and that certain places do not have any major earthquakes, like Africa and Northeastern America.

Next, students will write an argument supported by evidence to respond to this claim: There is a strong relationship between earthquakes and the earth’s tectonic plates. The students should use their own Plotted Earthquake Map as well as the Plate Boundaries map included on the assignment page to support their argument with evidence.

For the next part of the activity, students should plot the volcanic eruptions from the data table. These are 9 of the most deadly or destructive volcanic eruptions in history and make at least three observations about their locations. Lastly, play the suggested video clip to show the students the location of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The students should use a highlighter to highlight the Ring of Fire and use this to answer two questions about the types of plate boundaries most prevalent around the Ring of Fire. 

I made this activity for my 6th graders and the differentiated versions helped me to facilitate this lesson with all of my students at the same time without having some students blow way ahead of the others and without some students taking a lot longer to plot the points than others and feeling frustrated. At the end of the activity, everyone understood the big ideas and had a map that they felt proud of!

This resource now includes links to make copies of the black diamond (highest), blue square (medium), and green circle (lowest) DIGITAL GOOGLE SLIDES versions of this activity. These versions have been designed in Google Slides and can be facilitated through your Google Classroom!

You may also be interested in these resources:

Earth's Interior and Plate Tectonics Digital Distance Learning Unit

Plate Tectonics Cornell Doodle Notes and Presentation

Plate Tectonics Abracadabra Pixel Art Digital Review Activity

Thanks for looking!

Sunrise Science

Total Pages
58 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
90 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth’s surface at varying time and spatial scales. Emphasis is on how processes change Earth’s surface at time and spatial scales that can be large (such as slow plate motions or the uplift of large mountain ranges) or small (such as rapid landslides or microscopic geochemical reactions), and how many geoscience processes (such as earthquakes, volcanoes, and meteor impacts) usually behave gradually but are punctuated by catastrophic events. Examples of geoscience processes include surface weathering and deposition by the movements of water, ice, and wind. Emphasis is on geoscience processes that shape local geographic features, where appropriate.


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