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Grade 6 | Informative | Source-Based

Source Lexile®: 1040L-1160L

Learning Standards




Prompt: Today you will learn about rocks by reading two articles, "Collecting Rocks," and "Xenolith." In an essay, explain how each source uses explanations, examples, and/or descriptions to help accomplish its purpose. Support your response with evidence from each source.




Source 1

Collecting Rocks

by Rachel M. Barker


Types of Rocks


  1. Geologists classify rocks in three groups, according to the major Earth processes that formed them. The three rock groups are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks. Anyone who wishes to collect rocks should become familiar with the characteristics of these three rock groups. Knowing how a geologist classifies rocks is important if you want to transform a random group of rock specimens into a true collection.
  2. Igneous rocks are formed from melted rock that has cooled and solidified. When rocks are buried deep within the Earth, they melt because of the high pressure and temperature; the molten rock (called magma) can then flow upward or even be erupted from a volcano onto the Earth's surface. When magma cools slowly, usually at depths of thousands of feet, crystals grow from the molten liquid, and a coarse-grained rock forms. When magma cools rapidly, usually at or near the Earth's surface, the crystals are extremely small, and a fine-grained rock results. A wide variety of rocks are formed by different cooling rates and different chemical compositions of the original magma. Obsidian (volcanic glass), granite, basalt, and andesite porphyry are four of the many types of igneous rock.
  3. Sedimentary rocks are formed at the surface of the Earth, either in water or on land. They are layered accumulations of sediments-fragments of rocks, minerals, or animal or plant material. Temperatures and pressures are low at the Earth's surface, and sedimentary rocks show this fact by their appearance and the minerals they contain. Most sedimentary rocks become cemented together by minerals and chemicals or are held together by electrical attraction; some, however, remain loose and unconsolidated. The layers are normally parallel or nearly parallel to the Earth's surface; if they are at high angles to the surface or are twisted or broken, some kind of Earth movement has occurred since the rock was formed. Sedimentary rocks are forming around us all the time, Sand and gravel on beaches or in river bars look like the sandstone and conglomerate they will become. Compacted and dried mud flats harden into shale. Scuba divers who have seen mud and shells settling on the floors of lagoons find it easy to understand how sedimentary rocks form.
  4. Sometimes sedimentary and igneous rocks are subjected to pressures so intense or heat so high that they are completely changed. They become metamorphic rocks, which form while deeply buried within the Earth's crust. The process of metamorphism does not melt the rocks, but instead transforms them into denser, more compact rocks. New minerals are created either by rearrangement of mineral components or by reactions with fluids that enter the rocks. Some kinds of metamorphic rocks-granite gneiss and biotite schist are two examples-are strongly banded or foliated. (Foliated means the parallel arrangement of certain mineral grains that gives the rock a striped appearance.) Pressure or temperature can even change previously metamorphosed rocks into new types.

From Collecting Rocks by Rachel M. Barker, USGS-Public Domain



Source 2



  1. A xenolith is a piece of rock trapped in another type of rock.
  2. Most of the time, a xenolith is a rock embedded in magma while the magma was cooling. Magma is the molten rock beneath the Earth's crust that emerges as lava during a volcanic eruption. The rock that forms from cooled magma is called igneous rock. Xenoliths are different types of rock embedded in igneous rock.
  3. Xenoliths are torn from deep cracks, or pipes, in the Earth's surface. Magma rises to the Earth's surface through these pipes between the Earth's crust and mantle. As the molten material rises, it tears off bits and pieces of the magma pipe in which it is traveling. These bits and pieces, trapped in the magma but not melting into it, become xenoliths. Crystals that are torn from the sides of magma pipes are called xenocrysts.
  4. As magma erupts or flows from the Earth's surface, it is cooled by exposure to air or water. Lava Cools fairly quickly, and various types of igneous rocks are formed. Xenoliths are usually visible. They have a different color and density than the surrounding igneous rock. Xenoliths can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a football, and as long as several meters.
  5. Xenoliths and xenocrysts are affected by temperature. A xenolith may lose its unique qualities if it melts into the surrounding magma. As it cools, the material may cease being a xenolith at all and become a metamorphic rock. Metamorphic rock is a rock that has changed from one form (sedimentary or igneous) to another.
  6. Xenoliths and xenocrysts are often identified by the names of the two rock types involved. A peridotite xenolith in a basaltic lava flow, for instance, means a chunk of the rock peridotite is embedded in basalt rock. The peridotite is usually yellow and dense, while the basalt is usually grey and light.
  7. Xenoliths and xenocrysts provide valuable information about the geology of the Earth's mantle. Scientists study the chemical properties of xenoliths to understand the depth at which they were formed. Many xenocrysts were created hundreds of kilometers within the Earth, far below the deepest mines and wells. The information about the condition of the mantle at these depths would be impossible to understand without xenoliths and xenocrysts. Some of the features studied by geologists are temperature, pressure, construction, and movement within the Earth's surface.
  8. Xenoliths can be a piece of rock trapped in a piece of sedimentary rock, but this is rare. Xenoliths have also been found in meteorites, or rocks from outer space that have crashed into Earth. The xenoliths in meteorites were formed from collisions with other objects outside the Earth's atmosphere.

"Xenolith" from National Geographic Education, Copyright (C) by National Geographic Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved (G) Gerald Rhemann. Used by permission.








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