Types of Volcanoes

Contributor: Samantha Penna. Lesson ID: 11769

Can you imagine a river made of fire, or a mountain making its own fireworks display? Volcanoes usually look peaceful, but when they wake up, look out! Watch videos and make your own (safe) volcano!


Earth Science

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personality style
Grade Level
Primary (K-2)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever seen a mountain blow its top?
  • Did you know rocks could get so hot they melt?

Watch some of nature's most powerful explosions!

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Volcanoes are shaped like innocent mountains or hills, but watch out!

They have craters or vents where lava, smoke, and rock emerge. When lava is under the surface of a volcano, it is called magma.

volcano eruption

Volcanoes can be found in many places around the world.

  • Can you think of a place on the earth with a volcano?

Volcanoes can be found in many different countries and even underwater. Look at this map of volcanos worldwide.

map of volcanoes on the earth

There are three types of volcanoes.

A composite volcano (also known as a stratovolcano) is a type of volcano you may recognize. These volcanoes have steep sides and are cone-shaped.

Composite volcanoes have craters at the very top. The crater is where the lava, rock, and smoke erupt when the volcano erupts.

You will find cinders (ash and stone) and flowing lava inside a composite volcano. Composite volcanoes have explosive eruptions.

The picture below shows Mt. Fuji, a composite volcano located in Japan.

Mt. Fuji

A second type of volcano is the cinder cone volcano.

A cinder volcano is shaped like a hill. They are not nearly as steep as composite volcanoes.

Cinder cone volcanoes are shaped by volcanic debris from previous eruptions. This type of volcano usually has a large, bowl-shaped crater.

Cinder cone volcanoes only erupt once and do not have strong eruptions.

The picture below shows the Capulin Volcano in New Mexico.

Capulin Volcano

The third volcano is the shield volcano.

If you were to look down from above onto a shield volcano, it would look like a warrior's shield. Shield volcanoes are cone-shaped, but their slopes are not very steep.

This volcano has many vents (pathways) where flowing lava can be found. When a shield volcano erupts, all the lava flows out of the top and forms multiple different rivers of lava that head down the volcano's slope.

The shield volcano Erta Ale can be found in Ethiopia.

Erta Ale

  • Did you know there are three types of volcanoes?
  • Which volcano has the steepest slope and stands the tallest out of all three types?

Move to the Got It? section to see volcanoes in action!

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