Identifying Types of Soil

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12448

Is soil just plain old dirt, just there to hold you up? There are different types of soil based on the size of the particles that make it up. Go outside and get to know the soil in your neighborhood!


Earth Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • When you walk on the beach or the shore, do you know you are still walking on soil?
  • How can you tell what kind of soil you are seeing?

Soil looks different because it contains different amounts of minerals, but also different amounts of other materials.

Soil contains three types of particles: sand, silt, and clay. The combination of these three particles defines the soil texture.

  • Have you noticed that soil sometimes feels different?

Clay is the smallest type of particle found in soils. These tiny particles can fit tightly together, leaving very little space in the soil for other substances.


Sand is the largest soil particle, which means you can easily see each grain of sand.


  • Notice how much space between particles in the sand compared to the clay?

This space changes the characteristics of the soil.

Silt, the third type of particle, is larger than clay but smaller than sand.


Soils contain some amount of each of these three types of soil particles.

When the soil has too much sand, water runs through it easily, removing nutrients.

Soils with a high amount of silt are easier to pick up and erode but also are easily pushed together. 

Clay-based soils prevent water from flowing through because of the small particle size. 

A healthy soil combines all three particles so water can move through it slowly, leaving important nutrients and materials in the soil.

Review what you have learned, and write down the soil particles in order of increasing size.

In the Got It? section, you will explore the size of soil particles.

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