Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Explain what interstellar dust is and what problems it causes for astronomers conducting observations and gathering data.
- Explain how astronomers are using research into interstellar dust to increase their understanding of the universe.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Determine the meaning of academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Determine the central ideas of the text.
- Construct a written response that clearly establishes the main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the main point, uses transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
In regards to science skills:
- Students should have a solid understanding of stellar evolution. Listed below are some websites, videos and activities that teachers could use with students if review is needed.
- This (Life of a Star) gives a basic description of the life cycle of a star.
- This handout gives a detailed description of stellar evolution and includes an H-R diagram.
- This YouTube video ("Stellar Evolution- Fast Draw Animation") is less than five minutes and is a fast draw animation on stellar evolutions. It is precise and easy to follow.
- Chandra X-Ray Observatory has created a multimedia interactive tutorial on stellar evolution that teachers might wish to use with students.
- Students will also need to have a basic understanding of what interstellar medium is composted of.
- This 3-minute NASA video ("Explaining Interstellar Medium") is an explanation by a professor from the California Institute of Technology.
- For teachers with advanced classes, a great tutorial is available at this website.
- Students should also have a basic understanding of infrared and thermal energy.
- NASA has a website page called SOFIA that gives solid information about the two types of energy.
- This very detailed website from Cool Cosmos has endless photos and information about infrared energy found in the galaxy/universe.
In regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text, including use of context clues and dictionary skills.
- Students should understand the term “central idea” and be able to distinguish central ideas from key details.
- “Central idea” means the same thing as “main idea.” The central idea is the author’s main point about the topic or topics in a text. The central ideas are the dominant, most important, or chief ideas that emerge from all the ideas presented in a text. Students should be aware that the author can have several main points he or she wants to make about the topic or topics in a piece of writing, and as a result, there can be multiple central ideas in a text, especially in longer more complex pieces.
- Key, or in other words, important, details in a text help an author support and develop his or her central ideas.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the NSF article for this lesson include: title, subtitle, headings, and one photograph and caption.
- Based on the writing rubric provided with this lesson, students should be able to respond to a writing prompt in a clear, organized manner that includes use of an introduction to establish the main point(s), a body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and includes relevant and specific textual evidence, and a conclusion that supports the main point(s).
- Students should have some awareness that use of transition words or phrases can help a piece of writing flow smoothly from one point or idea to the next. Teachers might wish to provide students with a sheet of transitions to help them. This site provides transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
1. What is cosmic or interstellar dust?
Fine particles of matter in space. It makes up about 1 percent of the interstellar medium (the "stuff" between the stars).
2. Why does interstellar dust create a problem for astronomers?
It gets in the way by absorbing and scattering the visible light from objects such as far-off galaxies and stars, making them difficult or impossible to observe with optical telescopes. The scattering of dust also creates an effect known as "reddening," and this can trick astronomers into thinking a star is cooler and dimmer than it actually is. Every part of the sky has at least some dust, and even a tiny amount of dust can interfere with astronomical measurements.
3. What are scientists trying to do in order to alleviate the problem known as "reddening"?
Scientists have created a 3-D map of interstellar dust reddening across three quarters of the visible sky. This map will allow astronomers to know when the targets of their observations may be suffering a reddening effect, and how much reddening they can expect. This will allow astronomers to be able to account for the interference and thus acquire more accurate data.
4. Why are astronomers observing and collecting data on interstellar dust? What do they hope to learn?
Astronomers want to learn what might be hiding behind cosmic dust, where cosmic dust comes from, and what cosmic dust is turning into. Some astronomers want to learn how dust comes together at the atomic level, and others want to identify where stars and planets might be forming. Understanding where cosmic dust is, and isn't, can give astronomers a better understanding of what is happening in our galaxy or what might have taken place in the past. With tools like the 3-D dust map combined with other sources of data, astronomers hope to one day solve some of the great cosmic mysteries.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. Begin the lesson by showing the students the following
2. Next, ask the students to describe what they believe they are looking at.
Answers may vary. Clouds, fog, dust or light could be some of their answers.
3. Next, show the following 3-minute video on what interstellar reddening is.
4. Ask the students to share what they learned from the video.
Answers will vary. The teacher could relate reddening to fog. When you are driving in the fog it is recommended to use low beams for your headlights. When you use high beams, the light is reflected back to you, which makes it more difficult to see.
5. End the discussion by informing students that interstellar dust is a constant obstacle for astronomers and that we will be reading an article that addresses these obstacles and how scientists are learning new ways to document and deal with the dust or matter.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article "All We are is Dust in the Interstellar Wind." For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section. They can also number the sections. (Section 1 follows the subtitle, section 2- "A little bit of dust makes a very large problem," section 3- "A necessary nuisance," section 4- "Set your course by the stars...or dust.")
2. Provide each student with a note-taking guide.
3. Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: All We are is Dust in the Interstellar Wind
- Subtitle: NSF-funded researcher creates a map of dust in the Milky Way galaxy
- Headings: A little bit of dust makes a very large problem; A necessary nuisance; Set your course by the stars...or dust
- Caption: Located under the opening photograph
4. Have students fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in a small group. Students should define any words they put in column one. Students should have access to print or online dictionaries. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed note-taking guide, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
2. Teachers can use this sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
3. For discussion on students' answers to the defined vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to not only ask students to explain the meaning they determined for a word, but the strategy they used to arrive at that meaning. This will allow the teacher to provide alternative suggestions as to how the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
Students may believe that interstellar space is empty, but it is not. There is an entire branch of astronomy dedicated to interstellar medium.
Students may also believe that we are able to travel further than we can in space. Students often believe that just because we have a picture of the surface of Mars, that we have been to Mars. Remind students that the majority of the information we receive is due to telescopes.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions to complete. Students should be reminded to continually refer back to the text and to use relevant and specific evidence from the text to support their answers.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for understanding?):
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' answers to the text-dependent questions, checking their work, providing written feedback, and maybe grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
2. Teachers can use the sample answer key at the end of the text-dependent questions document to help them assess students’ answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
1. Before students complete the writing prompt be sure to review responses to the text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
2. After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a well-organized, detailed written response. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss:
- Have students examine how the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph. (Students often struggle with ideas in how to start a written response, and they often want to repeat the prompt back in the first sentence because they are not sure what other options they have. Go over how this writer opened his or her piece of writing. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.)
- Ask students to identify textual evidence from the article that supports the main points of the paper (describing what interstellar dust is, the problems it causes, and how astronomers are using this research to increase their understanding of the universe).
- Ask students to identify accurate and effective use of some domain-specific words throughout the response (e.g., cosmic dust, matter, astronomers, interstellar dust reddening, molecules, supernova, LSST).
3. As a final way to close the lesson ask students to make a quick sketch that would illustrate what reddening is.
1. Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. They should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They can refer back to the text as they construct their response.
2. Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over the rubric with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
3. Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address. Encourage students to underline key parts of the prompt as the teacher goes over it so they will remember to answer all the required parts.
The prompt: Carl Sagan famously said, "The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies, were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff."
We are tied more directly to the universe than we might think. Astronomers study the patterns of organization and distribution of interstellar dust to answer questions about the universe. Using evidence from the article, discuss what interstellar dust is, what problems it causes, and how astronomers are using it to increase their understanding of the universe.
4. Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
Specific suggestions for conducting the Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson.
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for providing Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond."