In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article explains the dynamic carbon cycle and how human activity contributes to global warming. A second related text builds on that knowledge to discuss the importance of Everglades mangroves as carbon "sinks." By reading and synthesizing both articles, students will learn not only about the specifics of the carbon cycle, but how it applies to Florida and the rest of the world. This lesson includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: carbon cycle, carbon dioxide, biogeochemical cycle, carbon sink, carbon source, Everglades, organic carbon, carbon, mangroves, lesson plan, text complexity
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Identify the steps of the carbon cycle.
- Explain the importance of carbon sources and sinks in reference to global warming.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Construct a written argument that clearly establishes a main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the main point, utilizes transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion.
- Integrate multiple sources of information to address a single writing prompt.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
- General familiarity with organic macromolecules is needed.
- In order to make essential connections between the carbon cycle and living organisms, students should know that the four basic macromolecules, which all living things are made of, are carbon based (proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, and nucleic acids).
- 3-minute review video:
- Basic knowledge of matter and energy transfer is the core science concept behind biogeochemical cycles like the carbon cycle.
- General knowledge on photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Students should know the reactants and products of both.
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text. For this lesson, prior experience in using context clues to determine the meaning of words in a text would be beneficial. In addition, students should have some dictionary skills that will enable them to look up words with multiple meanings and determine the most appropriate meaning based on how a word is used in a text.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in What is the Carbon Cycle? include the title, subtitle, headings, images, and captions.
- Based on the provided writing rubric, 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), body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and include 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. This site provides transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- Why do living things need carbon?
Living organisms are made mostly of carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. All of these macromolecules use carbon as their backbone. Without carbon, we would be unable to grow and develop. Carbon is also a reactant for photosynthesis, specifically carbon dioxide, without which there would be no energy source for living organisms.
- What are some sources of carbon?
Sources of carbon are carbon dioxide gas, living organisms, decaying organisms, heterotrophs, which give off carbon dioxide as a waste product, and calcium carbonate in rocks and minerals.
- What are some sinks for carbon?
Atmosphere, water, and soil are the main sinks on the planet. Plants are also sinks. Living organisms can be sinks or sources depending on the time of the life cycle they are in.
- What might happen if too much carbon is released at once?
Too much carbon IS being released right now, due to the use of fossil fuels. The excess carbon dioxide and methane emissions cause an increase in greenhouse gases. An increase in greenhouse gases leads to an overall increased temperature of the planet.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by asking the class: "What happens to the carbon dioxide we exhale?"
- Students are likely to answer that it goes into the atmosphere, or that it is used by plants. During discussion, students should be reminded that there are many microscopic organisms that use carbon dioxide. In addition, carbon dioxide can be dissolved in water.
- Next, ask: "When a plant dies, what happens to its remains?"
- Students may speculate that the remains will break down, but they may be unsure of what causes them to breakdown. is a 3-minute film that illustrates the process of decomposition. The video shows examples of decomposers and their energy sources. If should be pointed out that bacteria are one of the most important decomposers, and they are found everywhere. Bacteria start the decomposition process. They give off odorous waste that attracts other decomposers or scavengers.
- Next, ask: "Where does the majority of the mass of a tree come from?"
- Students will suggest, water, dirt, soil or possibly the air. The majority of the mass of a tree comes from carbon. Don't discuss in detail at this point.
- Show the 4-minute video Where Do Trees Get Their Mass From?
- Ask the students for feedback on the video. You might ask them why they think most people don't think of carbon dioxide or the air. Students may suggest it is because you can't see the carbon dioxide, so you forget it is an important reactant in photosynthesis.
- End the discussion by informing students that the carbon cycle is an important biogeochemical cycle that includes all living organisms and that they will be reading an article about carbon that addresses it.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article "What is the Carbon Cycle?"
- 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 is "Carbon Moves between Sources and Sinks," Section 3 is "Human Activity Releases Carbon to the Atmosphere.")
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: What is the Carbon Cycle?
- Subtitle: Carbon is present throughout the natural environment in a fixed amount. It takes many forms and moves through the environment via the carbon cycle.
- Headings: Carbon Moves Between Sources and Sinks, Human Activity Releases Carbon to the Atmosphere
- Have students fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific (in other words, subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and use a dictionary to define the words.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their completed note-taking guides, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers should use this sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- For discussion of 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 often believe the only parts to the carbon cycle are cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Decomposers are an integral part of the carbon cycle. Without them, organic carbon would remain tied up in dead organisms.
- Students may think carbon dioxide is only found in the air. Reminding students that carbon dioxide is dissolved in water, found in deposits of fossil fuels, and a by-product of weathering will help ensure they think about all of the components of the carbon cycle.
- Students may say that there is an "infinite" amount of carbon and use that information to discredit the impact of humans on climate change. Human activity is causing the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuels, which are long-term sinks. Carbon dioxide is being released at a rate that the carbon cycle is unable to keep up with.
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?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their 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.
- Teachers should use this sample answer key 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?
- Before students complete the writing prompt, be sure to review their responses to the other text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- Before assigning the students the writing prompt, have them read aloud, as a class, " Everglades Mangroves' Carbon Storage Capacity Worth Billions." The information in this article will be integrated into their response to the writing prompt.
- If you feel your students need more information on why mangroves are so important, show them the 4-minute CPALMS Expert Perspectives Video, (Resource ID 130730).
- While the video is not specifically focused on the Everglades mangrove system, it will allow the students to understand the biodiversity found in mangroves and further emphasize their importance.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss:
- How the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph; have students identify the main point of the piece. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Have students examine each of the body paragraphs and explain how each supports the main point of the piece.
- Have students identify where the writer effectively uses textual evidence from the article for support of his or her points.
- Have students identify the use of transition words or phrases that make the ideas flow.
- Ask students to identify where domain-specific vocabulary is used accurately and effectively.
- Have students read the final paragraph to see how the writer wrapped up the piece and connected back to the main point established in the introduction.
- Teachers may have students use the rubric to provide a score for the sample written response and have them justify the score they gave, possibly providing revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
- Ask students to describe the carbon cycle in terms that a 1st grader could understand.
- Play "So What?" Students answer the following prompts:
- What takeaways from the lesson will be important to know three years from now?
- Why will they be important?
- 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 must refer back to both texts as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over it with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
- 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 future governor of Florida wants to clear away Everglades mangroves to make more room for development. The growth, according to the governor, will increase jobs and economic growth for the state. You are a biologist who specializes in climate change, specifically the release of carbon dioxide and how quickly it can be recycled. Defend the preservation of the Everglades mangroves, using evidence from "What is the Carbon Cycle?" AND the article "Everglades Mangroves' Carbon Storage Capacity Worth Billions."
- Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
Specific suggestions for conducting Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for conducting Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson.
Accommodations & Recommendations
For students struggling with the science content:
- This 6-minute titled "The Carbon Cycle 3D Animation" offers a great introduction to the carbon cycle for students who may benefit from receiving the information in a visual format. This may be shown before students read the text "What is the Carbon Cycle?"
For readers struggling with the note-taking guide:
- Teachers might want to fill in some of the answers on the graphic organizer for "Words that make you go Hmmm," leaving students to fill in the other definitions and add more that that they specifically might have a problem with.
- In the summary section, teachers might want to provide a few sentence starters to help students.
For readers struggling with the text:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read section one, then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight selected vocabulary for section one on the article. Work with students to model ways to define a few of the academic vocabulary words to get them started. The teacher can think aloud as he or she decides which vocabulary strategy or strategies to use to define a word, and think aloud while deciding which meaning from a dictionary entry with multiple meanings would be the best fit for how the word is used in the context of the article.
- When students are ready, have them share their answers and provide corrective verbal feedback as needed, allowing students to make corrections to their work. Then repeat this process for the other sections of the text if needed. Or, at least have students complete the graphic organizer for the next section and receive feedback on their work before they move on.
For struggling writers:
- It might help struggling writers to provide them with an outline to help them structure their response. The outline might include places for them to record:
- Introduction paragraph
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- Body paragraphs:
- Topic sentences (the first sentence of each body paragraph that will reveal the point of the paragraph and will connect to the paper’s overall main point)
- Specific evidence from the text for support in each body paragraph
- Ideas for transition words
- Ideas for use of selected vocabulary
- Ideas on how to wrap up their piece and connect back to the main point(s)
- Continuing the discussion of the carbon cycle as well as global warming, has various activities and labs to extend their knowledge.
- EarthLabs has various online and traditional activities focused on the carbon cycle and climate change.
- The Global Carbon Atlas is an up-to-date website that shows amounts of carbon emissions and rankings of countries all over the world. This would be a great way for students to do some research and see where the U.S. stands in comparison to other nations.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
For teachers who would like more support in understanding and implementing Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects into their science curriculum, please see the teacher tutorials featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Jennifer Storer
District/Organization of Contributor(s): BrevardDistrict/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.