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: rodent, pathogens, Hurricane Katrina, public policy, risk perception, natural disasters, models, math models, inference, rats, New Orleans, 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?
- Explain the implications of the study for human health and public health policy.
- Outline the steps undertaken by researchers and students to create residential "buy-in" for support of their project while gathering data on rodent migration after natural or man-made disasters.
- Identify both the successes and any potential drawbacks of the completed program.
- 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.
- Determine the central ideas of the text.
- Construct a well-written argumentative response based on the article that clearly establishes the 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.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
- Students should be familiar with the ways science and research can affect public policy.
- Review or utilize information from this site: How Science Affects Public Policy
- Use these for general background information:
For literacy skills:
- 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.
- Students should understand the term "central idea" and be able to distinguish central ideas from key details. 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 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 this article include the title, subtitle, headings, photographs, and captions.
- 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.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- Why did researchers feel the need to collect rats, and record their locations and movements, in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina?
- In order to study how rats move and relocate during and after natural or man-made disasters, scientists needed to track the movement of rodents in specific areas. Post-Katrina New Orleans was an ideal location. The inferences of the study could potentially provide a model that will help scientists predict rodent movement before a disaster strikes. Since rodents often carry pathogens that are hazardous to human health, this study could provide information that affects public health policies.
- Public policy decisions are sometimes based upon "risk perceptions" instead of hard data. Where do rats live? How do they move? There is little data to answer these questions; this research project wanted to determine if common assumptions (i.e. rats live mostly in densely populated areas) are actually supported by data.
- Why was post-Katrina New Orleans an appropriate location for research on rodent habitats and movements?
- The ecology of New Orleans changed greatly from before Hurricane Katrina to after the event, giving scientists a fresh look at why rodents chose specific areas to inhabit. Scientists wanted to know if rats always lived in areas of high human population, a belief held by many. This belief has led city officials nationwide to base rodent control on where they assumed rats would be, not necessarily where rats actually are. New Orleans and its flooded and non-flooded areas, as well as displaced communities, allowed researchers a clear look into rodent movement.
- Residents in the area were a bit hesitant about allowing researchers into their neighborhoods. How did the researchers gain the residents' trust?
- After Hurricane Katrina, local residents were bombarded with scientists and others coming to their neighborhoods to conduct post-Katrina research. Tulane students provided a "rat-catching" service that benefited their research and the health and safety of local residents.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by posing a general question to the class: "Is it healthy for humans to live in areas with many rodents?"
- Students are likely to be adamant in saying that since rodents are dirty and carry diseases, humans should not live where there are rats. This discussion (best kept brief) should be facilitated by the teacher in order to transition into a discussion of assumptions made concerning where rats actually live versus assumptions about where rats reside.
- Discuss the potential problem in making decisions, especially those affecting human health, based on assumptions rather than facts supported by data.
- Follow-up: ask the class: "What is 'risk perception'?"
- Continue the discussion of assumptions and how incorrect assumptions may negatively affect public policy decisions. For students unfamiliar with the word "perception" and how it is used, give examples of opinions based on personal opinion rather than fact.
- One example, from the Providence Journal: "The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last summer caused less damage than the annual wash of fertilizers that creates a Massachusetts-size dead zone at the outlet of the Mississippi," a scientist told an audience of science journalists at the University of Rhode Island Bay Campus on Monday. The perceived risk of the oil spill weighs heavier with many people than the actual dumping of fertilizers.
- Ask students: "In order to make informed decisions on public policy, what is one step that can be taken?"
- Decisions made, especially those affecting public health and safety, should be based on data-supported facts and details. An example from the article can be revisited: students may think that catching diseases from rodents can only result from physical contact. Discuss how drinking water or flood waters can be infected through animal droppings, and how these diseases can result in death.
- End the discussion by informing students that they will be reading an article that describes the need for research on rat populations conducted in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The researchers examined rat populations to see where the highest infestations exist. Based on their findings, public policy can be developed to protect communities after similar disasters in the future.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article "Where Do Rats Move In After Disasters?" For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph.
- 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: Where Do Rats Move in After Disasters?
- Subtitle: Post-Hurricane Katrina research aims to provide communities better data on rodent populations, danger
- Headings: November 5, 2015, Challenging Conventional Beliefs, The 'Rodent-Trapping Team'
- Captions: Located under photographs
- 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 need to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and use a dictionary to define the words.
- If students struggle with the academic vocabulary in the text, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Best-case scenario (paragraph 1): having power or ability; skillful. Encourage students to use context clues. The author is describing things that are not pleasant and is using sarcasm to emphasize the unpleasantness of the task: "100 degrees... people have grown tired of... outsiders... best-case scenario... you wind up handling... disease-carrying rats."
- Mathematical model (paragraph 2): using mathematics to predict or forecast an outcome. Can be used as a simulation as in hurricane models. Often works with large amounts of data.
- Simulate (paragraph 2): to produce a model of. Have students use this word in reference to mathematical models -- how the model would use mathematics to forecast or make a prediction.
- Pathogens (paragraphs 2 and 17): something (such as a type of bacteria, fungus or a virus) that causes disease. Again, encourage students to use context clues and make inferences from paragraph 17.
- Public policy (paragraph 5): local or federal laws and regulations. References also used in paragraph 9 (policy makers); paragraph 20 (public health).
- Infestation (paragraph 9): to spread or swarm in or over in a troublesome manner. In this case have students determine what a "rodent infestation" might look like. The visual deepens understanding of the meaning.
- Scant (paragraph 8): having a small or insufficient amount. Encourage students to use context clues from paragraph 8: "Researchers have long known that human behavior, from where people live to how they dispose of trash, affects rat populations. But there's been scant data to show how those relationships play out..." Have students think about the word "scant" as applied to an amount of data or research; would scant research diminish the quality of research?
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- 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.
- Teachers can use this sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- 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 many have a hard time distinguishing an inference from a hypothesis. An inference is based on data and evidence while a hypothesis is a prediction based on what is currently understood; often, hypotheses are untested. An inference is made after a study by drawing conclusions about existing data and causal relationships that may or may not occur. A public perception is related to an inference in that it was formed by observations made by others; rats seem to be in areas where there are a lot of people. An inference may be an incorrect assumption, however, and must be followed up by further experiments where empirical evidence is collected.
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 student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed questions, 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.
- Teachers can use the sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- If policymakers perceive that the highest risk of rodent infestation is in areas most densely populated with humans, they will concentrate countermeasures in those places. But, what if that perception is based on an incorrect assumption, or if there are more variables in play?
- Discuss with students that using correct data (rather than simply assuming where rats live) could potentially save millions of dollars in eradication projects and also protect public health.
- Students have a hard time distinguishing an inference from a hypothesis.
- An inference is based on data and evidence, while a hypothesis is a prediction based on what is currently understood; often, hypotheses are untested. An inference is made after a study by drawing conclusions about existing data and causal relationships that may or may not occur.
- A public perception is related to an inference in that it was formed by observations made by others; rats seem to be in areas where there are a lot of people. An inference may be an incorrect assumption, however, and must be followed up by further experiments where empirical evidence is collected.
- Students may forget that models don't have to be three-dimensional, physical models.
- A mathematical model or a conceptual model that explains a process are also types of models we use in science to help explain phenomena. Give students examples as reminders and ask for other possible models that aren't physical models. Suggestions include weather forecasting, an energy pyramid, food webs, etc.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- At the end of the lesson, have students submit an "exit ticket" with the following information:
- The most interesting fact they learned
- Something they still don't understand
- Their personal opinion/view of the study and its merit
- The teacher may wish to review the sample response at the end of the answer key as a whole group in order to invite discussion/ideas. Alternatively, after students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to review a sample response from the class. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a well-organized, detailed written response. Going over how the response is structured, pointing out ways to open and close the piece, showing use of effective transitions, and pointing out places to incorporate the natural use of vocabulary can really help students grow in their own writing skills for future writing tasks. The teacher could show a sample response on an overhead or projector and discuss some of the following:
- Have students examine how the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph. Go over how this writer opened his or her piece of writing. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Point out the use of some textual specifics in the body paragraphs that quickly illustrate a few of the successes of this program.
- Have students examine how the topic is concluded in the final sentences of the last paragraph. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have closed the piece.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt at the end of the text-dependent questions. They should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They must refer back to the text 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 prompt: Analyze the potential effectiveness of Tulane University's "rat-catching" program and how its findings, based on this research, might affect public health policy. Use evidence from the text to argue whether or not the program is worthwhile, and explain whether findings from the research could be used to justify other studies.
- 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 where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"
Accommodations & Recommendations
For struggling readers:
- Work with students prior to reading and during reading to define some of the unknown vocabulary. Also, model how to complete the note-taking guide by doing the first section with students and discussing it. As students complete note-taking either independently or with groups, use a workshop model to allow students to share their answers, providing verbal feedback as needed.
- 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 the selected vocabulary for section one on the article.
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 tosupport 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)
The following resources may be used to extend the lesson:
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: Sheila Veatch
District/Organization of Contributor(s): St. Johns
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.