Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Summarize the conditions contributing to the drier conditions of the Southwest.
- Describe possible future weather of the Southwest based on models and observations stated and discuss any limitations or uncertainties with their predictions.
- Explain the arguments for and against the role of climate change in the increasingly drier conditions of the American Southwest.
- Describe the impact of a severe drought on a community.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Determine the meaning of selected academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Construct a written response 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?
In regards to science:
- General familiarity with climate and weather patterns found in the U.S. and in other areas of the world
- Basic knowledge of the cause and effects of droughts
- Basic knowledge of climate change
- A basic understanding of the long-term effects of how high and low pressure systems interact and what type of weather is produced from these systems
- A basic understanding of the water cycle in relationship to weather patterns and dry climates
- This link to the NOAA site contains information available for both teachers and students providing background information for what is needed in the article that is used for this lesson. The site provides information on weather, climate, and weather models making the material for this lesson more accessible. The site contains information for different level learners so it is suggested that teachers explore the site and find what is appropriate for their specific classes.
- Teachers can use this NASA video if needed to help explain climate modeling to students.
In regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text, skills that include use of context clues and determining word meaning through use of a dictionary.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the article for this lesson include: title, subtitle, headings, a photograph, and one caption.
- Based on the writing rubric used 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. The site "Smart Words" has a list of transitions that teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
1. What are the implications for the climate in the Southwest region of the United States based on current global climate models?
- The Southwest region of the United States is already considered the most arid in the country. The weather systems that bring moisture to the Southwest are becoming more and more infrequent. This has already resulted in severe droughts in the area and increases the concern that the region will become even drier. The limited water supply is also putting extreme stress on water resources. It appears based on climate models that these conditions will continue.
2. How do high and low pressure systems affect the weather and climate of areas?
- Weather is not stagnant and is constantly changing based on the weather patterns in an area. When there are low pressure systems, the weather tends to be cloudy and wet, while high pressure systems bring clear and sunny conditions. Some areas are known for specific pressure systems that help explain their weather and climate. The Northwest Pacific region has frequent low pressure systems that form in the Pacific Ocean, which explains the weather and climate there being frequently cloudy and wet. There is a high pressure belt that exists about 30 degrees latitude north and south of the equator that can cause drier conditions. Many of the world's deserts, including the Sahara desert, are found in this area.
3. What factors are causing the Southwest to experience drought conditions?
- The weather systems that usually bring rain and moisture to the Southwest are becoming more and more infrequent. The Southwest has a hot and dry climate to begin with and so the lack of rain is having a dramatic impact in terms of water availability for the region. There has also been an increase in temperature resulting in the ground becoming drier and drier. These conditions are contributing to droughts in the area.
4. What are climate models predicting about the weather in the Southwest, and what are the limitations with these predictions?
- Scientists use climate computer models to predict where and when future weather systems might occur and what changes they might bring to an area. These models analyze conditions in the atmosphere and predict what can occur. In this article, model systems suggested that the Southwest will become drier and that has indeed occurred. However, if one of the atmospheric processes change, the prediction of the model can change as well. Models cannot guarantee future weather; they only analyze past patterns and cannot foresee with certainty whether or not those patterns will continue.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. Begin the lesson by asking students, "What is the difference between 'weather' and 'climate'?"
- Students should say "weather" refers to short-term conditions in the atmosphere, while climate is the average weather conditions over a long period of time.
2. Next ask the class, "What type of climate do we find in the southwestern United States?"
- Students should be able to say that the area is hot and dry. They may mention there are deserts in Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
3. Next ask the class, "What makes the Southwest dry and hot?"
- Students are likely to suggest the lack of rain. Without rain, the land is drier and there is not much humidity. Some students might be familiar with the rain shadow effect and how mountains can block the passage of weather systems that produce rain. (This answer can be part of a larger discussion with the next question asked).
4. This can lead to the question, "Why isn't there more rain in this area?"
- Ultimately teachers may have to lead the discussion, but students should be able to suggest things such as the distance from open water or mountain ranges blocking weather systems that bring in rain. Eventually the suggestions should lead to the idea of how weather systems interact and that unusually high pressure in the area may be blocking the low pressure rain clouds from coming into the area.
5. Next ask the class, "Could the climate of the American Southwest change?"
- Students should suggest major changes would be very unlikely because climate is determined by the weather conditions over a long period of time. However, the area could become hotter and drier.
6. Finally ask students to think about the question, "What type of weather will the Southwest see in the future and why?" Tell the students to think about this question while they are reading the assigned article. End the discussion by informing students they will be reading an article that describes a current research study on weather patterns and climate in the Southwest.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article "Southwest Sliding into a New Normal: Drier Conditions.
2. Have students use text coding to help them identify or take notice of the following as they read the article for the first time.
- Consider using the following text coding:
- D = drought
- DR = dry/drying/drier
- CC = climate change
- C= climate
- WP = weather patterns
- M= models (e.g., climate models, global models)
- Explain to students that whenever they come across information about droughts, they can write a D in the margin of the text. When the article references climate change, they can write a CC in the margin. They will do this for each of the items listed (teachers can add more items or remove certain items to meet the needs of their students.)
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: "Southwest Sliding into a New Normal: Drier Conditions"
- Subtitle: Weather Patterns that Bring Rain Becoming Less Frequent
- Headings: Subtle Shift Yields Dramatic Effect; The Climate Connection
- Captions: Located under the opening photograph
4. Have students read and mark the text (have the text-coding items displayed for students). The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
5. Students should also work to discern the meaning of selected vocabulary from the text during their initial reading of the text, or if it is easier for students, after their first reading of the text. For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words (for example: use of context clues, word parts, or a dictionary). 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.
- Students could use online or print dictionaries to define the following domain-specific words (teachers can add more if they wish): arid, drought, climate, and weather patterns.
- Arid: being without moisture; extremely dry; parched
- Drought: a period of below-average precipitation in a given region, resulting in prolonged shortages in its waters supply, whether atmospheric, surface or ground water.
- Climate: the weather conditions prevailing in an area in general or over a long period.
- Weather patterns: the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards to heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc.
- Students could use word parts, context clues, and/or dictionaries to define the following academic vocabulary words: model, pattern, prolonged, prediction, adverse, subtle, inhibit, plausible
- Model: a system or thing used as an example to follow or imitate.
- Pattern: the regular and repeated way in which something happens or is done.
- Prolonged: continuing for a long time or longer than usual; lengthy.
- Prediction/predict: to declare or tell in advance, especially on a reasoned basis
- Adverse: unfavorable in purpose or effect
- Subtle: difficult to detect or analyze
- Inhibit: to stop, prevent, or decrease the rate of
- Plausible: having an appearance of truth or reason; credible; believable; reasonable; valid
6. Discuss as a class: "What type of weather will the Southwest likely see in the future and why?" Have students use evidence from the article to support their response.
Students will likely respond that the weather will continue to be hot and dry based on the lack of low pressure systems that are forming in the area. They also might suggest the high pressure belt near the equator is predicted to move north, which would keep the weather hot and dry.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by having students share out what they text-coded in the article and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion. Students can also share out their determined meanings of the vocabulary words and receive feedback to help them correct their work.
2. 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:
1. Regions of the world with deserts have always been hot and dry.
- It would be helpful to remind students to think about fossils and how a fossil doesn't always fit the area they are found. For instance, Florida is covered in shells or underwater fossils, but Florida today is not underwater. The fossils are a hint into the history and past environment of Florida. Regions that have deserts have changed over time as well. The deserts might have changed by growing or shrinking over time. The Sahara desert used to be a fertile grassland.
2. Weather in one region of the country doesn't affect weather in another region of the country.
- While detailed knowledge of weather patterns is not necessary for understanding this article, it definitely helps. Remember that winds circulate around the globe because of Earth's rotation and the heating of the Earth by the sun. The movement and the direction of wind at the different locations in the atmosphere are what determine weather systems and contributes to climate. These major wind current patterns can affect large areas across the globe. Also remember there are other factors affecting weather such as temperature and air pressure.
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 included with the text-dependent questions to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the answer key with the text-dependent questions and writing prompt, it addresses common errors/misconceptions with several of those items.
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.
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 from seeing a well-organized, detailed written response.
- The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or projector and discuss some of the following:
- Have students identify use of specific evidence from the text, particularly in paragraph two and three, that the writer uses for support.
- Have students identify correct use of science vocabulary from the text within the written response (e.g., climate change, climate models, drought, high pressure belt, high pressure system, weather systems).
3. At the very end of the lesson: Teachers might wish to provide a few of the guiding questions for this lesson to students and have them respond in writing as part of an exit ticket. Students can use evidence from the article to support their response.
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 a conclusion or concluding statement. 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.
- The prompt: Using information from the article, explain the arguments for and against the role of climate change in the increasingly drier conditions of the southwestern United States.
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 where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"
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."