Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Explain how climate change can lead to seasonal variation.
- Explain how climate change and seasonal variation can affect the grassland ecosystem.
- Explain how scientists use scientific models to predict future events in nature.
- 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.
- Examine the text to determine the author's purpose.
- Construct a written response 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.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
In regards to science:
- General familiarity with grassland ecosystems including the types of organisms found within the grassland and the environmental factors that affect them will assist students in understanding the article.
- An understanding of climate change and how it can affect ecosystems would also make this article easier for students to understand. The article does do a good job of explaining this, so students who do not have this prior knowledge should be able to use the article.
- There are a number of science specific words that students may be unfamiliar. Pre-teaching these words will help struggling readers especially. See the note taking guide for guidance.
- This link will lead you to the NOAA site that contains information available for both teacher and student providing background information for what is needed in this article. They have information on weather, climate, and models making the material for this lesson more accessible. The site contains information for different level learners so it is suggested the teacher explore the site and find what is appropriate for the specific class. There is a tab devoted specifically to weather which gives access to NOAA's weather site. There are maps available to provide information on temperature, rainfall, etc. for the area discussed within the article. There is also a tab devoted to climate, providing access to The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) website. Within this website are data collections with information on modeling systems, climate monitoring, and interactive maps.
- An understanding of the purpose of models in science and how scientists use them. This link provides some reading and background on scientific models, if needed.
In regards to 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. 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 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 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. Often students will remember to use transitions at the start of the body paragraphs or conclusion paragraph, but will forget to use them in the midst of paragraphs to connect ideas or to make the content within each paragraph flow. Teachers might wish to provide students with a sheet of transitions to help them. This site lists transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
Main investigation questions: While students are reading and answering questions about the article, please use the questions below to help guide students' thinking.
1. What are grasslands and how might climate change affect them in the future?
As the name implies, a grassland is an area where the primary vegetation types are grasses. These areas are used by farmers and ranchers for both growing crops and raising animals. They are found throughout North America and this specific article focuses on grasslands from Canada to Mexico. This study predicts that grasslands in North America will be subjected to higher temperatures and possible droughts by the end of this century. However, normal season changes are also predicted to be affected; spring growth will occur earlier and winters will be milder. As a result, productivity for these areas is not expected to change.
2. Explain the relationship between climate change and seasons within the grassland ecosystems.
Climate change is looking at change in wind patterns, precipitation patterns, changes in the frequency and amount of extreme weather including droughts, and changes in the length of seasons. The general timing of seasons should be somewhat predictable. Seasons are caused by Earth's tilt on its axis and its revolving around the Sun. Scientists are finding out though climate change can alter the conditions and the timing of events generally expected to be seen during the four seasons. The seasons can vary their starting and ending time due to changes in the amount of the Sun's energy that reaches Earth's surface. This is resulting in earlier spring growing seasons and milder winters in many areas.
3. How are models being used by scientists in this article to predict what will occur in the grasslands?
Scientists are using models to predict how climate change might affect North American grasslands. They are using data collected by cameras to observe hydrology (the study of water movement and distribution) and plant life in 14 different sites. They used the greenness of vegetation as a way to measure the activity of the vegetation. They analyzed their data and observed patterns they saw in specific areas, and as a result, made predictions about what may happen in the future. Their models suggest the emergence of vegetation earlier in the spring can offset the high temperatures and lack of water during the summer.
Student misconceptions and clarifications:
Remind students there are limitations to scientific models. If one condition changes, the predictions can change as well. This research was published in Nature Climate Change Journal and includes the limitations of their model. They did not take into account the rising levels of carbon dioxide on photosynthesis and water usage efficiency. Therefore, there may be different impacts from climate change on grasslands than what has been predicted.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. Begin the lesson by asking students the following question: "What are the abiotic and biotic factors that are found in a grassland ecosystem?" Remind students that biotic factors are the living components of the ecosystem including animals, plants, fungus, etc., and abiotic factors include the nonliving components of the ecosystem such as temperature, amount of precipitation, soil type, etc.
Have students visit this website or a similar site that explains the basics of grasslands (alternatively, it can be projected to be used by the whole class at once). The site presents a thorough overview of grassland ecosystems allowing them to explore many different aspects of them and how they compare across the world. Have students create a list of some the features of grasslands.
Upon reviewing the content on the site, students should suggest most of the vegetation is grass, the animals are going to be grazing herbivores, the temperature varies, and there is a moderate amount of precipitation.
2. Explain to the students you will be showing them three photographs of the Kendall Grasslands in Arizona. These pictures were taken at different times. As they look at the pictures, they should try to find 3-5 differences they notice about the vegetation in the photographs (please see the included PowerPoint to access the photographs students should examine for this portion of the lesson). Some differences might include:
- #1 is the greenest.
- #1 has received more rain.
- The picture for #1 was taken during the rainy season.
- #2 received much less rain.
- #2 looks very dry.
- Picture #3 looks like a different area.
Note: based on some of the differences students might report (including others in addition to those listed above), this may be an opportunity for teachers to remind students of the differences between a fact (or in this case an observable detail) and an inference that can be drawn from a text (or in this case, a photograph). For example, students may be asked to describe the details in photo #1 and #2 that support their inferences that #2 appears much more dry and received much less rain.
3. Lead a whole class discussion about the changes that were observed in the grasslands. Create a whole-class list recording students' observations. Then, have the students brainstorm what might have caused these changes. Most students will suggest either the amount of rain received by the areas in the pictures or the time of year that the pictures were taken. Students may want to say that climate change is the cause. Explain to them climate change did not cause the differences in these pictures. These pictures were just taken at different times of the year when the moisture level and the temperature of the grasslands varied.
4. Ask the students: "What type of seasonal variations are found in these areas, then?"
From their earlier research on grasslands, students should suggest grasslands receive a moderate amount of rain in the springtime and they have summers with higher temperatures and winters with colder temperatures and less rain.
5. Explain to the students they will be reading an article that discusses how climate change is affecting the seasonal variation in grasslands and what changes science models are predicting for these areas.
Student misconceptions and clarifications:
Remind students that climate change can affect seasonal variation but they are two different concepts. Climate change is looking at change in wind patterns, precipitation patterns, changes in the frequency and amount of extreme weather including droughts, and changes in the length of seasons. The general timing of seasons should be somewhat predictable. Seasons are caused by Earth's tilt on its axis and its revolving around the Sun. Scientists are finding out though climate change can alter the conditions and the timing of events generally expected to be seen during the four seasons. The seasons can vary their starting and ending time due to changes in the amount of the Sun's energy that reaches Earth's surface. This is resulting in earlier spring growing seasons and milder winters in many areas.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article, "In Grasslands, Longer Spring Growing Season Offsets Higher Summer Temperatures."
2. Provide each student with a copy of the note-taking guide.
3. Direct students to fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in a small group. The teacher should monitor students as they work, providing support and guidance as needed.
- Note: Based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary students will define on the note-taking guide.
- 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.
4. If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected academic vocabulary, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Offset (Paragraph 2): to counteract something. Encourage students to use context clues. In this case, the clues are contained in paragraph 2 where it states "Negative effects…will be largely offset, the research predicts, by an earlier start to the spring growing season and warmer winter temperatures." This clue helps the reader infer the meaning. Students may need to be supported (through discussion, questioning techniques, etc.) in helping them understand that an earlier start to the spring growing season and warmer temperatures in the winter can be viewed as positive occurrences in contrast to the "negative effects" described earlier in the text.
- Climate-driven (Paragraph 5): controlled or caused by the environment. Although there are few context clues, the word itself provides clues to its meanings. Climate-driven can be thought of as caused by (or controlled by) the climate. Students may benefit from being asked other similar terms they’ve heard of (like "success-driven") to relate the meanings of the terms.
- Induced (Paragraph 5): influenced to do something. The clues are also in paragraph 5 where it states "…productivity will increase despite drought-induced reductions…" Paragraph 1 states that droughts are a negative effect. This clue helps the reader infer that drought-induced means caused by the drought.
- Seasonality (Paragraph 7): pattern that is correlated to the seasons. The context clues for this term are located in paragraph 2 where it says "…an earlier start to the spring growing season and warmer winter temperatures."
- Hydrology (Paragraph 8): study of water (and its effects). There are few context clues for this word. Instead, readers should look at the prefix hydro- which refers to water and the suffix –ology which means "the study of."
- Metric (Paragraph 9): system or standard of measurement. Paragraph 9 reads, in part, "Biologists ran the model against a metric of greenness." This implies that the measurements were made by comparing the pictures taken to some measure of greenness.
- Proxy (Paragraph 10): something used to represent or replace something else. The containing sentence in paragraph 10 reads, "We used the greenness of the vegetation as a proxy for the activity of that vegetation." This context clue helps the reader infer the meaning of proxy; the greenness measured at various periods is used as a replacement for the vegetation's activity.
- Pulses (Paragraph 14): brief, sudden changes. The context clues are contained later in this paragraph where the author discusses taking daily readings. The following paragraphs back this up when the author discusses how forests change less quickly.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
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.
Note: the text-dependent questions document includes both the student handout as well as a sample answer key for teachers to use to help provide redirection/feedback to students.
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 in the text-dependent questions attachment) 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. 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 the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- 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.)
- Point out how the author outlined the key points of the response throughout the introductory paragraph. Direct the students back to the prompt and show them how the author broke down the prompt into the areas that needed to be addressed.
- Point out how the author responds to the prompt in a sequential manner. Paragraph 2 explains how the author gave possible positive effects of climate change on grasslands. Paragraph 3 gives the negative consequences. In Paragraph 4, the author explains his view on the positive/negative nature of climate change and defends it with quotes from the text. Finally, Paragraph 5 summarizes the prompt.
- Point out how the author uses quotes from the article to provide evidence to back up his explanation.
- As one final option, teachers might want students to 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.
Science closure: Have students respond to the following questions using an exit ticket. Review the responses and follow up with a short discussion the next day.
- What science concept do I understand better now?
- What science concept do I still have questions about?
- The most important idea from this article 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 during this review so they will remember to address all the required elements.
The prompt: The author points out both positive and negative effects of climate change on the grassland ecosystem. Explain both the positive and negative effects and what the implications are. Cite evidence from the text to support your analysis.
4. 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 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."