Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Describe the various interactions among Earth systems, specifically the hydrosphere, cryosphere, and biosphere, at Niwot Ridge in the Rocky Mountains.
- Describe changes in the cryosphere at Niwot Ridge, changes attributed to a warming climate.
- Describe how climate change can affect an ecosystem, including that of Niwot Ridge.
- Cite specific and relevant textual 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:
- Students should have general knowledge about Earth systems, including the cryosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, and an understanding of how they can interact.
- This video titled "Four Spheres Part 2" (3:30, uploaded by YouTube user Crash Course Kids), although aimed at younger students, could be used as a refresher on the hydrosphere. Likewise, this video titled "Four Spheres Part 1" (4:00, uploaded by YouTube user Crash Course Kids), although aimed at younger students, could be used as a refresher on the biosphere.
- This NOAA link to a webpage titled "What is the cryoshere?" provides brief information on the cryosphere, as does this link to a webpage from the NSIDC titled "All about the Cryosphere."
- Students should have a basic knowledge of glaciers.
- Almost all glacial ice on Earth occurs within the polar regions of the planet, which are areas dominated by vast sheets of ice. However, glaciers are also found in the high mountain ranges of every continent other than Australia and in 47 countries.
- Glaciers cover approximately 10 percent of the Earth’s surface.
- Glaciers often appear bright blue because blue light is scattered rather than absorbed by ice and due to the lack of air bubbles present in a large mass of compressed ice.
- It might be helpful for students to have an understanding of the water cycle and what roleglaciersandmeltwater from glaciers play in the water cycle.
- The water cycle describes the movement of water on and above the Earth. This NASA website is a good resource for basic information on the water cycle including a diagram. There is no starting point or end point for the water cycle, but rather it describes the constant cycling of water.
- When water falls as precipitation, one possible outcome in the water cycle is that the water is accumulated in glacial snow or ice and stored. At some point, this water can melt and thus continues in the water cycle as glacial meltwater.
- Glaciers are the largest reservoir of fresh water on Earth, providing about 75 percent of the world’s water supply.
- Many glaciers in areas where seasonal temperature variation occurs store water as ice during the winter and release it during warmer, summer months. This "meltwater" is an important water source for plants, animals, and humans.
- Students should have some understanding of climate change and the effects of climate change.
- As the Earth gets warmer, it is causing glaciers to melt. Scientists agree that human activity, like burning of fossil fuels and the resulting build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, has influenced the warming of the Earth. One visible effect of climate change is on the world's water resources.
- As the Earth's temperature rises and ice melts, more water flows to the seas from glaciers and ice caps, the ocean water warms, and expands and increases in volume. As sea levels rise, this could negatively impact those who live along the world's coastlines as well as marine and terrestrial ecological communities.
- Warmer temperatures can cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow. That is, more meltwater is lost during warmer seasons than is replaced by snow and ice in the colder seasons.
- If the Antarctic ice sheet, a massive 40 million year old glacier, were to melt in its entirety, scientists estimate a global sea level rise of over 200 feet would result.
- Students should have an understanding of an ecosystem; how plants, animals, and nonliving elements interact and impact each other.
- Teachers can use this video titled "Ecosystems" (uploaded by YouTube user Bozeman Science) as a review of ecosystems if necessary.
- This link to the NOAA site contains information available for both teachers and students providing background information on various topics relating to the article for this lesson. The site provides information on weather, climate, and weather models.
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. How is climate change affecting the cryosphere at Niwot Ridge in the Rocky Mountains?
- The high peaks of the Rocky Mountains currently contain glaciers, permafrost and other portions of the cryosphere, as the higher altitude allows for generally colder climates. However, as global warming increases and the average temperatures rise, the ice is declining, ice that is found in glaciers, permafrost, subsurface ice, and lake ice. The decline of ice is linked with rising temperatures each summer and autumn in recent years. The increase in temperature also prevents refreezing of water to build back the lost ice. The current trends suggest that the Arikaree Glacier may completely disappear within the next 20 years or so, dramatically changing the amount of available meltwater that helps sustain plants in the region.
2. How do the cryosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere at Niwot Ridge interact with each other?
- Water that is locked as ice is referred to as the cryosphere, and as it melts back into its liquid form of water it turns into the hydrosphere. In the region of the Rocky Mountains where the Niwot Ridge is located, the hydrosphere and cryosphere usually cycle through each other, with the cryosphere melting into the hydrosphere during the late summer and fall, and then the hydrosphere refreezing into the cryosphere during the winter months. With this continuous cycle, members of the biosphere, or living parts of the Earth, have adapted quite well with plenty of wild flowers and tundra grasses. However, as the cryosphere continuously melts with no replenishment, the biosphere has had to adjust as well with the local flora being replaced with shrubs that can trap and absorb more of the water.
3. What factors are causing the Niwot Ridge to experience warmer conditions and a complete replacement of certain wildlife?
- An increase in temperature across the globe is causing a change in every ecosystem across the planet. Some of the more sensitive ecosystems are tied to the cryosphere and frozen ice. Due to higher temperatures, the ice melts faster and then can’t refreeze to build back up stores of water for future use. This, coupled with an increase in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus in the atmosphere and water supplies, means that larger shrubs and trees can grow and replace any natural flora found in the area. Because of this, many wildflowers and low lying tundra grasses at the Niwot Ridge are dying off and being replaced with shrubs, that is until the water and nutrients run out.
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 at the tops of really tall mountains, such as the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains?
- Students should be able to say that the area is cold and rocky. They may mention there are glaciers and frozen caps on the tops of the mountains.
3. Next ask the class: What makes the high peaks cold and frozen?
- Students are likely to suggest the increased altitude and lack of atmospheric pressure. When the rain falls it freezes faster. Some students might be familiar with orographic lifting and how mountains can block the passage of weather systems that produce rain, and as they try to go over a mountain they will drop rain that eventually freezes at the top of high mountains.
4. Ask students to write down a few sentences to describe climate change. Have students share out their responses with the class. One possible definition students might develop for climate change: A change in the world’s climate patterns due to excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The teacher should write the class's definition on the board.
- Depending on the needs of the class, the teacher might show this four minute video titled "Climate Change 101 with Bill Nye," on what climate change is and how humans affect it.
5. Take a few minutes to discuss glaciers with students.
- Students should recognize that glaciers are made of large amounts of ice and snow. This video titled "What is a Glacier?" is less than 2 minutes long and might be a great quick introduction to the basics of glaciers.
- Ask students to think about what kind of measurements from a glacier could indicate climate change (e.g. temperature, the amount of ice that is thinning, the amount and speed of melting, the amount a glacier is receding).
- Then, discuss with students where glaciers can be found. This link from the NSIDC could be a helpful resource.
6. Explain to students that they will be reading a text about glaciers at the Niwot Ridge, which is located at the top of the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Show students a map of this region if needed to help them visualize where it is located. End the discussion by going over the guiding questions for the lesson and leave them displayed throughout the lesson for students to view.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article "Colorado High Peaks Losing Glaciers as Climate Warms."
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:
- CR = cryosphere
- I = impacts attributed to a warming climate
- B = biosphere
- Explain to students that whenever they come across details that have to do with the cryosphere, they will put a CR next to that part of the text. When they read about impacts attributed to a warming climate, they will put an "I" next to that part of the text. When they read about details that have to do with the biosphere, they will put a "B" next to that part of the text. (Teachers can add more items, remove certain items, or change 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: "Colorado High Peaks Losing Glaciers as Climate Warms"
- Subtitle: Ice disappears faster in drought years
- Headings: Changing cryosphere, Waning glaciers, High mountain ecosystem
- 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.
6. Students could use online or print dictionaries to define the following domain-specific words (teachers can add more if they wish): hydrological, tundra, cryosphere, snowpack.
- Hydrological: dealing with the properties, distribution, and circulation of water on and below the Earth's surface and in the atmosphere.
- Tundra: a vast, flat, treeless Arctic region of Europe, Asia, and North America in which the subsoil is permanently frozen.
- Cryosphere: the frozen water part of the Earth system. The text directly provides this definition: places that are frozen for at least one month of the year.
- Snowpack: the accumulation of winter snowfall, especially in mountain or upland regions. An area of naturally formed, packed snow that usually melts during the warmer months.
Students could use word parts, context clues, and/or dictionaries to define the following academic vocabulary words: decline, progressive, accumulation, diversity.
- Decline: become smaller, fewer, or less; decrease.
- Progressive: happening or developing gradually or in stages; proceeding step by step.
- Accumulation: the acquisition or gradual gathering of something.
- Diversity: the degree of variation of living things present in a particular ecosystem.
7. Discuss as a class: What type of changes might the Niwot Ridge experience in the future and why? Have students use evidence from the article to support their response.
Students will likely respond that if the climate continues to warm the glaciers will continue melting, and they could eventually disappear. (Warmer temperatures cause glaciers to melt faster than they can accumulate new snow.) In addition, students might also suggest the plants in the region could completely change, thus affecting the ecosystem in the region. (The text references changes from all tundra grasses up to the early 1990s, to 40% shrubs today, as well as the loss of wildflowers.)
8. Depending on the needs of the students, to support visual learners, teachers might want to show photographs of the following items mentioned in the text: alpine tundra, subalpine forest, talus slopes, glacial lakes, wetlands. There are also additional photographs available for the online version of the article that teachers might want to show students.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
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.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
1. Regions of the world with glaciers have always been cold.
- 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 glaciers have changed over time as well. The glaciers might have changed by growing or shrinking over time.
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.
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 for the summative assessment 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.
3. 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 of his main point.
- Have students identify correct use of science vocabulary from the text within the written response (e.g., climate change, glacier, ice loss, solid state, ecosystem, organisms, environment, biological makeup)
4. At the very end of the lesson: Teachers might wish to provide one or more the guiding questions for this lesson to students and have them respond in writing as part of an exit ticket.
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 evidence from the text, describe how climate change can affect an ecosystem.
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 phase of the lesson where it says, "Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond." Students should also be provided verbal or written corrective feedback on the answers to the text-dependent questions before they begin the summative assessment.