In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article compares carbon emissions from human activities to those from natural volcanic processes. The authors outline the methods, data collection, and findings of carbon emissions, closing the debate on what releases the most carbon. The lesson plan includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric. Numerous options to extend the lesson are also included.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Overhead Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: carbon, carbon sink, global warming, climate change, volcano, emissions, magma, Industrial Revolution, CO2, carbon dioxide, 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?
- Examine evidence to support the reality that humans cause more emissions that contribute to global climate change than natural processes like volcanoes.
- Explain the processes involved in carbon entering the atmosphere.
- Explain how natural process like volcanoes cause carbon to enter the environment.
- 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 response that clearly establishes a main point, 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 able to relate the conservation of matter to the concept of the carbon cycle to understand that matter is neither created nor destroyed: it is just transformed into other forms. Carbon does not go away, but is released through burning and thus leaves an uneven amount or excessive amount in one portion of the cycle. Plants and other photosynthesizing agents can't remove the carbon in the air fast enough. Not enough carbon is stored, which produces the imbalance that causes global warming.
- Students should have some familiarity with the concept of global warming and know that it is caused by an abundance of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
- Students should understand that the greenhouse effect is a natural process and that it makes Earth conducive for life. Too much, however, contributes to global warming.
- Use "" from the Environmental Protection Agency for review if necessary.
- Students should have a basic understanding of how volcanoes form and the structures involved.
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. 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 this article include the title, subheadings, 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?
- What evidence is there for excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide?
- Carbon dioxide data is collected regularly from top research institutions. The readings have been compared annually. The levels have been increasing at an alarming rate since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s.
- What human activities contribute most to excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
- Farming, cars, factories, and processing all release excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
- How is carbon cycled through earth?
- Carbon is cycled through the earth in many ways. Carbon is present in plants and taken in by photosynthesis; when consumers eat them, they exhale carbon through cellular respiration. Carbon is in the soil and is released into the environment by burning. Volcanoes also release carbon into the atmosphere. Human activities contribute to carbon in the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels.
- What is a carbon sink? What are the main carbon sinks on land and in water?
- A carbon sink is what stores carbon: on land the main carbon sinks are plants, and in the oceans water can store carbon as in carbonic acid.
- Fossil fuel deposits stored in the ground obviously store carbon and were nature's major sink until humans started removing them.
- How do volcanoes contribute to atmospheric carbon dioxide?
- Volcanoes release carbon dioxide through eruptions and also in underground magma.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Ask students: What do you know about global warming? What causes it?
- Students may start by talking about human causes, such as burning fossil fuels or factories, and they may even blame it on industrialized nations or newly industrialized nations such as China or India.
- Ask: So what is the problem with so many fossil fuels being burned?
- If students don't talk about the fact that too much carbon in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect, then you may need to start there.
- Ask: How do we reduce the greenhouse effect so it doesn't get worse?
- Students may talk about reducing burning of fossil fuels.
- Ask: What about natural causes of carbon emissions? Is there a lot of that? Can we do anything to reduce those?
- Most students will probably realize that there isn't anything we can do to reduce this.
- Explain to students that there are natural causes that also contribute to global carbon dioxide. Some people think that these should be blamed for the excess carbon dioxide.
- What do you think? Make a prediction before we read an article that will settle this controversy.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article "Which Emits More Carbon Dioxide: Volcanoes or Human Activities?"
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph.
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide, a vocabulary guide, and a graphic organizer. You do not necessarily need to use all of these, so select which will most benefit your students.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: Which Emits More Carbon Dioxide: Volcanoes or Human Activities?
- Headings: Human Activities, Volcanoes, Today vs. the Past, Climate Cooling
- Captions: Located under each photograph
- Have students fill out the assignments 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.
- 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 vocabulary 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.
- If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected academic vocabulary, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Emit: give off. Bring up other versions of the term such as emission that are used often in the text. Students may determine meaning from the context.
- Fleeting: happening quickly. Bring up flee as in "flee from the storm."
- Rival: to compete against. Most students understand the term when discussing an opponent, but may not in this context. Ask them to think about how it is used here to determine the meaning in context.
- Porous: permeable to fluids. Students can determine meaning from context.
- Incorporated: involved in, worked into the process. Students may determine meaning from context.
- Implying: saying or indicating rather than stating directly. Students may determine meaning from context.
- Variability: the amount of variation or change. Students can relate this to variable, a term used in science to determine a different factor. So for this use, they can use it similarly but read the context cues to figure out the rest.
- Anthropogenic: of or relating to the resulting influence of human beings on nature. This term is difficult for students to understand, but perhaps knowing the meaning of the prefix anthro- might help them realize it is of human origins, such as anthropology (the study of human history).
- Extensive: a lot or covering a large amount. Use context clues to decipher meaning.
- Aerosol: a suspension of fine solid or liquid particles in a gas (such as particles dissolved into the atmosphere). Students may decipher this from thinking about aerosol sprays they currently use: bug spray, hair spray, air fresheners. Ask them to describe them, and from that they might understand the term.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed work, checking it, providing written feedback, or grading the assignments. 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.
- 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:
- Carbon is able to recycled back into the ground easily through photosynthesis or by being absorbed in the ocean.
- The law of conservation of matter applies, as well as understanding of carbon as part of a cycle. All living things use and release carbon. Unfortunately, burning through processes such as manufacturing releases much more carbon into the air than can be handled by plants and photosynthetic organisms such as algae in the oceans.
- The balance is not sustainable, and until we figure out a way to reduce emissions to a level that our systems can handle, we will continue to increase the carbon in the atmosphere.
- Earth is large, and there are plenty of places (oceans, forests) in which humans reside. There is plenty of clean areas that can 'clean up' the carbon.
- Again, the cycle is caused by highly industrialized nations such as the U.S. and newly developing nations such as China and India. We are using more and more fossil fuels that release the carbon into the atmosphere.
- Some of the carbon is absorbed from the ocean sink; however, this is temporary and could lead to ocean warming in the future.
- Scientists are not in consensus about global warming and the causes.
- This is not true! About 97% of climate scientists attribute extra carbon emissions to human activity and agree that this added carbon is contributing to the warming of the planet.
- The media portrays a false equivalence to those that disagree, giving them 50% of the talk time and weight of their argument, but there really is not disagreement within the scientific community.
- Climate naturally varies over time, so any change we're seeing now is just part of a natural cycle.
- As relayed in this article, volcanic eruptions and other global processes produce a constant amount of carbon emissions. While over certain periods they can create additional emissions, overall human emissions since the Industrial Revolution have consistently increased by a greater deal.
- Global warming is a good thing, because it will rid us of cold winters and make plants grow more quickly.
- Evidence of this is growing, showing more algae on the Arctic ice sheets, but ecosystems and the organisms within them have adapted to their environment. A change in temperature will affect all living things in them; just a change in a degree can affect the ability of lizards to lay eggs, or can affect what gender their eggs will be. Temperature can affect the type of plants that survive, invasive species can move in more readily, pathogenic agents can invade and spread disease. Hotter areas will get even hotter, causing crops to die, famine, and starvation. Larger and more dangerous weather events can occur, such as destructive hurricanes, floods, and on the opposite end, heat waves and droughts.
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 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.
- Teachers can use this sample answer key for text-dependent questions to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key. Also see Guided Practice (above).
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 responses to the text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- 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.
- The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or withanLCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- How the writer introduced the topic
- What the main point is (underline)
- How the writer used topic sentences to introduce and connect the paragraphs
- Where text evidence is used
- Where transition words/phrases are used
- How academic vocabulary from the text is used (underline)
- How the writer wrapped up the piece
- 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.
- As a final "exit ticket," have students create a concept poster highlighting the main points of the lesson. The poster should include a visual depiction of the difference in the range of carbon emissions from pre-1880 to today.
- Students should include facts that showcase their understanding of carbon emissions, climate sinks, and where carbon emissions are coming from.
- 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.
- 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:
- Some people may claim that carbon emissions are caused more by natural processes, including volcanic activity, than human activity. Make the case that human activity releases far more carbon dioxide than volcanoes do. Use evidence from the text to support your claim.
- 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 readers struggling with the note-taking guides:
- Teachers might want to fill in some answers on the graphic organizer or note-taking guide, leaving students to fill in the blank boxes in between the provided answers.
- Teachers might reduce the number of terms on the vocabulary guide that students must answer, or fill in some answers for them.
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 the selected vocabulary from section one of 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.
- Students can work in groups, or the teacher could work with these students in a small group, to allow for extra support.
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:
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- 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)
For students struggling to understand the science content:
- To review how carbon is released into the environment, this titled "The Carbon Cycle" from NASA may help.
- This video from NASA titled "A Breathing Planet, Off Balance" explains how carbon is released through human activities.
- For more background information on how scientists measure global carbon emissions, refer students to:
- Students can further research climate change:
- Students can determine their carbon footprints and write about what they could do to reduce their footprint:
- Students can create a short video infomercial on carbon emissions and encourage other students to reduce their carbon footprints.
- Students like the latest technology. But what do they do with their own phones? Encourage students to think about how they dispose of these devices.
Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Overhead 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 and resources 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: Maggie Molledo
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.