Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Explain why competition drives the prairie dog to kill the ground squirrels.
- Discuss why the findings of this study are considered unique and thought-provoking.
- 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 have a general idea of the niche (role) that both the white-tailed prairie dog and the Wyoming ground squirrel have in their communities.
- Students should understand the different relationships among organisms in communities, specifically competition. This link accesses a Khan Academy tutorial on ecological interactions which should provide plenty of information for the students and teacher as needed.
- Students should be able to visualize the range of the white-tailed prairie dog using this map.
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text. For this lesson, prior experience with 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.
- Based on the rubric provided, 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?
1. How do white-tailed prairie dogs benefit from killing the ground squirrels?
Research shows that the one indicator for young prairie dog success was whether or not their parents killed ground squirrels. The scientists believe the prairie dog offspring have longer and healthier lives if their parents eliminate competition for food by killing them. Evidence shows that prairie dogs that kill have longer-living and healthier offspring, but there needs to be more data collected to rule out other possibilities.
2. Why did the results from this research surprise scientists?
The behavior demonstrated by the adult prairie dogs had never been observed before by scientists. The prairie dogs were killing ground squirrels and made no attempts to feed on them. This was unheard of by herbivores. The scientists concluded the prairie dogs were killing the ground squirrels to eliminate competition for food.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. Begin the lesson by asking students to identify the different types of relationships found among organisms in a community.
- Allow about 5 minutes for this task, then have students share their responses with the rest of the class.
- Students will probably discuss relationships such as mutualism, parasitism, commensalism, and competition.
- If the teacher feels it necessary, he or she can discuss the definitions and examples of each of the types of relationships.
2. Ask students: "What are two different types of competition that can be found within a community of organisms?"
- Some students might know the difference between interspecific and intraspecific competition. Interspecific competition refers to competition between members of different species, usually over food or habitat. Intraspecific competition occurs between members of the same species, usually over mates, food, or territory.
3. Next, show students a pictures of a white-tailed prairie dog. Ask students if they know what kind of animal it is. One or two students might recognize it as a prairie dog; most students will not be able to identify it. Explain to the students they are looking at a white-tailed prairie dog which can be found in the Western United States, including Wyoming and Utah. Point out to them that prairie dogs are herbivores and feed on grass, shrubs, seeds, etc. Show them the video found on the National Geographic site that introduces students to some prairie dog behavior.
4. Next, pose the rhetorical questions to students: "If I told you that herbivorous prairie dogs were killing other animals in cold blood, would you believe me?"
5. Finally, tell students they will be reading and analyzing an article that focuses on the murder of Wyoming ground squirrels by white-tailed prairie dogs. Explain to students that scientists were stunned by the findings.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article. For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number the sections, as well as the paragraphs within each section.
2. Provide each student with a note-taking guide. Have students complete the guide during or after their first reading of the article. Make sure to provide print or online dictionaries for students to use for the vocabulary section.
- Based on the needs and skills of students, teachers can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary they must 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 (subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge, use context clues, and/or use a dictionary to define the words.
- There are several idioms used in this text teachers may need to explain ("bumped off," "red-handed," herbivores "of all stripes").
- Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
3. If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected vocabulary, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Ruthlessly (paragraph 2): cruel or merciless. There are a few context clues in the paragraph to help students determine the meaning of the word. The term itself describes the bite of the squirrel, and then in the same sentence it also says the squirrels' bloody bodies are left to rot.
- Bloodsport (paragraph 4): the act of shedding blood. Students need to use the context clues found in the sentence the word is found in. it mentions how the prairie dogs are "killing competitors without eating them” and then mentions “having a taste for bloodsport."
- Fanatical (paragraph 7): obsessively concerned or involved with something. Students should use the word devotion as a clue to help determine the meaning of the word. In paragraph 8, the text describes how the researchers were observing prairie dogs for four months of the year and would watch them all day.
- Gnaw (paragraph 21): to bite or chew. Students should use the context clues found in the paragraph to determine the meaning of the word. Not only does it describe the prairie dog as gnawing on the squirrel’s chest, but it also says it will nibble on their brains.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment)
1. Teachers can check students’ understanding by collecting students’ completed note-taking guides, checking their work, providing written feedback, and possibly grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share 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 this sample answer key to help them assess students’ answers (begins on third page of document).
3. 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 give alternative suggestions on ways the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
Common errors or misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
1. Students often believe that if animals are labeled herbivores, they will not vary from this diet. Explain to students that the distinction is not always clear cut, and there are multiple examples of herbivores observed feeding on meat. Teachers may wish to explore this topic in more detail. This link accesses a BBC site discussing the feeding habits of the hippo.
2. Inform students that the ground squirrel and the prairie dog are in the same taxonomic class Rodentia but differ at the family level.
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?):
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their 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 this sample answer key to help them assess students' answers (begins on third page of document).
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: See the answer key for the text-dependent questions.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
1. Before students complete the writing assignment for the summative assessment, review the responses to the text-dependent questions completed earlier by the students. Make sure the misconceptions are corrected and the key points (as found in the sample answer key) are discussed.
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. The teacher can show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- How the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph; have students identify the main point of the piece. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Have students examine each of the body paragraphs and explain how each supports the main point of the piece.
- Have students identify where the writer effectively uses textual evidence from the article for support of his or her points.
- Have students identify the use of transition words or phrases that make the ideas flow.
- Ask students to identify where domain-specific vocabulary is used accurately and effectively.
- Have students read the final paragraph to see how the writer wrapped up the piece and connected back to the main point established in the introduction.
1. Ask students to respond to the guided questions in small groups. Allow approximately 5-10 minutes. Have students share their thoughts with the class. Use this time to answer any remaining questions and clarify misconceptions.
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 should refer back to the text as they construct their response.
2. 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.
3. Go over the following writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address:
- Using evidence from the text to justify your answer, explain why the murderous behavior John Hoogland observed in the white-tailed prairie dog is considered unique among mammalian herbivores, and discuss the implications of his research.
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 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?"