In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. This article describes new research suggesting urban life creates evolutionary changes in plants and animals. Examples of changes to an urban growing plant (the white clover) and a Leapin' Lizard are described as they evolve to suit their new environment. This lesson includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 6, 7, 8
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: genetic variation, environmental factors, adaptation, evolution, natural selection, text complexity, informational text
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Students should be able to describe how evolution can occur in a specific environment such as a city through different populations of organisms.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text
- 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.
- Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
- Students should know that all living things are made of cells. Within a cell, it contains the genetic material or DNA. All living things contain DNA whether it be a single-celled organism such as a bacteria or a multicellular organism such as a chimpanzee.
- Students should have a general understanding of how the traits an organism contains/exhibits were passed down from their parent(s). These traits are coded in our DNA through our genes.
- Students should have a basic knowledge of how natural selection differentiates survival and reproduction of individuals due to differences in phenotype. If students need to review this concept, PhET provides an online simulation called for teachers to present in class. Alternatively, teachers could show this The video titled "What is Natural Selection?" (starting at 2:25 and ending at 7:25, uploaded by YouTube user Stated Clearly) helps explain the concept of natural selection.
- 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 the article, "Plants, Animals Adapt to City Living" include the title, subtitle, headings, images, and captions.
- Based on the provided writing rubric, 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), body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and include 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. This site offers transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- How does genetic variation contribute to an organism's ability to survive and reproduce?
The genetic variations seen within a species can lead to an increase in an organism's ability to survive long enough to reproduce. Some traits found within the population may not suit the environment and those members of the species may die at a faster rate. However, some members will have traits that suit the environment making them live longer and have more offspring. The greater the genetic variation within a species, the more likely one or more of the traits will make that member more adapted to the environment.
- How do environmental factors contribute to evolution by natural selection?
The environment can play a vital role in which traits a species will pass on and which traits will die out. The landscape, temperature differences, and predators will determine which traits are beneficial, neutral, or detrimental. The traits that an organism has that are beneficial to the specific environment will most likely be passed on to future generations. Traits that are neutral or detrimental are less likely to be passed on and will be less likely to appear in future generations.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
Begin the lesson by asking the class: "What is evolution?"
- Students are likely to answer that humans came from apes or organisms on Earth have become more complex over time. If students need a review of this concept, play the video from Stated Clearly. Stop at 1:00 playing time. Ask students to compare their thoughts prior to the video with the definition described in the video. Students should understand that evolution is simply any change in heritable traits over generations.
* Note: Teachers may wish to incorporate this element as a warm-up writing prompt for students to respond to as they enter class.
Next, ask students, "Over what timescale does evolution occur?"
- Students are likely to answer that evolution occurs over a long period of time. Continue to play the rest of the video, Have students write down evidence from the video that supports the answer one way or another. Have students discuss their answers after the video and the evidence they have to support their claim. Students should be aware that evolution can occur over short periods of time as well as long periods of time.
- Key talking points about the lesson topic:
- Evolution is simply any change in heritable traits over generations.
- Evolution can occur over short periods of time as well as long periods of time.
- Genetic variations contribute to evolution by providing members of a species with different traits.
- Environmental factors can affect which traits will most likely pass on to further generations.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
Instructions for setting up and leading the activity that the students will complete with teacher guidance:
- Provide each student with a copy of the Science News for Students article, .
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section.
- * Note: The end of article on the Science News for Students site includes a "Power Words" section. Teachers should not include these terms/definitions when distributing copies of the article to students as the literacy components of this lesson focus on helping students determine the meaning of many of these (and other) terms in context.
- Provide each student with a copy of the attached graphic organizer.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: Plants, Animals Adapt to City Living
- Subtitle: Urban life creates evolutionary changes in plants and animals, new research suggests
- Headings: Leapin' lizards
- Have students read the text through once before making major annotations. You may just want students to circle unfamiliar vocabulary or concepts. Have students list these words on the graphic organizer. Direct students to read the text a second time more closely. Have students underline the characteristics of each organism as they are in the city and label with the text code "CT." Have students underline the characteristics of each organism as they are in the country and label with a text code "CO". Finally, have students underline and label the benefits of the city organisms' adaptations with a "B." The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- The article has a number of "Power Words" that can be located at the bottom of the article. For this academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies from the article to define the meaning of the words. Have students use the words they circled from the first read and use context clues, while paying attention to the roots and word parts to try to define the words. Provide the definitions from the article to help students check their understanding. Students can highlight the word in the "Power Words" section and then match the highlighted color with the word as it is used in the article. 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 should then use this information to fill in the graphic organizer. The teacher should continue to monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their completed graphic organizer, checking their work, providing written feedback, or 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.
- Teachers should use the attached sample answer key for the graphic organizer to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Students may think that except for minor fluctuations from year to year, environmental conditions have stayed the same throughout the history of the earth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.). Ask students if they know any organisms that once lived on Earth but are now extinct. Students are probably aware of the dinosaur. Ask students if humans were around during the time of the dinosaur? In fact, the last dinosaurs - other than birds - died out dramatically about 65 million years ago, while the fossils of our earliest human ancestors are only about 6 million years old. Ask students to imagine what life on Earth was like then and now. Remind them that the earth has changed quite a bit over time. That is why we find whale fossils all over the world on land and even on the tops of mountains! We have found similar plant species on one continent in one layer of rock and the same species in another continent split by a wide ocean. The world has changed a lot!
- Students may think that individual organisms can deliberately develop new heritable traits because they need them for survival (Bishop and Anderson 1990; Passmore et al., 2002; Stern and Roseman, 2004). Ask students, "If you practice running and eventually get really fast, can you pass these traits on to your offspring?" This trait may help you survive but only traits carried in your DNA are passed on to offspring. DNA can't be deliberately changed. Ask students, "Could you grow taller if you thought that would help you survive? Explain that many traits cannot be changed. An organism can't change its color to better camouflage itself no matter how hard it tries.
- Students may think that sudden environmental change is required for evolution to occur (Nehm and Reilly, 2007). Ask students, "Are you just like your grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins?" Discuss that it does not take major events for changes to occur from one generation to the next. Changes occur each generation. These changes over many generations can slowly over time cause enough differences to change a species into something very different from its ancestor (think several breeds of dogs vs. the gray wolf).
- Change to the characteristics of populations (i.e. the proportion of individuals in the population having certain traits) of organisms is always random, and is not influenced by the favorability of that change in a given environment (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.). Play the Pocket Mouse Film with interactive questions, from Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Discuss the questions as a whole class as they appear throughout the video. After the video, discuss why it would be challenging for the brown mouse to live on the black soil.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Instructions for facilitating the activity that students will complete independently or in groups:
Provide each student with a copy of the attached 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.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- 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.
- Teachers should use the attached text-dependent questions sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: See the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
Instructions for leading the closing discussion:
- Before students complete the writing prompt, be sure to review their responses to the other text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- Students should complete the writing response. Provide the list of "Power Words" (from the article) to students and ask them to include at least four of the terms in their response.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss:
- 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.
- Teachers may have students 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.
- Students can continue reading about how evolution sometimes leads to rapid adaptations of an organism to its environment. Possible sources of background readings from Science News for Students: - "How a Moth Went to the Dark Side," The Story of Dog Domestication - "The Turning of Wolves into Dogs May Have Occurred Twice," and an article on fish, crickets and sea urchins - "Caught in the Act." Students can also play this interactive game from Arizona State University: Picking off the Peppered Moth. Then, students can be instructed to find two species in their home range and describe what features make them comfortable around human habitation. Consider their sources of nutrients here (as opposed to in the wild), the degree to which they are more or less sheltered, or have more or fewer predators nearby.
- Teachers can also use the resources from the website Understanding Evolution to address misconceptions that come up during the lesson.
How will the students show that they met the learning objectives? (Writing Prompt)
- 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 must refer back to the text as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the attached 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:
Compare the two organisms described in the article in terms of changes in reaction to city living. How did these organisms adapt to their environments and what challenges did they face? Describe the similarities and differences between how each organism adapted to city living. Be sure to cite ample evidence from the text in your response.
- 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."
Accommodations & Recommendations
For students struggling with the science content:
- from TED-Ed titled "Evolution in a Big City - Jason Munshi-South" offers a good complement to the main article for students who may benefit from receiving the information in a visual format. This may be shown before students read the text "Plants, Animals Adapt to City Living." Students can see how mice and salamanders have been separated over time into specific areas, which has allowed them to develop into separate populations forming unique and different populations with different characteristics. Relate this to the organisms in the article as students read.
For readers struggling with the text:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read the first two or three paragraphs, then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight selected vocabulary for that section 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.
- When students are ready, have them share their answers and provide corrective verbal feedback as needed, allowing students to make corrections to their work. Then repeat this process for the other sections of the text if needed. Or, at least have students complete the graphic organizer for the next section and receive feedback on their work before they move on.
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
- Introduction paragraph
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- Body paragraphs:
- 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)
- The resource , from the Visionlearning website, will make a good extension to address unique characteristics of different organisms.
- Students can research their favorite animal or pet and find out how that organism has evolved over time. Students could create posters, digital slide show presentations, or use other formats to present their findings. Students can then share with the class in a gallery walk format. Great examples to use could be dogs, dolphins, snakes, birds, etc.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD 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 featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The 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: Tracy Colucci
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Broward
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.