In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text that explains how a smaller species of organisms are filling a niche of larger organisms that have been reduced due to overfishing and disease. These smaller organisms have been shown to reduce algal communities that can lead to the destruction of crucial coral reefs. This discovery may have large, beneficial impacts on endangered coral communities around the world. This lesson is designed to support reading in the content area. The lesson plan includes use of a seed discussion organizer, a vocabulary handout, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, sample answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 9, 10
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: coral, reefs, herbivores, coral bleaching, coral reef, climate change, coral polyps, sea urchins, parrotfish, zooxanthellae, algae, symbiotic, informational text, 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?
Students should be able to:
- Understand the importance of coral reefs to ocean ecology.
- Identify how humans have negatively impacted coral reef communities, specifically coral bleaching.
- Explain how human activity has impacted coral reef restoration.
- Identify how alternate organisms may fill environmental niches of overfished or diseased organisms.
- Identify how the discoveries outlined in the article may help to restore damaged coral populations.
- Cite specific and relevant evidence to support analysis of a text.
- Determine the meanings of unknown academic and domain-specific words in a 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.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
- General understanding of coral reef ecology is needed.
- In order for students to understand the importance of the findings contained in the main article for this lesson, they must understand basic relationships in coral reef communities. Some relationships of importance include the following: symbiotic relationships between coral polyps, zooxanthellae, and algal populations. In addition, understanding the ecological diversity, predator-prey relationships, and breeding importance that these reefs provide would help students grasp the enormity of reef destruction. This page from the Coral Reef Alliance provides information on this topic.
- Students may view the Khan Academy site for ecological interactions if needed to review the various types of relationships found within communities.
- General understanding of organism niches in their ecosystems is needed.
- Students should understand that specific organisms generally play very specific roles in their ecosystems. When the population of that specie drops, often the roles they filled remains vacant, which disrupts the ecosystem.
- General understanding of the relationship between coral reef bleaching and climate change is needed.
- In order for students to fully understand how coral reefs become bleached and die, they need to know that coral polyps expel the zooxanthellae (colorful algae) that live with them when the fragile water temperature range they can exist in becomes disrupted. Once the zooxanthellae are expelled, coral polyps tend to die and the reef becomes bleached white. The NOAA website provides information on this topic and also has hyperlinks found within this webpage to allow further exploration.
- General understanding of human impact on the environment is also needed. In the teaching phase, there are resources the teacher may explore with the class if he or she chooses to do so.
Note to teachers: Climate change due to direct human interaction is the main cause of coral bleaching. Increased levels of CO2 have led to increased global temperatures to an extent that oceanic temperatures are rising to an intolerable point for sensitive coral polyps. In addition, the increase of dissolved CO2 in oceanic waters in turn increases the acidity of the water. This ocean acidification prevents coral from taking in valuable calcium carbonate they need to maintain their skeletons. Both factors, increased water temperatures and ocean acidification, lead to coral bleaching. This information will need to be taught or discussed separate from the articles provided for the lesson. The "Itsy-Bitsy Herbivore" article makes the assumption that the reader understands why coral bleaching occurs and how humans have contributed to this process. The following link to Teach Ocean Science can provide teaching material for an instructor as needed.
- 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 may also benefit from knowing how to use word parts to help them determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
- Based on the writing rubric provided with the 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), body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) with relevant and specific textual evidence, and an appropriate conclusion.
- 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 provides transitions teachers might provide to students.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- Why is algae a threat to struggling coral reefs?
- Algal communities can prevent coral reefs from growing because they can block out nutrients and sunlight that the photosynthetic zooxanthellae need to survive.
- Why are herbivores important to struggling coral reefs?
- Herbivores help to maintain coral reef communities by feeding on algal populations that when left unchecked, can blanket and kill the coral polyps and zooxanthellae that form the foundation of the reef ecosystem.
- Why is the discovery of thesmallerparrotfish and sea urchins found on the reefs off Panama important?
- The larger versions of these herbivores have decimated populations due to overfishing by humans and naturally occurring diseases. These larger parrotfish and sea urchins feed on the algal communities that can threaten coral if left to overproduce. Knowing that both species had reduced populations, researchers expected to find algal-covered reefs. Instead they found that the algae was held at bay by smaller herbivores that had filled the niche of their larger cousins. This discovery could hold great promise for the rehabilitation of global coral reef communities.
- How are humans affecting coral reefs?
- Even if a coral reef has suffered bleaching, it can be restored as new coral that can grow on the coral skeletons. The coral must be free of algae in order for the new coral to grow. In a healthy reef ecosystem, fish that feed on algae are part of this natural process. However, as humans overfish the reefs, the herbivorous fish that feed on the algae have been reduced hindering the re-growth of the coral.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by asking the class: "Why are coral reefs important to ocean ecology?"
- Students are likely to comment on the large biodiversity found on reefs and the extensive predator-prey relationships that rely on that diversity. Students may also answer that reefs play a key role in the cycling of CO2 and O2 in oceans as they are the "rainforests of the seas."
- Next, ask:"What are some important relationships that exist among the organisms found on reefs?"
- Students are likely to reference the popular mutualistic relationship between clown fish and anemones. However, students may not be aware of the relationship between coral reefs and zooxanthellae. Show this video titled "Oceans: Zooxanthellae, Coral Growth Forms, Water Clarity, Reef Regeneration" (5:53, uploaded by YouTube user Undersea Productions) to explore this crucial reef relationship with students.
- Next, ask: "How are humans negatively affecting coral reefs?"
- Students may respond that there is overfishing and overharvesting occurring on the reefs. They may mention the effects pollution can have on coral reefs. They might mention how ocean acidification is damaging the reefs and how coral bleaching is occurring due to increases in water temperature caused by climate change. The Story of Frank the Coral is a video that explains how coral become bleached. Make sure to point out the specific human interactions.
- Finally, tell students they will be reading an article from Smithsonian.com that discusses the discovery of two tiny herbivores that are important in the process of coral reef restoration. Explain to students the importance of this finding. The normal organisms involved in coral recovery have been affected by overfishing and disease, but this finding reveals that there are other species in the reefs that have occupied this niche (role in ecosystem).
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article, "These Itsy-Bitsy Herbivores Could Stage a Huge Coral Reef Rescue." For class discussion that will follow, it may be beneficial to have students number the paragraphs.
- Provide each student with a seed discussion organizer and a vocabulary handout. Students will use the organizer to participate in small group seed discussions. If teachers are unfamiliar with this reading strategy, more information can be found here.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: "These Itsy-Bitsy Herbivores Could Stage a Huge Coral Reef Rescue"
- Subtitle: Tiny parrotfish and sea urchins can take over the job of their larger cousins to keep a reef free of algae
- Note: The online version of the article also includes a photo and caption.
- Have students fill out the seed discussion organizer as they read the text. This should be done individually. After reading, student groups of 3-4 should discuss each "seed" on their chart thoroughly. Each student should be encouraged to contribute one thing to each "seed" listed on the guide. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- Students can work on the vocabulary handout individually, in partners, or in small groups. For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of 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 those words. Be prepared to provide students access to print or online dictionaries.
- Teachers can check for understanding by collecting completed seed discussion charts, checking them, and providing feedback when appropriate.
- Teachers may use the sample answer key provided at the end of the documentto help assess student responses on the seed discussion and vocabulary charts.
- The teacher should monitor seed discussions to answer any glaring questions or clear up misconceptions.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Students may think that corals are plants and rocks, while they are actually tiny animals called coral polyps. The color of the reefs come from the photosynthetic algae zooxanthellae that enjoy a mutualistic relationship with the coral polyps.
- Students may think that reefs are only home to a diverse variety of animals. In fact, reefs have a robust variety of plant species.
- Students may think that global climate change does not affect oceanic ecosystems. The teacher should explore the ways that human interaction is disrupting coral reefs.
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.
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 can use the sample answer key provided at the end of the 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.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- Before students complete the writing prompt for the summative assessment, 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.
- Before assigning the students the writing prompt, have them read aloud as a class, "Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef May Get a Lot Worse in the Future. Students will use information from this article, as well as the main article for the lesson, when responding to the writing prompt for the summative assessment. Teachers may wish to hold a short discussion about the article to check students' understanding and correct any significant misconceptions before assigning students to complete the writing prompt.
- 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. Going over the organization of the writing sample, pointing out the use of relevant textual evidence, and identifying the correct use of domain-specific vocabulary can help struggling writers.
- As an additional option, teachers might have students use the attached rubric to provide a score for the sample written response. They can be asked to justify the score they gave and provide revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
To end the lesson:
Tell students you are considering assigning a project in which the goal would be to create a digital poster to be used on the school's TV announcements. The poster would highlight coral reef ecology. Ask students to help you come up with the requirements for the content of the poster based on what they learned from the lesson.
- 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 both texts 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.
- The prompt: Imagine that you are an educator passionate about coral reef ecology. You do not think Florida students have an adequate grasp on the link between climate change and coral reef bleaching. You believe that introducing these concepts to students in the third grade would be a good way to educate and empower Florida students to help bring about change. Using evidence from the texts "These Itsy-Bitsy Herbivores Could Stage a Huge Coral Reef Rescue" and "Coral Bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef May Get a Lot Worse in the Future," decide on at least three key points to teach the students. Make sure to explain why each point should be included in the instruction.
- 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.
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:
- This NOAA tutorial on corals is a wonderful interactive in which students can use the links to the right of the document to get the information they may be having difficulty with.
- Have students use the hyperlinks found within the main article for this lesson to help them with related content or to learn more about information found in the article.
- Show pictures of Echinometra viridis (sea urchin) and Scarus iseri (parrotfish), which are the small herbivores mentioned in the text. Teachers could also show pictures of coral reefs in the Caribbean, the Great Barrier Reef, close-ups of coral polyps, algae, hatcheries, examples of artificial reefs, bison, and groundhogs.
For struggling readers:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Break the text into several sections. Have students independently read section one, and then have several strong readers read section one aloud. Repeat this process until the entire text has been read. Students can then reread the text and begin to fill in the seed discussion organizer.
- Emphasize that there are no "incorrect answers" for the seed discussion organizer, however, students are expected to participate with at least three responses in each "seed." Before students begin, the teacher might want to model filling in one item on each section of the organizer. As an example, teachers might tell students they found it interesting that the smaller cousins of the parrotfish and sea urchins were the organisms that were found to be eating the algae. This would go in the section titled, "Things that seem surprising or interesting."
- For the vocabulary handout, teachers might wish to model ways to determine the meaning of one domain-specific vocabulary word and one academic vocabulary word before students work independently to determine word meanings. There are also tips on the sample answer key for teachers to help students with context clues and word parts to assist them with determining the word meanings for several words.
- Depending on students' needs, the teacher could have students work on the vocabulary handout, report out their definitions and receive feedback on their work (allowing them to make corrections as needed), and then have students read the text again and fill out the seed discussion organizer during that reading of the text. Students could then work on defining any words they placed on the seed discussion organizer.
- Some students may need support with the following vocabulary that was not included on the vocabulary handout. Domain-specific terms: single-celled, substrate, fossil record, paleontological. Academic vocabulary: dynamics, restoration, colonized, plight.
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 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)
- Topic sentence (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)
- To continue the important conversation regarding coral reef restoration, students could watch this 30-minute TED talk titled "Glimpses of a Pristine Ocean."
- Have students complete the activity mentioned in the closure section of this lesson plan. Have students create a digital poster (Canva, Glogster, etc.) to be used on the school's TV announcements. The poster should highlight coral reef ecology. The intent of the poster would be to draw attention to coral bleaching and ways that people can help.
- Have students write a bill for Florida legislation requiring coral reef educational standards be included in elementary school science. The bill should include a rationalization explaining why young students need to learn about the plight of coral reefs and possible restoration efforts.
- Emphasize the importance of coral reefs in biogeochemical cycles. To reinforce the importance of reefs in regards to the carbon and oxygen cycle, show this infographic. Infographics can be printed and laminated beforehand or shown on an overhead projector. Have students discuss the information as a class.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones
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 text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the Florida 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: Michelle Marshall
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.