In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article discusses the interactions of many different species of organisms in Yellowstone National Park. Specifically, the text focuses on the importance of not only the interactions that wolves have with the ecosystem, but how important beavers are to the stability of the whole ecosystem. 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): 9, 10
Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Adobe Acrobat Reader
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: Yellowstone, wolf, beaver, trophic cascade, ecosystem, food web, food chain, interactions, symbiosis, predation, 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?
What specific and measurable content and skills should students know and be able to do as a result of this experience?
- Describe and differentiate organism interactions and interdependence in an ecosystem.
- 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 multi-paragraph 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.
- Integrate multiple sources of information to address a single writing prompt.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
- Students should have a basic understanding of ecosystem interactions. This video titled "Types of Interactions within Ecosystems" (4:35, uploaded by YouTube user Ellen Brenneman) provides a review of species interactions.
- This video (although based on aquatic ecosystems), titled "Symbiosis: Mutualism, Commensalism, and Parasitism" (5:16, uploaded by YouTube user Untamed Science), discusses relationships between different species in detail; mutualism, commensalism, and parasitism.
- This CPALMS Expert Perspective video titled "Environmental Restoration Techniques" (Resource ID 128414) provides a local example of what can happen when humans manipulate ecosystems.
- 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 and word parts 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 understand the term "central idea." The central idea is the author's main point about the topic or topics in a text. The central ideas are the dominant, most important, or chief ideas that emerge from all the ideas presented 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 for this lesson include a title and subtitle, as well as the use of bold font. The online version of the article also includes photographs and captions.
- 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), 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 share the information from this site to help students with transitions.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- What are the implications of hunting a top predator to extinction?
If the top predator is removed by humans or becomes extinct, then their prey's population will increase. If the prey are herbivores, then they will cause quite a bit of change to the producers in the ecosystem.
- How can damming up a stream by a beaver affect other organisms?
The beaver builds dams to make a home. These dams create sluggish or slow moving water. This slow moving water will allow for more sediment deposition, increasing the nutrients necessary for many plants. The more plant life, the more diversity you find of all types of organisms.
- What interactions do willows have with other organisms in Yellowstone?
Willows provide a food source for the elk. In addition, they provide building materials and food for beavers. Once willows are established, they help to provide an anchor for the soil and sediments so that they are not washed downstream. Nutrient-rich sediments are essential for ecosystem growth.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
Begin the lesson by asking the students, "Do you believe a predator, like a wolf, can affect the flow of a river?"
- Students will likely answer "no" depending on their background in ecology. If they mostly believe that wolves have no impact on a river, ask them then what a wolf would affect in its ecosystem.
- Show this video titled "How Wolves Change Rivers" (4:33, uploaded by YouTube user Sustainable Human).
Next, ask the students "How long did they say that the wolves had been absent from Yellowstone?"
Then, ask the students "What types of interactions did the deer have with the wolves and the vegetation?"
- The wolves and the deer have a predator-prey interaction. The deer eat vegetation, so if their population increases, the vegetation decreases. Vegetation is not always just a food source, but helps to hide prey from predators.
Next, ask the students "What types of behavior changes did the deer make once wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone?"
- Possible answer: "They started avoiding areas of the park where they could be tracked easily by the wolves, most specifically the valleys and the gorges."
Finally, ask the students "What interactions caused the wolves to have an impact on the rivers?
- The wolves decreased deer population.
- The deer changed their behavior because they had to hide from the wolves.
- This meant there were areas where there weren't many deer and therefore no over-grazing.
- No over-grazing led to increased vegetation.
- Increased vegetation increased bird populations.
- Because there wasn't as much over-grazing, there was less soil erosion, which stabilized the rivers.
- The rivers meandered less due to increased vegetation.
End the discussion by informing students that an ecosystem is very delicate and that they will be reading an article that addresses new discoveries about the interactions of organisms in Yellowstone.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article, "Yellowstone Ecosystem Needs Wolves and Willows, Elk and... Beavers?"
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section. They can also number the sections. (Section 1 follows the subtitle, Section 2 is "No wolves, no beavers," Section 3 is "Wolves aren't enough," Section 4 is "Streams:the missing link," Section 5 is "Yellowstone ecosystem questions: answered by beavers.")
- Provide each student with a copy of the note-taking guide. The note-taking guide document includes a sample answer key for teachers to use to assess student work/provide feedback. Be careful not to distribute the key to 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: "Yellowstone Ecosystem Needs Wolves and Willows, Elk and… Beavers?"
- Subtitle: Scientists plot crucial links among Yellowstone plant and animal species.
- Headings: No wolves, no beavers; Wolves aren't enough; Streams: the missing link; Yellowstone ecosystem questions: answered by beavers.
- Have students fill out the note-taking guide 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.
- 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.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their answers to their completed note-taking guides, 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 sample answer key included with the note-taking guide document to help them assess students' answers.
- 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:
- Students may believe that the populations of predators will have a bigger impact on an ecosystem. If they don't understand all the interactions in an ecosystem, they cannot accurately predict what will happen.
- When studying ecosystems, the importance of abiotic factors should also be addressed. As discussed in the article, beavers created dams, which affected sediment deposition. Without sediment deposition, the willow tree population couldn't flourish.
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.
- 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 sample answer key included with the text-dependent questions document 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, be sure to review their 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.
- Teachers may have students use the rubric to provide a score for the sample written response and have them justify the score that they gave, possibly providing revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
- Doodles – Students can sketch or draw 3 concepts they learned from the lesson using words or images.
- Finish the sentence - Have students complete an exit ticket by finishing the following sentence: Humans should interact with ecosystems...
Or, alternatively, teachers may wish to have students debate whether the humans should interfere with ecosystems such as that of Yellowstone at all. Have students debate if the decision to reintroduce wolves to Yellowstone was justified. Students should be encouraged to support their argument with textual evidence.
- 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 rubric and go over the rubric 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. Remind students they will need to provide evidence from both the article and the video to support their answer.
The prompt: A complex set of interactions between all living organisms and their abiotic factors in a given area is the definition of an ecosystem. Discuss the interactions between the wolf, elk, willow, and beaver in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Using evidence from the article, explain (by referencing these interactions), why reintroducing the wolf into Yellowstone did not fully correct that ecosystem.
- 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
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: Marino Nardelli
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.