In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article in this lesson describes how a species of fish has adapted to lethal levels of toxic pollutants due to their high level of genetic variation, which allows them to evolve quickly. Scientists hope to use studies of these fish to understand human reactions to environmental chemicals. 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, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: evolution, observable evolution, water pollution, genetic variation, genetic diversity, adaptation, gene sequencing, Atlantic killifish, 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?
- Explain the importance of genetic variation in the process of evolution.
- Explain why the Atlantic killifish is able to evolve so rapidly.
- Describe how genomic sequencing can be used to better understand a species' evolutionary history.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of a text.
- Determine the meaning 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?
- Students should have prior knowledge of the evidence used to support evolution. If they need a refresher, this TedEd provides an overview on evidence of evolution.
- Students should be familiar with the use of gene sequencing of DNA in the study of evolution. For a review, they can watch the Evolution Genetic Tool Kit at this link.
- Students should be aware of some of the effects of pollution on species. If needed, students can view this video on Water Pollution Effects and the ways to reduce it.
- Students should have a general understanding of the role of the niche the Atlantic killifish (Mummichog) has in its ecosystem. Students can study this information on the fish, which is provided by the Chesapeake Bay Program.
- Students should have a general understanding of some of the major pollutants found in water systems. The following government sources from the EPA and National Institutes of Health provide information on this topic.
- 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 to locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in "Against the Tide: Fish Quickly Adapt to Lethal Levels of Pollution" include the title and headings. In the online version of the article there are also images with 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), body paragraphs(s) to 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 provides transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- What makes the Atlantickillifish such a unique fish?
The Atlantic killifish has the highest measure of genetic variation found among vertebrates. As a result, they have been able to rapidly evolve to survive in conditions containing high levels of toxic pollutants. The killifish is up to 8000 times as resistant to these pollutants than other fish.
- Why is genetic variation important in evolution?
Having a high amount of genetic variation in a population allows for faster evolution. The high amount of genetic diversity provides a quicker response to rapidly changing environments.
- How can genomic sequencing be used in the study of evolution?
Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome - the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism's DNA. Studying the genome of organisms allows scientists access to fundamental information about the organism and all of its genes. Scientists can compare different sequences and examine the relationship between the DNA sequences of different species.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by stating, "The more genetic variation a species has, the faster the population may evolve. What is genetic variation?"
Students will probably suggest genetic variation is the variation between different individuals found in a population or differences in the gene pool.
- Next ask the class, "What is the importance of genetic variation in a population?"
Probable answers may include that it allows evolution to occur more rapidly, and it is necessary for natural selection to occur. Students will probably answer that when there is a lot genetic variation, there is a higher chance of survival if the environment changes, etc.
- Next ask the class, "What might cause an environment to change?"
The most common responses will probably include natural disasters such as floods, fires, etc. and human activity such as deforestation, construction, and pollution.
Also ask students how pollution can specifically affect the environment and the organisms found there.
Students may suggest that pollution can affect the land, air, and water. It can affect the food webs, and it can cause death, introduce disease, etc.
- Show this short on the killifish by the Science Channel. After the video, discuss the importance of the research based on the continuing and rapid changes that are occurring on the planet based on human activity.
- End the discussion by informing students that they will be reading an article from the National Science Foundation that describes the research that was just discussed in the video, and they will also be answering questions based on the text.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the article "Against the Tide: Fish Quickly Adapt to Lethal Levels of Pollution."
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within the text.
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide.
- Have students individually fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. Another option would be for students to fill out the note-taking guide during the second reading of the text, and they could work in pairs or in small groups to complete it. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed. In the sample answer key provided at the end of the note-taking guide, suggestions are given for some of the vocabulary words to help teachers encourage students to use context clues to define some of the words.
- 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. Please make sure students have access to a dictionary.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their completed note-taking guides, 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 sample answer key included with the note-taking guide 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 often believe natural selection and evolution are the same concept. Explain that natural selection is a mechanism that can cause evolution to occur because a specific trait or adaptation is being selected for in an environment.
- Students may believe individuals can evolve. Inform students that organisms may have an adaptation allowing them to survive and pass on their genes; however, changes in a population's allele frequency can show evolution is occurring.
- The "Understanding Evolution" from Berkeley addresses a variety of misconceptions about evolution at all different levels.
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 questionsto 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 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 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.
At the end of the lesson, have students (in their table groups) write down 3 (three) things they learned from the article and (1) one question they still have. Have students share out loud. Allow time for discussion to address any remaining misconceptions or to correct wrong information.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. They should refer back to the text as they construct their written response. (Note: A sample written response has been provided at the end of the text-dependent questions answer key. The sample is written in the form of an extended response, not a formal essay.)
- If teachers want students to write a formal expository essay for the summative assessment, they might use this rubric to assess students' work. Whatever rubric teachers decide to use, make sure to 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.
Writing prompt: Compare and contrast the evolution of the Atlantic killifish and the evolution of other species. Explain why studying the Atlantic killifish genome might be beneficial to predicting human response to pollution. Use evidence from the text to support your response.
- Teachers will use a rubric to assess students' written responses. Teachers can also use the sample written response to compare students' work to.
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.
Accommodations & Recommendations
For students struggling with the science content:
- If students are struggling with the concepts involved with evolution, they may use a resource from for discussion on any of the concepts regarding evolution.
- Have students view the images related to the online article to provide context for the students.
- Teachers might wish to show maps and additional images of the locations referenced in the article (paragraph 8).
For students struggling with the note-taking guide:
- Teachers may want to fill in some of the answers on the graphic organizer, leaving students to add more information.
- Teachers may want to have students work in table groups and come up with one graphic organizer per table group.
For readers struggling with the text:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text into three sections. Have students independently read section one, and then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight selected vocabulary for section one of the article. Work with students to model ways to define a few of the vocabulary words to get them started. The teacher can think aloud as he or she decides which vocabulary strategy 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 then work independently, in pairs, or with a group to define other words in section one.
- When students are ready, have them share their answers and provide verbal feedback as needed, allowing students to make corrections to their work. Then repeat this process for the other two sections of the text if needed.
- The following vocabulary terms were not included in the note-taking guide and struggling readers may need additional support for these words: evolution, molecular, genome, mutation, outpacing, industrial, commercially, preserving, indicator.
For struggling writers:
It might help struggling writers to provide them with an outline to help them structure their response for the summative assessment, especially if students are asked to write a formal expository essay. 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)
- Have students research and create PowerPoints about other species who have successfully evolved despite rapidly changing ecological conditions. Students might use the site to begin research.
- Teachers may wish to use the CPALMS lesson plan titled "Environmental Awareness: How are Humans Impacting the Environment and What Can We Do to Help?" to discuss and inform students about other issues affecting ecosystems.
- Have students research other environmental indicator species and report back to the class. This link can provide information to help students begin their research.
- After reading the article, have students explore some of the questions they recorded on their graphic organizer in the note-taking guide.
Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, 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 text's grade band recommendations reflects the shifts inherent in the standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, the qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Kimberly O&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;#39;Connell
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Volusia
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.