Biomes Cooperative Presentation
Lesson 5 of 7
Objective: Student groups will be able to describe the biotic and abiotic characteristics of a particular biome and participate in the creation of a collective presentation that covers all the main terrestrial biomes of Earth.
This lesson is an opportunity for students conduct short research to find some basic details about a particular biome and then share that information with the rest of the class. Although they can use text and online resources to find information, the final "product" of this lesson is a Google docs presentation with slides for each major biome of the world. Each student group will add their information to only their biome's slides, so that the final collective presentation is a patchwork, or jigsaw of multiple groups' work.
This lesson is not meant to be an extensive investigation and report on a biome, simply an introduction allowing students to choose and then get acquainted with a particular biome that they will investigate in more detail for their Biome Travel Agency project.
Connection to Standards:
In this lesson, students will conduct short internet research to gather information, synthesize the information from various sources to produce a clear understanding of the topic, use technology to publish and revise their work, and use digital media to present information clearly to an audience of their peers.
The concept of the activity is fairly simple, but there are some technical issues that need to be covered to get students started, so it's important to devote at least 15 minutes or so making sure students know how to access the presentation they will be editing.
I begin by letting my students know that we will be making a Google slides presentation collectively, explaining that this means each group will be making one small part of a larger presentation.
I then show students my sample presentation. I show them the basic format, which as you can see in the attached images, consists of one slide with information and a landscape image of the biome, and a second slide with an example of an animal and a plant living in that biome.
I chose the Polar Ice biome for my example since it is not very diverse and wouldn't make as good of a subject for student research as the other biomes would. In this way, I can model to the students that even with a small amount of information, they can complete this basic overview of a biome.
Once I have shown students how their presentation should look, I explain how to get to the presentation on Google slides. In my case, I am lucky enough that my school is currently using School Loop, which is a means of communicating electronically with all the students on your roster.
Students can access the assignment on their mobile devices or a computer and within that assignment, I include both a hyperlink and the url if students prefer to copy and paste it into their browser. For any students that don't want to access the link in this way, I have a printed copy of the link on their assignment handout.
This link takes you to the blank Google slides presentation. It is view only, but you can make a copy and share that with your students. Just make sure to adjust the sharing settings to "can edit". If you teach multiple periods, you may want to make multiple copies of this presentation so that different periods aren't editing each others work.
Once we have gone over the technical details of how to access the presentation, I ask that students send one of their group members to get a computer, set it up and access the presentation's Google doc.
During this time, I begin the process for selecting which biome the students will be responsible for. I direct them to the chapter in their textbook (which they read in preparation for the Adaptations to Biomes lesson) that covers the following biomes:
- Boreal Forest (Taiga)
- Temperate Deciduous Forest
- Temperate Grassland (Prairie)
- Temperate Rain Forest
- Tropical Dry Forest
- Tropical Grassland (Savannah)
- Tropical Rain Forest
I then let students know they should review the biomes and have a 1st, 2nd and 3rd pick ready, just in case another group selects their top pick before them. While students are doing this, I walk around and check that the group members setting up the computer can access the presentation.
Once I have checked that all groups have successfully navigated to the editable presentation, I begin the process of biome selection. It may not be the best method, but I do like to reward those students who have been working hard in my class.
- I open my gradebook and find the student with the highest grade and then say, for example, "Ashley Cortez, which biome does your group want to work on?" I then cross their choice off the list (which I have printed on paper), and then find the next highest grade and repeat the process.
- If a student is next in line but is already part of a group, I skip over their name and move to the student with the next highest grade that isn't part of a group that has chosen their biome. This keeps it fairly anonymous if the members of groups that have already made their selections have high grades or low grades.
- When there are only 3 biomes remaining, I call all the remaining groups to my desk and repeat this process with them, so as not to announce to the entire class who has the lowest grade.
Once all groups have made a selection, the groups begin working independently on their part of the presentation.
Once all groups have selected their biomes and begun working, I walk around the classroom helping the students as necessary.
A common issue that some students have is where to find information in their selected biome. For many students, this isn't an issue, they get straight to a web search and find the required information fairly quickly. For others, though, they will need a little help. Here are some of the common tips:
- I show them that their textbook has very generalized information, and remind them that this is all this assignment really calls for.
- I also ask them in addition to simply searching the name of their biome to also include basic refining terms into an online search like, "desert climate", or "tundra animals", as these often result in web pages that have not only the specific info they're looking for, but more general info that they can use for the other parts of the assignment.
The information that the slides call for is fairly simple, students must find:
- A general description of the climate including,
- Seasonal variations of these climatic factors
- An example of a representative plant, animal, and a specific adaptation to the biome
- An example city in or near the biome, including latitude
- The idea of including a sample city is so that in follow-up project, the biome travel agency, students can more easily find specific climate data than would otherwise be possible just searching for generalized climate data.
Again, the template in the Google doc is pretty much the only instructions for the assignment, essentially making it a "fill in the blank" activity.
Here's an example of a student slide that contains all of the required information.
Another common problem students have is getting their images into their slides. I try to demonstrate to them that all they need to do is to drag the image from a desktop or from another browser window and then drop it into the slide. They can then click on the image and resize it to fit into the boxes in the appropriate slide.
In the last 15 minutes of class, I tell groups that they need to finish updating their slides with the information and images they collected.
When students have finished their slide, I ask them to please make a copy of the presentation on their own account. This way, if some other group accidentally alters the work they had done in the collective presentation, the group has a record of what they did do and can just copy their slides from their copy back into the collective presentation. I also ask that they let me know they have completed their slide so I can check it quickly and give them a score for completing the assignment. As far as grading, I simply award them points for completion of all the necessary information. If there is something to improve or revise, I let them know in a short follow-up email when they have shared their slides with me.
Finally, I ask that students prepare two multiple choice questions about their biome. I explain that they will ask these questions to their fellow students after they present their slides on the following class day. I explain that the class should be able to answer their question based on the information presented in their slides. I ask that they prepare two questions because I prefer to have a choice on which question to add to the short 10 question quiz that I hand out following the student presentations on the following class.
I model possible multiple choice questions for them with the following questions based on my Polar Ice example slide:
- "Which of the following animals would most likely live in the polar ice biome?"
- A. Alligator
- B. Howler Monkey
- C. Toucan
- D. Polar Bear
- "Which biome has the year-round coldest temperatures on Earth?"
- A. Tropical Rain Forest
- B. Tundra
- C. Polar Ice
- D. Boreal Forest (Taiga)
I let students know that if they have not finished their slide, they will be expected to have their slides and their two questions ready for the following class meeting where the class will view the finished presentation and each group will present their slides. I let them know that following the presentation, we will have a short quiz based on their student-generated questions.