Writing about Nature: Are Humans just an Algae's Fart?

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SWBAT analyze a central idea by determining the claim in We are all Part of Nature and analyzing its development.

Big Idea

"We owe our existence to the flatulence of blue-green algae." Prove it!

Let's Get Started: Culture Presentations

35 minutes

Building Knowledge: What is the message?

20 minutes

After the presentations I need to lower the energy in the class.  We need to transition from the culture wheel presentations to our continued work on literary nonfiction. I ask the students to take out their reading from the previous night.  They read, "We are All Part of Nature" by Diane Ackerman. Each reading for this unit explores some aspect of culture.  This essay explores the connection between science, nature, culture and identity.  Students usually love this essay.  It is humorous and accessible. They do not struggle with the content and the sophomores who are in biology can usually make connections between this essay and their science class. 

in our ongoing effort to embrace rhetoric, we start with the basics.  I ask the students to complete the rhetorical triangle for "We are All Part of Nature". Additionally, they have to state the message, define nature and briefly summarize the text (RI 9-10.2). Next semester, I will introduce rhetorical precis, the ability to identify the audience, context, purpose and summarize the text are the foundation of rhetorical analysis. 

  • —Audience
  • Context
  • —Purpose (RI.9-10.6)
  • —What is the message? (RI.9-10.2)
  • —According to Ackerman, what is nature? (RI.9-10.1)
  • —Write a very short summary of the text. (RI.9-10.2)

I walk around and monitor the progress of their work.  The independent work refocuses them on their reading.  CCS RL 9-10 2 wants students to determine a central idea and follow its development over the course of the text.  Identifying the message is the first step in forming a central idea.  The other questions force the students to revisit the content of the essay so they can then trace the development of the idea.

Once they have finished their independent work, I tell them to partner share their answers (SL.9-10.1). I want them to get some feedback on their work. Sharing with partners also increases their confidence in presenting material and providing critical feedback.  I respond to any questions students have about the activity.

 Ackerman, Diane. “We are all Part of Nature” Resources for Teaching: Remix, Reading Composing                   Culture. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006. 60-63. Print.



Applying Knowledge: Create an Image

30 minutes

The final slide of the  We are all Part of Nature  powerpoint asks students to work in their groups to identify the claim, state a direct quote that best supports the central idea, and show how the quote connotes to the central idea (RI 9-10.2 and SL.9-10.1). Throughout this unit, the students have worked on identifying the central idea and identifying evidence that supports the central idea.  The critical piece that is missing is the why does the evidence support the central idea.  My students are struggling with making the connection.  When we take it to the next level of rigor and begin to evaluate the quality of the evidence, it is imperative that the students can explain the connection between the central idea and the evidence that supports it.  

I pass out a piece of construction paper to each group.  I tell them that they have to illustrate the quote at the bottom of the paper. 

Now, they did not have to identify the central idea as part of the first activity, however they were supposed to annotate (which includes underlining the central idea) the essay for homework.  I ask for a volunteer to read the thesis.  The first step is always trepidatous  I hope the entire class agrees on the correct sentence as the central idea. 

I tell them to write the thesis at the top of the paper.  Now, I throw a wrench into their plans.  I divide the body paragraphs into seven sections.  I chose seven sections because I have seven table that naturally form seven groups.  I assign a section to each group.  I tell them to pick the best evidence from their section of the text and show how it supports the central idea (RI 9-10.1).  When they finish their paper, each group will have a supporting quote from a different section of the text. 

Closing: Tie the message together

5 minutes

The closing activity has a volunteer from each group come to the front of the room. They line up in the order their assigned paragraphs appear in the essay. 

Next, I pose the question, "What is the central idea?"  I call on one of the sitting students to read the central idea. Aha! Now how does Ackerman develop this idea throughout the course of the essay.

I point at the first person and ask him to explain how the quote and illustration develop the central idea. He is followed by the next person and so on.

By the time the 7th person with a  nature tree speaks, the students have an oral, visual, and written representation of how the essay develops a central idea with evidence.

Now, we put each group's paper together in order.  I tape them to the dry erase board. The students can see the progression of the central idea through the text and the specific details that support it (RI 9-10. 2).  

If I want to advance the lesson, I can ask them why would the author chose this order for the evidence. We could also evaluate the necessity of the evidence, is the the best choice, have new developments in science created better evidence, and/or does any of the evidence stray from the central idea? (RI.9-10.8)

Finally, I remind them that we are in the computer lab next class--culture essays are due!