Salmon and Dams

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SWBAT read research about the effects of dams on salmon and identify key details.

Big Idea

Scientific research tells us that dams negatively affect salmon.


10 minutes

I begin this lesson with an activity designed to activate students' prior knowledge about the topic of salmon. Doing so is important to me because my students studied salmon extensively in an earlier knowledge and have a shared base of knowledge about the topic. I want my students to remind themselves of what they already know about salmon before engaging in a more complex task. This helps ease students into the activity of reading and writing about a topic of scientific interest.

To help students reengage with this knowledge I ask them to participate in a think-pair-share activity. Prior to the activity, I divided a deck of cards by suit. I use only two suits in the activity, one red and one black. I distribute the cards to students and ask them to find the partner with the same card value. This ensures a random pairing of students. I ask the partner with the red card to share first and to speak about what they know about salmon for 1 minute. I then ask the partner with the black card to paraphrase what they heard for 30 seconds. This paraphrasing section encourages students to actively listen to one another and increases accountability for on-task behavior. I then switch roles giving the student with the black card 1 minute to share and the student with the red card 30 seconds to paraphrase.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

After students return their seats, I introduce the day's activity. I tell the students that they will be reading three short research articles about the effects of dams on salmon and that during this reading, they will take notes about key details from the texts. I provide each student with a copy of the salmon research packet and the note taking graphic organizer for CBA

I guide the students through the process of reading the first research article and highlighting key details (see reflection for more on guiding the note-taking process). After we finish reading the article aloud, I ask students to transfer important points to their note-taking graphic organizer. We repeat this process with the second research article to help students learn the process. 

Independent Practice

20 minutes

I then provide students with time to read and take notes on their third research article on their own. This helps students to become more proficient with the note-taking process and allows me to assess their mastery of this process. While students are working, I circulate around the classroom and provide feedback to students on their note-taking skills.

A sample of a student's completed notes on two article can be found here


10 minutes

To help reinforce student understanding, assess progress, and allow time for students to process their new learning, I provide time for students to share out key ideas that they learned in their research.  A video of my students sharing their thinking can be found here. The student sharing time is a valuable source of closure and allows me to quickly assess whether kids have noted the important facts that they will need to know for future work.