A tree octopus? Really? The Endangered Tree Octopus of the Pacific Northwest is a fun hoax for students to learn about how to identify reputable resources for research. I open this lesson with similar enthusiasm as the video to catch their attention as I talk about the tree octopus as if it is real.
Firstly, I explain to them that we need to gather as much information about this incredible animal. I tell them that I am not going to show them what it looks like just yet because we need to develop some research skills before we begin. I begin by opening up Research and Reliable Sources SB File and start instruction from the first page.
I explain that scientists develop questions about topics they research through narrowing what they want to know about the topic. For a quick exercise, we develop questions together about the tree octopus that I just mentioned and I write the questions down on page 2 of the SB file. We discuss what makes these questions important. I work through the SB file and we choose questions that we think are important. I emphasize the concept of thick and thin questions. I like to think of higher order questions as "milkshake" questions so that they can get the idea that these questions require thought and have substance.
We continue through the SB file to the point where the research will begin...
I pass out the Gathering Grid I prepared for my students. We read each question and discussed if I had chosen good thick "milkshake" questions to research. I told them that there is room for two more questions if they have some pop into their minds as they are reading or if they think I have left something out that would be important to them to know. NGSS standards expects that students develop their own questions, discover and think through their ideas about science.
Using the Learning To Research Class SB File I lead my students through the research process. As they begin, I instruct my students to open the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus site on their iPads. I also display the site on my Smart Board for an extra reference. They spend time working independently to skim, scan, read the article and watch the video, after they fill in their gathering grid from their reading. I rove the classroom to support this research process, monitoring reading strategies and helping those who need support.
After everyone seems to be well on their way to completing the grid, I return to the SB file to page 7 so that they can see the instructions of what to do next.
Students partner with a friend when they are done researching and filling out their gathering grid as per instruction on the SB file. This will occupy them as others who are reading more slowly, finish. The partners choose a card from a pile of note cards ( All the cards have the same questions: Do you think a tree octopus is real? Why or why not? Does the research on your gathering grid support your thinking?)
I continue to monitor the time and make sure everyone is on task, getting caught up and is ready for discussion. I want to get to the heart of the matter of credible sources, and know that if some are still reading and researching, I will need to help push along by supporting them to get finished up. It is possible they may not be able to partner and discuss their work, but it's ok because the whole class discussion will support their learning goals.
I pick up a card and begin to read the questions asking for volunteers to express their conclusions and thoughts about the research and the site. As the discussion progresses, it is my hope that students realize that perhaps the site was not a reliable source. I flip to SB file page 8 and we begin the discussion about credible sources. Students engage in discussion and questions about the concept of reliable sources. I reveal that the tree octopus is a hoax.
I return to the tree octopus website to discuss what gives the site away as an unreliable source. We discuss the vocabulary and how the website makes it seem so real. I ask them what they know about octopuses. I ask them if they have ever seen an octopus out of water? Why do we know it is essential that an octopus stays in the water?
I return to the SB file to page 8 and discuss the last point about the topic being far fetched.
I close the lesson with the 9th page that shows some credible sources. We quickly watch a National Geographic video about octopuses to close our lesson. Their exit ticket is their completed gathering grid and a complete sentence answering the question at the bottom.