It's only "write" to care about ecology

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Students will write a creative short story that demonstrates they are able to use content specific vocabulary in a manner that evidences content knowledge.

Big Idea

The ability to write cogently about a subject is an important skill that students should not only practice in Language Arts.


5 minutes

WARM-UP: “If the earth were an apple, what part of the apple would be biosphere?  Explain.

As a review of the content covered the previous lesson, Intro to Ecology, ask students to consider which part of an apple would be the biosphere and have them explain their answer.  This question allows students to reason and defend their responses.  Allow students to share their responses and engage in academic discourse.  Listen to all responses before communicating that the skin of the apple best reflects the biosphere because the biosphere is the surface of the earth that supports life.       

Note: Warm-Up questions are a great way to engage students in the learning process right at the start of class.  I like to select questions that stimulate students’ thoughts and ideas.  As students engage in academic discourse, I act as a facilitator and use their responses to build in several review questions in a manner that feels more like a conversation, that traditional review of facts. Their responses act to fuel the higher level thinking review questions that arise from the discussion.


10 minutes

Begin with a review of the characteristics of ecosystems using a concept map.  Concept maps allow student to correctly organize their thoughts about a concept and are a great formative assessment tool.  Project the concept map using a LCD projector and allow students to help you complete the concept map.

I like the whole group approach for this activity because it’s an efficient way to briefly spiral back to previous content, while having students follow along with as a group with what is displayed on the screen.  As you guide students through the concept map, ask questions like, “How is an ecosystem different from a community?”  If the class encounters difficulty with any of the parts of the concept map, conduct a think aloud so that students can follow your reasoning for how you arrived at the correct answer. This type of guided review helps ensure students share a common base of understanding before moving forward.



Guided Practice

10 minutes

Inform students that today’s lesson involves writing a short story using ecology terms that have been taught.   Because students have written stories before in a previous lesson, the review of the short story writing process should not take much time.  

Briefly review the elements of a short story:

  • Character a person, or sometimes even an animal, who takes part in the action of a short story-
  • Setting- the time and place in which it happens. Authors often use descriptions of landscape, scenery, buildings, seasons or weather to provide a strong sense of setting.
  • Plot- a series of events or character actions that relate to the conflict.
  • Conflict- struggle between two people or things in a short story.
  • Theme- the central idea

Present the short story rubric and remind students the purpose of the rubric is to guide their work.  Take time to discuss the rubric and go over the grading for each section.  Reviewing the rubric ensures that students are aware of what i is expected and lessens the likelihood of submission of work products that do not meet the learning target.

Model an example and non-example of the use of terms to help guide students toward success with this assignment. Show students usage that demonstrates knowledge mastery and usage that does not demonstrate mastery:

Non-example:  The teacher asked Brian, what is an ecosystem?”

Example: The fish loved their aquatic ecosystem for its beautiful plants and warm waters. 

Check for understanding by asking students why the example is representative of how to use the term in the story.  Look for them to explain that the example includes use of the term, ecosystem and explains that an ecosystem contains plants and water.  

Lastly, model the writing process for students using think aloud.  Performing a think aloud helps learners visualize how to approach the task and helps ignite the thought process they will need to use to complete the assignment. It’s not necessary to write an entire story using the think aloud process.  Consider modeling how to develop a brief outline or writing 1-2 sentences of an opening paragraph.  Also consider showing an exemplar work sample to help them gain a sense of what “mastery” looks like.

Independent Practice

30 minutes

Share the terms students will use to write their short stories.  Encourage them to take a few minutes to first organize their thoughts and create an outline of the story they want to tell. Instruct students to highlight the terms as they are used in the story.  This will help you easily identify the terms in context as you grade the assignment.  Remind them to use the rubric as a guide.  Give students 30 minutes to complete the writing task and display a timer to help them manage their time for the task.  It’s also a good idea to call out time checks in 10 minute intervals.   In advance of the assignment, identify students who would benefit from a story frame template to help them complete the assignment and provide it for them.  You can find some really good story planning templates  on tes connect c for different ability learners.

While students are working, walk around the room to monitor students’ efforts to complete the writing assignment. This example demonstrates the creativity that students were able to show in the completion of this assignment.



5 minutes

Ask students to give a “Thumbs Up” or “Thumbs Down” to indicate whether or not they like this type of assignment.  Allow 3-4 students to share their reasons with the class.  Use feedback from students to help guide the development of future writing assignments.