How Do We Adapt - Pre-Assessment

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Students activate their prior knowledge of adaptations and give information about what they already know about adaptations

Big Idea

This lesson is an introduction and pre-assessment for the adaptations unit.

Pre-Lesson Activity

25 minutes

To begin a unit on adaptations, I want students to think about their own bodies and how they adapt to their surroundings. We live in Alaska, so we have a lot of adapting to do, to the cold in winter, as well as the dark. Some humans adapt better than others. Some need special lights during the dark months, but many adapt just fine.

To begin our discussion of adaptations, I ask students to come to the gathering area. As they are coming to the gathering area, I pass out a reflection sheet to each student’s desk. I tell them that I will walk around the circle and will be taping their thumb to the palm of their dominant hand for an activity. I make sure to use duct tape as it does not break, but I have to be careful not to strap too tight.

NOTE: Observe before this lesson, who is a lefty and who is a righty. It never fails, that if I do not do this, one falls through the cracks and ruins the experience for everyone.

After all students have been strapped, I ask them to go back to their desks to pick up their reflection paper. This is rather difficult to do with your thumb strapped to your palm. I ask them to put the paper on the floor where they were sitting and go and change into their PE shoes or winter coat (depending) on the time of year. I ask students to tie their shoes or zip their coat. At this point there is a murmur that starts in the room, that this is frustrating. I finally, ask students to grab a pencil and join me back in the gathering area. I ask them to write how they are feeling at this moment. They all start to whine at me that they cannot write as I have strapped their thumbs to their palms.

It is at this point that I ask them to remove the tape and we discuss what just occurred. I ask students how they adapted to complete the tasks I gave them, with only 4 fingers. Emotions are sometimes high at this point, so I ask students to remain objective and describe what they did, NOT how they felt. I give students time to write their reflection, right in the gathering area, about HOW they adapted. This is a quick write – they have 5 minutes to get as much information down as they can. I tell them that they can write full sentences or bullet points, as long as it is clear and objective.

RAP - Review and Preview

2 minutes

I tell students that we are about to begin a unit on animal and human adaptations. Before we begin, I want to understand what they know, so I have a quick survey for them to complete and then we will continue our lesson.

I send students back to their desks to complete the pre-assessment.


15 minutes

Students complete the pre-assessment, independently. Not only does the pre-assessment offer me information about their thoughts on adaptations, but it gets their minds thinking in the right direction for the coming class discussion.

Socratic Dialogue

25 minutes

I call students back to the gathering area and we play a game of Socratic Smackdown.

I give each group 6 minutes to conduct their Socratic dialogue and pose the following questions to them.

  1. Why is it important for animals and humans to have the ability to adapt to changes in the environment; and why is it critical for an animal’s survival?
  2. How do animals adapt to their environment through certain behaviors or actions?
  3. What does structural adaptation mean?
  4. What does behavioral adaptation mean?

Wrap Up

5 minutes

We debrief the answers to the questions posed in the Socratic dialogue.  Students can offer their thoughts on the answers, but I do not correct or comment on their answers. These questions will hopefully be answered through the course of the unit.

I ask students to record any “I wonder” questions on the right hand side of their journals. I tell them that we will continue our discussion of adaptations in our next science lesson.