Ask this warm-up question to activate prior knowledge that students possess about biomes. Expect that many, if not all, students will be able to identify some of the physical characteristics of biomes. Listen for students to correctly describe the differences in climate, animals and vegetation of various biomes.
Ask a few recall questions like, “What are some of the main features of a desert biome?” Then, ask 1-2 higher level questions that require students to connect information points to derive the correct answer. For example, ask:
This type of questioning allows for an assessment of how much students already know about biomes, but it also allows students to use critical thinking skills to connect the concepts of biomes with the concept of animal adaptations.
Allow students to engage in academic discourse before clearly identifying each correct answer for the class. Make it a point to emphasize that these types of questions and discussions show how seemingly disparate biological concepts are interrelated.Use the feedback from the students to determine how much students already know about biomes.
Based on the students’ responses to the questions, determine if more or less time on a particular biome is warranted during the introduction of new material. For example, if students can correctly identify all the characteristics of a desert biome, do not spend as much time during instruction on the desert biome. Or, if students are not able to correctly identify the characteristics of a tundra biome, adjust to spend a little more time sharing pictures and engaging in discussion about the tundra.
Before teaching this lesson, take time to identify video clips that align with the content. The Planet Earth video, Deserts and many of the Life videos are great resources that give students a glimpse of the biomes that are discussed in the lesson. This type of exposure helps to “anchor” the information in the minds of students. Additionally, the video clips serve to engage students in the learning process because students (even high school) love to see places and organisms that they have never seen before.
Begin the lesson with a video clip, Introduction to Biomes. This short clip is a visually stimulating clip that introduces students to the content that will be taught today.
Explain that biomes are large regions that can be identified by the types of plants and animals that live there. Present the key features of the Earth’s major biomes. Provide instruction about each of the biomes and display visual narrative of the information, as well in order to meet the different learning styles of students.
Instruct on all the biomes by “chunking” the lesson into smaller parts. Chunking a lesson allows students to take in smaller segments of a broad topic. Teach a biome, then show 3-7 minutes of a related video clip for the biome. Showing visual clips allows students to better understand the relationship of the adaptations of organisms to the environmental conditions of a particular biome, and it helps the information about the biome “to stick”. Rainforest Beneath the Canopy Part 1 is a good clip to help students understand what a canopy is and how it restricts the sun's rays from penetrating to the floor of the rain forest. The clip also shows students how organisms have adapted in this environment.
Provide guided notes for students to complete or instruct them to take notes using a note-taking strategy that you have taught. For this particular lesson, a graphic organizer is well suited for note-taking because its structure allows students to summarize the facts in a brief and concise fashion.
During the instruction, identify:
Integrate a review of previously taught concepts into the instruction, using an inquiry-based approach for the review by asking students to respond to questions. For example:
Also, build in checks for understanding after each biome is introduced. Ask questions like:
Engage students in discussion and listen to their responses. Based on students’ responses to the check for understanding questions, correct misconceptions that linger and expound on concepts that it appears that students have not grasped as strongly.
Conduct a formative review of the biomes using digital remotes or “clickers” if they are available. If you do not have access to this type of technology, you can create a similar review using “Poll Everywhere”, a free polling service that allows individuals to use a phone or computer to respond to a number of questions that are written by the author of the survey.
Another review option is to distribute whiteboards and dry erase markers to students. Display one question at a time on a LCD projector. Instruct students to write the answer on the board and show it to you after they identify the answer choice they select.
Read and answer the first question aloud and answer it, using the “think aloud” strategy to allow students to hear the reasoning process that allows for the correct identification of the correct answer. Model how to eliminate obvious wrong answers and how to use the question “frame” to identify exactly what the question is asking.
Oftentimes students, especially students with reading deficits, struggle to clearly identify what a question is asking. Showing students how to think through the reasoning needed to identify the correct answer is a needed skill that students can develop over time.
This assignment allows students to build their literacy skills by writing in a different style with a targeted purpose of passing on information.
Instruct students to use the computer to create a travel brochure that describes a biome of their choosing. Take a few minutes to talk about brochures and share:
Have a few samples of real brochures to show the class.
Inform students that the task is to create a brochure that will promote or convince others to want to visit the biome about which they choose to write. The brochure should include information concerning:
Provide students a rubric that allows them to know what is expected in the completed work product.
Before releasing students to work independently, remind them of the purpose of a brochure and show students a student work sample to help them better understand what is expected in the completed product.
Instruct students to send this document to you electronically once it is complete. Submission of this assignment electronically serves two purposes:
1. some students do not have access to printers or ink so sending the assignment electronically eliminates those challenges.
2. Requiring students to drop the documents in Google docs or sending them through Edmodo helps students learn how to navigate sending documents in the platforms that will likely become standard protocol by the time they complete high school. Print only student work that you want to use as exemplars.
Note: Edmodo is a great teacher tool that allows teachers to load assignments, send reminders and schedule important dates for students and their parent/guardian to access outside of class. Students join a class that is set up by the teacher and are then able to submit assignments directly to the site. Edmodo also allows students to take quizzes and engage in topic-based chats, as well.
Alternatives to electronic submission include, instructing students to send the completed assignment to a designated email address or printing the completed product in class, if a printer is available. If computers are not available in the school setting, instruct students to access a computer outside of class (a local library) to complete the assignment.
Ask, “If you could visit one of the biomes, which would you choose to visit and why?” Allow students to share their thoughts in the last minutes of class. If time permits, tell students which biome you would choose and why. When sharing, encourage students to elaborate and use the vocabulary and content details they have learned and seen in the video clips.
Ask students to tell what struck them as the most interesting thing they saw in one of the clips. Alternatively, ask “What biome would you not want to visit and why?” Allow students to share their thoughts about what they did not find appealing about some of the biomes. This type of open sharing builds relationship within the class and allows everyone to learn a little more about the preferences and dislikes of others in the class.