Navjot Talks Terrestrial

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SWBAT identify the characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems.

Big Idea

What are the identifying characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems? Students work in "expert pairs" to skim and scan scientific text, and then use a collaborative strategy to teach their fellow scientists what they have learned.

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students continue the work that will lead them to understand the Disciplinary Core Idea of Ecosystems:  Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics -  that food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants.  Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers."  Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil.  Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met.  A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a a relatively stable web of life.  Newly introduced species can damage the balance of the ecosystem. (5-LS2-1) and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models  - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-LS2-1).

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 12 is 790 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Lesson 12

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems Lab Sheet - Lesson 12

Copies for student pairs of the Desert, Forest, Grassland, and Tundra Biomes articles from the World's Biomes website of the University of California Museum of Paleontology.  

One copy of the Aquatic Biome article, from the World's Biomes website of the University of California Museum of Paleontologyl

I am also including a Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 12 in pdf for anyone who has difficulty downloading the word file.

Focus & Motivation

15 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I tell my students, "We learned about the large groups of similar ecosystems that make up the aquatic biome that comprises 75% of Earth's surface.  Then, we spent a few days in Joey's Plant Lab learning about the most important biotic component of all ecosystems - plants.  Today, Plaid Pete and his friends are going to send us on another journey to research the the biomes that contain the groups of ecosystems that account for the other 25% of Earth's surface.  

I pass out the Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Lesson 12 and my students get out their highlighters.  I tell them there are 4 reader's theater parts, Plaid Pete, his friends, Landen, and Seth, and a narrator.  Students work in their teams to highlight the text and decide who will read the parts.  Students read the parts in their teams, as I circulate and listen in.

As before, we are continuing to work on aspects of Reading Fluency, so I listen in for teams that are doing a great job of using appropriate phrasing, intonation, and rate, so that I can give high praise after the scenario is read.

Learning Objective & Success Criteria

Note:  Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson.  These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.

I share the learning objective and success criteria:  

Learning Objective:  I can identify the characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems.

Language Objective:  I can conduct research from digital sources and identify key information, composing orderly notes  [ELP.4-5.5]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet that identifies the characteristics of terrestrial ecosystems.

Pre-Assessment/Quick Write:  Students list their ideas about terrestrial ecosystems

I tell my students, "Before we begin, I would like you to turn your scenario sheet over, and on the back side, please answer the question that is at the bottom of the scenario:  What do you know about terrestrial (or land) ecosystems?  Please do a 5 minute "quick-write" and tell me everything you know.  When you are finished, raise your hand and I will collect your paper"  This is an individual activity.  As I collect papers, I am scanning the information that students have written.  It gives me a general idea of my students' prior knowledge. 

When all student papers have been collected, I tell my students, "Now we are ready to engage in some research about terrestrial ecosystems.  Get your pencils ready because we are going to learn another reading strategy that is important in scientific research."


15 minutes

Introduce the Strategy

I tell my students, "I think the boys had a good point - sometimes you don't have time to read every piece of information in depth.  There are times when you are doing research that you want to use the close reading strategy that we learned previously.  That's a great strategy when you need to read carefully for meaning.  However, just like scientists conduct different types of investigations, they also use different types of reading strategies when they are conducting research.  Today, I am going to teach you a strategy that a scientist might use when they are looking for very specific information:  Skimming and Scanning Text.  This strategy can be used either with printed text, or digital (computer) text"  

I post the chart on my whiteboard on which I have written the following (This is a picture of Step 1 on the chart, and a picture of Step 2.):

Skimming and Scanning Strategy for Researching Print or Digital Text:

1.  First Skim the Text:

  • Read the title of the article, selection, or passage.
  • Read the entire first paragraph.
  • Read the first subheading, then read the first and last sentences underneath that subheading.
  • Read each additional subheading, then read the first and last sentences underneath those subheadings.
  • Think about how the information is arranged in the text - the structure and relationship of the "chunks."  How are the sections related?
  • Read the entire final paragraph.

2.  Then Scan the Text:

  • List the ideas/words/phrases you are searching for and keep them next to the text as you scan.
  • Move your eyes quickly over the text, looking for the information - rather than reading for comprehension.
  • When you locate the information, read the entire sentence the idea/word/phrase is located in.


Model the Strategy

I tell my students, "Today, you are going to use this strategy to research information about terrestrial biomes.  While scientists don't always agree on the exact number or names of Earth's land biomes - most classifications of terrestrial biomes are close to the four you will be researching today.  Before you begin, let me demonstrate how you would use this strategy.  I will use the text that you read previously about aquatic biomes.  I will skim the text first, and then I will scan it for the three things you will be looking for:  flora, fauna, and abiotic factors."  I then demonstrate how to use the strategy with a section of text.  I go through each step of the "Skim" part of the strategy.  

I especially want my students to understand the valuable information that is contained in those first and last sentences, so they don't just read right past them.  In this discussion, I help them connect what they have previously learned about finding the "gist" or main idea of complex text and how it relates to these sentences.

I tell my students, "It looks to me like we are going to have some great scientific researchers here!  I think we are ready to begin this task.  I want you to have a go at it, and I am going to be looking for partners who are doing an excellent job of using this strategy.  I will ask them to come up and demonstrate for us how they are using it"  Students have previously been assigned "Reading Partners" with one more capable and one less capable reader.  In some student pairs, such as this one, one student reads out loud while the other student follows along with the same piece of text.  This is an accommodation that this student needs in order to access the information.  In other student pairs, students chorally read, side by side.  

I move among my students, looking for a pair who are actively using the strategy correctly so that the others have something to model from.  I call the pair of students up in this Video Clip and ask them to demonstrate how they are using the strategy.  We have also been working on identifying different types of text structures in our literacy block (e.g. Sequential/Chronological; Cause/Effect; Compare/Contrast; Problem/Solution; and Descriptive).  This is a natural place to include this in the discussion.  This way, students have repeated practice across multiple academic areas.  I know that in order for my students to be scientifically literate, they have to be able to use the strategies that will help them access scientific ideas in text.

Guided Exploration

15 minutes

Set the Task

I explain to my students, "Since you will only be skimming and scanning this text, you will have a limited amount of time to complete this task.  I will give you and your partner each a copy of the text.  Work together to first skim the text, and then to scan it.  I will be looking for pairs who are doing an outstanding job, and I will be taking notes.  At the end of the activity today, I will be asking a pair who I noticed doing an outstanding job to demonstrate for the class."

I also share with them, "Take careful notes, because you will be sharing these notes.  Although there are four different biomes, you will only be researching one.  Other pairs will be depending on you to get good information.  This is similar to how research scientists depend on their team to do their job and contribute to the success of everyone."

I hand out the copies of the articles for the different biomes from the World's Biomes website from the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the copies of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems Lab Sheet - Lesson 12 that go with each, and pairs get to work.

Monitor Students

As students work, I monitor them carefully.  Some students want to rush through, not using the steps to the strategy.  I have to stop them and redirect them to begin again.  I loudly praise other students who are following the steps, as presented.  I also notice this Student 1's graphic organizer, in which they have listed important information about abiotic components - such that they are made meaningful.  This student writes things such as, "little rainfall" and "winters = 5 degrees C."  However, Student 2 simply writes, "precipitation," and "temp."  I stop my students and take time for a quick mid-lesson teaching point.  I say, "When you synthesize information, the information has to be meaningful.  Precipitation doesn't tell us much.  It tells us that there is precipitation, but it doesn't tell us what kind or how much.  What our brains really want to know is how this particular ecosystem is different from others.  We have to have specific information in order to understand that.  So students, when you are skimming and scanning for information, be sure you include enough information so that it is meaningful!"

When the fifteen minute time period is up, I tell my students to get ready for another important part of scientific research - collaboration!

Team Activity

20 minutes

Introduce "Get One, Share One"

"Get One, Share One" is a strategy I use when I want my students to collaborate and use language in meaningful ways.  This ensures that even my quiet students are talking.  They have to make a request, confirm understandings, and give information.  I tell my students that it is my expectation that they TALK to each other in this sharing activity.  It isn't a copying activity.   This activity will ensure that my students will be familiar with some of the names of the plants and animals in ecosystems, as well as the abiotic factors that impact them.  Although there isn't an expectation of substantial student to student talk or elaboration, this activity will make the discussion of food chains and webs, and interdependence that will come in the next lesson, that much easier.  This pair of students are following my directions!

I explain the activity to my students.  "We are going to engage in an activity where we share information.  It is called Get One, Share One.  This is how it works.  When I give the signal to begin, you will move around the room (calmly, and in a safe manner!) looking for someone that has researched a different biome than you.  When you locate that person, you will offer to share your information with them.  You may only fill in one column from any one person.  I show them on the graphic organizer different options for columns.  (Surprisingly, there are students that still have difficulty differentiating columns and rows.)  Then, you will get a column of information from them to fill in about your biome.  When you are finished sharing information with that person, you will find another scientist to share with."

I give the signal to begin - and they are off!  A steady buzz of conversation fills the air.  After a bit, I scan the room and am pleased to see the high level of engagement in my classroom!

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Share Out

At the end of the designated time, I call my students back together.  I ask for volunteers to share one thing one of their peers taught them about terrestrial ecosystems that was new information for them.  So many students raise their hands that I know we won't have time today to share them all.  So I say, "Let's write a thank you post-it to someone who taught you something new today.  I print the stem on the white board:  Thank you for teaching me________.  I pass out a post-it note to each student.  When they are finished, I collect them and affix them to a piece of chart paper on which I have written the heading:  When Scientists Collaborate, Learning Happens!

My students have written things such as,"Thank you for teaching me about the biotic and abiotic factors; Thank you for teaching me about the forest biome; Thank you for teaching me about the fauna in your ecosystem."  We have built a positive, supportive climate around learning, and students used academic vocabulary.  It was a "Win" all the way around!