Investigating the Evidence for Evolution (Day 1 of 4)

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SWBAT identify, describe, and analyze the four major areas of scientific evidence for evolution.

Big Idea

Use this jigsaw activity and research paper analysis to get students analyzing the different types of scientific evidence in support of evolution!

Notes for the Teacher

This activity is one I have been working with for a few years now.  When I started it, my intention was to give students a brief opportunity to investigate a science concept on their own that I felt was one they could grasp without a large amount of teacher support or prior knowledge.  I also felt the end of the final school grading session was a great time to shift away from the lecture framework because at that point, even a 15 minute teacher centered session was getting to be challenging for students ready for summer break and a bit bored by the routine of their school day.  

I quickly realized that my two day activity was one that students were extremely interested in pursuing more substantively and that they wanted time to create representations of their learning that required more collaborative time.  This four day iteration seems to work best.  I have outlined my typical plan for each day, but keep in mind that every class is different and you may need to adjust a bit each day.  This year, most students took 1.5 days to complete their expert group work, another 1.5-2 days to make their poster (many groups come in on their own time during lunch or after school to complete this piece of the assignment) and we still wound up completing all of our work by the fourth day.  Just in case there was a group who was really committed to specific high level graphics on their posters, I extended their poster deadline on an individual basis.  My rubric for this project was never intended to be highly detailed; the work students produced really was out of their own interest and curiosity about the subject and not for points.  I gave very little guidelines about their visual work and the result was a wide array of colorful posters that followed our year long discussion about best practices in visual displays (white space, borders, balance of text and graphics).  I was very proud to see them attend to these guidelines even without specific instructions to do so. 

Day 1:  Expert group research into the four areas of evidence for evolution.

Standards:  SL.9-10.1, SL.9.10.1d, RST.9-10.2, W.9-10.2d

Day 2: Complete expert group work and begin lab group evidence share out.  

Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, SL.9-10.4, W.9-10.2d

Day 3:  Finish lab team presentations and begin poster creation.

Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, SL.9-10.4, W.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.5

Day 4:  Complete and display lab group posters, class discussion of evidence types and teacher fellowship Stanford University Payne research lab data on trilobites with additional credit to and acknowledgement of Dr. M. L. Knope for his role in this summer experience for science teachers.

 Standards: SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1d, RST.9-10.2, SP1, SP4, SP7, XC-SC-HS-2, W.9-10.1e


The Classroom Flow: Introducing the Activity

10 minutes

1.  Tell students that this week, they will be doing an activity to learn more about the four main types of evidence for evolution:  the fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, and molecular (biochemical) evidence.

2.  Pass out the evidence for evolution activity document and evidence for evolution note page document to students and ask them to read the directions quietly.

3.  Review the major points:

  • Each student in each lab group will pick one of the four topics to research and present to their lab group.
  • Students will work with their topic expert group to learn more about their type of evidence and take notes on the note sheet provided.
  • Students will share out their information within their lab group.
  • Lab groups will each make a group poster of their evidence information
  • The assignment has two graded parts:  individual note page turn in and the group poster

4.  Have each lab group determine which member will be responsible for each type of evidence.  

  • Note:  If a lab group has 3 students, have one student research comparative anatomy and embryology as one topic (they are similar).

The Classroom Flow: Researching in Student Expert Groups

35 minutes

1.  Point out the expert group area locations around the room, one evidence type for each corner of the room:fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, and molecular (biochemical) evidence.

2.  Remind students that they can access their notes, their textbook, our evolution powerpoint presentation, and any of the web resources listed on their activity document using their personal devices.  

3. Review the expectations for today's work:

  • Students will be on task throughout the class period.
  • Students will collaborate with and assist each other as they research, learn, and take notes.
  • Students will use other resources and consult with their teacher as needed in order to learn and complete their project goals.

4.  As students move to their expert groups, they should settle in to some quiet reading time.  Some students may ask to do this in a separate area or in pairs out loud for additional reading support.  After about ten minutes, you will hear groups begin to discuss their findings and add to their initial note pages.   See this typical student work sample for an idea of what students will write about their topic area.  As they work, observe closely.  As much as possible, allow students to determine, state, and research their own clarifying questions.  

  • Note: Typically, I take notes on any comments I hear regarding enduring questions/misconceptions and I address those the following day.  I do this to allow students the opportunity to continue their exploration at home on their own as many of them choose to do.  Especially as this late season in the school year, I want to make sure I am not depriving them of the type of self directing inquiry learning that we have been modeling and preparing for all year.  

The Classroom Flow: Preparing for Tomorrow's Work

5 minutes

As the class session comes to an end, ask students to return to their desks and leave their lab table areas tidy.  Ask students to check in together briefly to determine homework expectations for that evening.  The goal is for each student to be ready with their individual research in order to dig in deeper with their expert group tomorrow before moving back to their lab groups and presenting their findings.

Students will approach their poster work in unique ways.  I've compiled photos of some of our most current work into a brief slide presentation for you.  Although each one shows a different graphic representation of the evidence for evolution, each one has in common our basic requirements in terms of terminology and defining words/writing explanation in each student's unique voice.  

By the end of this lesson series, students will be able to present to you their understanding about the types of evidence in support of evolution through the creation of a group poster based upon their jigsaw activity discussion, research, and collaboration.  

And now on to Day 2!