Investigating Evidence for Evolution (Day 2 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 Today's Activity

10 minutes

1.  Ask students to take out their evidence for evolution activity document and evidence for evolution note page document from yesterday's activity and move to their expert group locations at each corner of the room:  fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, and molecular (biochemical) evidence.

2.  Tell each expert group that they have 15-20 minutes to check in together and ensure that each member feels confident about their understanding of their area of evidence for evolution.

3.  Remind students that after this brief check in session that they will be moving into their lab groups and begin to share out their information with each other before creating a group poster of their understanding.

The Classroom Flow: Checking in with Expert Groups

15 minutes

1.  As expert groups share out their information with each other for confirmation and to take clarifying questions, observe closely for five minutes.  Remind students to access their resources such as their textbook, notes, evolution powerpoint presentation, or any web based sources using their personal devices.

2.  After five minutes, go to each group to answer any lingering questions.  

  • Note:  The question I hear most is about the definition of supra position in the fossil record group.  I tend to ask clarifying questions of my own regarding vocabulary terms in the comparative anatomy and embryology groups (homologous, vestigial).  I also like to clarify for the molecular/biochemical group that this evidence refers to both DNA and amino acid (protein) sequencing.  I make sure that each student connects what we know about DNA and proteins to the word sequencing.

3.  Once you have visited each group, announce that it is time to move to student lab groups and begin to share out with their lab teams.

The Classroom Flow: Sharing out Evidence in Lab Groups

20 minutes

1.  When students move to their lab groups, tell them that each person will get five minutes to present their information to their team.  Students should listen and take notes as the presenter speaks and ask questions as they finish.  Tell students the two major DON'Ts of this activity:

  • DON'T read your notes.  Talk to your team, make eye contact!
  • DON'T pass around your notes to copy.  Let your team members use their listening and advocacy skills to pay attention and stop you with their questions.  

2. As student groups work, you will find that your job is mostly to observe closely and listen for recurring questions or ideas for clarification.  You can address them with the whole group at the end of the class as needed after the students work with their evidence presenters' information on their own for this quick 20 minute session.

3.  When students are done with this activity, their notes document will be entirely filled out for each of the four types of evidence as you can see on this student work sample.

The Classroom Flow: Wrapping Up

5 minutes

1.  As the class session ends, ask students to return to their desks, leaving their lab table areas clean and neat.

2.  If you heard any lingering doubts or questions, now is the time to address them.  You may also choose to take clarifying questions from the group informally as the class wraps up.  Most students will leave the class feeling very confident about what they have learned, but needing more time to complete their group presentations.  Reassure students that you will give them more time to do this tomorrow before they begin their poster creation.

To give you an idea of what you can expect from student groups in tomorrow's lesson, I have put together a short slide presentation of poster photos from this year's class.  Students approach the visual aspect of the work differently, but what they all did well was to use their own words in their explanations in accordance with our Academic Honesty policy and to use all terms outlined on their original project document.  As you work with student groups to go through final questions and concerns, these student work samples can give you some sense of what you can expect from your students going into the final two days of this exploration.

And now on to Day 3!