Investigating the Evidence for Evolution (Day 3 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: Finishing up Lab Group Evidence Sharing

10 minutes

1.  Ask students to move directly into their lab groups with their evidence for evolution activity document and evidence for evolution note page document.

2.  Tell them that they have ten minutes to finish up their evidence topic presentations.

3.  Remind students that if their group finishes early they can check in directly with you concerning any additional questions.  Students can refer to their notes, textbook, and our evolution powerpoint presentation for confirmation of their big ideas about the four types of evidence for evolution.

4.  Tell student groups that if they have all of their questions answered about each type of evidence for evolution that it is time for them to read together on their activity document about the final phase of their activity.  

5.  As students work, observe closely.  In general, students will not need additional teacher support.  Check in with each group as the ten minutes come to a close to ensure that every group feels they have had sufficient time.  You may have one group in each class session that would like more time.  Tell them that as soon as you introduce the next segment of the lesson series they can get back to their task at hand and move on when they are ready.

The Classroom Flow: Creating Evidence for Evolution Posters

35 minutes

1.  Tell students that now that they have shared out information within their group concerning the four types of evidence for evolution, it is time to create a poster of this information.

2.  Point out where in the room students can find poster making supplies:  butcher/poster paper, markers, tape, glue sticks, scissors, colored pencils, rulers, colored and white paper, and any other materials you choose.  

  • Note:  I do not put out magazines or 3D decorations to use on posters because students can get distracted from the learning goals.  The basic supplies listed above work really well.  My expectation is that students hand draw all visuals/images, although I make occasional exceptions to that rule if students have a reason for the request that they are highly invested in for purposes they can articulate.  

3.  Remind students that the goal here is to educate an audience about the four types of evidence for evolution: fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, and molecular (biochemical) evidence.  With that in mind, write the following tips on the board:

  • Use visual imagery whenever appropriate/possible
  • Use your own words/voice--we want to envision you talking to us!
  • Remember visual presentation rules regarding white space, lettering style and size, etc.  

4.  Allow students to get to work…they will be eager to get to it! As you can see from this short slide presentation of recent student work samples for this activity, each evidence for evolution posters is unique and visually appealing.  What they all have in common is their accurate and appropriate use of the expected evolution terminology, and their emphasis on student voice in accordance with our Academic Honesty policy (no copying/plagiarizing). 

  • Note:  The time this activity takes is big--four days.  However, that gift of time truly allows students to dig into the material on their own in a way that does not require a significant amount of teacher oversight.  It is really exciting to see them take the lead throughout the activity, produce high quality work, and be able to retain and synthesize it on our end of unit assessments based solely upon their work as a team researching, sharing, and creating their version of the information we are studying.

During this work session, you will see many examples of positive collaboration and work completion strategies happening like:

  • Students consulting their textbook or notes for additional information.
  • Students discussing specific terms with each other to ensure they understand them.
  • Students sketching out a rough draft of their poster layout for discussion and editing.
  • Students asking other teams how they are going to approach the project for comparison and inspiration.
  • Students volunteering to get needed supplies.
  • Students brainstorming possible graphic design ideas for their poster and getting feedback from other students.
  • Students discussing preparation work needed for tomorrow's session and assigning roles.
  • Students asking the teacher clarifying questions about content, materials, and next steps.
  • Students reading each other's writing with a focus on clarity and completeness.

6.  If you observe any group not doing these things, they most likely need support getting started, either because they are confused about a content area concept or because they are unclear about how to manage the project.  Go over and gently ask them how things are going and usually, the students will tell you exactly what the issue is without hesitancy.  Once you have identified the block for them, suggest one of the activities above to help them get started.  

The Classroom Flow: Prepping for Tomorrow's Activity

5 minutes

1.  As the class session comes to a close, ask students to clean  up their lab tables, bring their unfinished posters up to the front for storage, and go back to their desks.

2.  Remind students that they can pick up/bring home their posters to work on them or come in at alternative times like lunch or after school if you choose to make that an option for students (see my reflection below for more on this topic!).

3.  Once every student is seated back sat their desks, ask them to turn to their lab group partners and discuss strategies for finishing their poster tomorrow in class.  To help student groups with this conversation, put up the following questions on the board:

What poster work do we have left to do?

Is there any work that we can do tonight and added to our group poster tomorrow?

Are there additional supplies we need?  Where can we get them?  Who will do that?

What can each group member tonight to prep for tomorrow's work session in class?

Do we think we might need extra time together with our poster outside of class time?

  • Note:  Most students will make plans to individually create pieces that evening for homework they can stick onto their poster tomorrow or to meet together outside of class time to finish their poster work.

4.  The poster each group creates will each be different visually speaking, but all of them will demonstrate a high level of scientific terminology use and connections between each type of evidence using both words and diagrams in a way that is appealing and interesting to the viewer. 

And now on to Day 4!