Kaley Introduces Plaid Pete to Earth's Systems

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SWBAT identify and list the characteristics of Earth's four systems.

Big Idea

What are the major systems that make up our planet? What are their defining characteristics? Students work with picture cards and the List, Group, Label strategy to discover the answers!

Setting Up the Investigation

Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards

In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Earth's Systems:  Earth Materials and Systems -  that Earth's major systems are the geosphere (solid and molten rock, soil, and sediments), the hydrosphere (water and ice), the atmosphere (air), and the biosphere (living things, including humans).  These systems interact in multiple ways to affect Earth's surface materials and processes.  The ocean supports a variety of ecosystems and organisms, shapes landforms, and influences climate.  Winds and clouds in the atmosphere interact with the atmosphere to determine patterns of weather.  (5-ESS2-1); The Roles of Water in Earth's Surface Processes:  Nearly all of Earth's available water is in the ocean.  Most fresh water is in glaciers or underground:  only a tiny fraction is in streams, lakes, wetlands, and the atmosphere.  (5-ESS2-2)  and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models  - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-ESS2-1), and Scale, Proportion, and Quantity - Standard units are used to describe and measure physical quantities such as weight and volume (5-ESS2-2)

Please Note:  The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 2 is 740 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).

The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.  There will be an additional 30-40 minutes to prepare the picture cards the first time you use them.

Materials Needed:

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2

One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 2

One set for each team of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Picture Cards - Lesson 2 (I copy these in color on card stock and laminate them).

One copy of the text for each student for each of the following four spheres:  Lithosphere (Geosphere); Hydrosphere (include Cryosphere as well); Biosphere; and Atmosphere from Earth Floor:  Spheres website. 

Focus & Motivation

5 minutes

Introduce the Scenario

I tell my students that poor Plaid Pete is feeling a bit "under the weather" these days.  I ask if anyone knows what that means.  I am looking for any opportunity to sneak some language learning into Science!  I call on a student and confirm that yes, he isn't feeling very well.  I say, "Poor Plaid Pete - just like all of you,  when he is sick and he has to miss Science, he gets really bummed.  Have no fear though - a few of his classmates have come to his rescue.  Let's read and find out who shows up to help him out, and maybe we will get a sneak-peak at what will be happening in today's lesson!"

Students Read the Scenario in their Teams

I Pass out the Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2 to my teams and explain that there are 4 parts today:  Mrs Parker, Plaid Pete's mother, Sage, a classmate we met in our previous unit, and a new classmate named Kaley.  There is also a narrator.  Students get busy with their highlighters.  And I step back and enjoy the routine of Science class beginning with literacy.  My students love reading out loud to each other now!  I will frequently hear them sharing snippets from the books they are reading in Reading Workshop, and their home reading.  I do believe the scenarios have had an impact!

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 name and describe Earth's four major systems.

Language Objective:  I can add relevant information and evidence to a discussion.  [ELP.4-5.2]

Success Criteria:  I can correctly complete my lab sheet listing and describing Earth's four major systems.

Guided Exploration

20 minutes

Introduce Picture Cards

I tell my students, "I have a copy of the very same picture cards that Kaley was talking about right here."  I explain, "I am going to hand out a set to each of your teams.  Your job is to first sort the cards into four different categories.  Sort them based on how your team believes they may be alike in some way."  

I say, "Once you have sorted them, your next job will be to construct a list of characteristics that generally describe most of the pictures in that category on the large Post It Note that I will give you."  I hand each of my teams four 4" x 6" Post It Notes.

I tell them, "Once you have listed as many characteristics as you can, see if you can come up with 1 key word that sums up that category and use it for a heading at the top of the Post It Note."

I then hand out a set of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Picture Cards - Lesson 2 to each team.

I have posted the following directions on the white board:

  1. Sort the cards into 4 categories, based on how they are alike in some way.
  2. List the characteristics of that category on a Post-It Note.  For example:  These all . . .
  3. Think of 1 "Key Word" that describes that category and use it for a heading at the top of the Post-It Note.


The key idea for my students is that they begin to develop language around the idea of Earth's systems.  I know that very few of my students (if any) have background knowledge about this topic.  This is a great strategy to get them talking and to assist them in building background knowledge.  I am not expecting them to know the names of Earth's systems at this point - I just want to get them talking!

Teams Sort

I step back and allow my teams to get busy sorting.  As I move between them, I am gently nudging them with questions:  "How can you use what you know already about Earth and the way systems work to help you with this task?  What do you remember about our investigations with matter that might be able to help you?"  I want my students to start connecting across strands of Science so that they can see a bigger picture.  

Share Out

When it looks like most of my teams are about finished with this task, I ask a few teams to share out how they sorted and what they have decided in terms of key words.  The cards are numbered in order to make this task easier for them to talk about.  After a few teams have had the opportunity to share, I say, "It looks like we have some great ideas here.  Just as I often have you do - I am going to ask you to revise the work you have done.  However, before I do that, I have a bit of new information to share with you."


20 minutes

Introduce Text

I explain to my students that the 4 categories of cards that they have been sorting represent the 4 systems or spheres that make up our planet.  I project the Earth Floor:  Spheres website (published by Wheeling Jesuit University/NASA Supported Classroom of the future), and read aloud the introduction about spheres.  I explain that for our purposes - the "lithosphere" is also known as the geosphere - we will use them interchangeably, and that we will include the cryosphere - which is frozen water - with the hydrosphere.  I write these on my whiteboard as I am speaking, so that I have plainly listed all four spheres:  Geosphere (lithosphere); Biosphere; Hydrosphere, and Atmosphere.  I also click on the link for "exact spheres" and read that as well.  

Mine Text For Characteristics

I ask my students to get out their highlighters.  I explain that we are going to "mine" the text to find "golden nuggets."  I say, "By golden nuggets, I am referring to golden words or phrases that describe the characteristics of this system.  I say, "I know you worked in your groups to use the picture cards to come up with some of the characteristics of these systems.  However, this text will help you develop the Science language you need to describe these systems in a more Scientific way."

 I have copied the text for each of the four spheres (I have included Cryosphere and  will read it with the Hydrosphere) and stapled them together in a packet for my students.  Now, I pass out the text for Lithosphere, and ask my students to write "Geosphere" at the top, as well.  

This is completely new information for them - and new vocabulary - so I ask them to follow along as I read.  My pre-assessment has revealed that my students have very little background information for this topic, so I am not going to release this task to them.  They need every bit of scaffolding I can provide.

I explain that their job is to be great "miners" by highlighting any key words or phrases that describe the characteristics of this sphere.  I read the text, as my students highlight.  For this first section, I stop at the end of the first paragraph, I have my students turn and talk in their teams about which words or phrases they highlighted.  I call on my teams using the Numbered Heads Together Strategy to share what their team discussed.  I read the rest of the passage, and then allow my students time to turn and talk to share what they have discovered.    

We work through each of the four spheres in this same way.  Because they are fairly short sections of text, I am able to read the remainder of the spheres without stopping.

I explain to my students, "These sections are a good example of descriptive text structure.  One way you can identify descriptive text structure is that the heading will give you the main idea.  Then if you look carefully, you will be able to find the supporting details - just like golden nuggets - buried in the paragraphs below."  I tell my students that now that they have this new information - they are ready to work on their revisions!

Team Activity

15 minutes

Teams Revise

I pass out copies of Plaid Pete Is Modeling Earth's Systems Lab Sheet - Lesson 2to each of my students.  I tell my students that their job now is to go back to their Post It Notes and revise their thinking.  I explain that I don't want them to erase anything on their Post It Notes.  What I want them to do is to first rearrange the cards to represent Earth's 4 Systems, and I point to the four Earth System names that I have previously written on the white board.

Then, I would like them to list the names that have been given on the board, in that specific order on their columns:  Geosphere, Hydrosphere, Biosphere, Atmosphere.  

I tell them, "Go back to the text that you have just "mined" for golden nuggets - and use those in the "Characteristics that Describe This System" column.

Finally, I tell them, "Leave the section for the "Key Word" blank on your lab sheet - because we will meet to discuss that at the end of the lesson."

My teams get busy and there is a steady hum of conversation as they discuss changes and when there are questions, I point them back to the text and suggest that they look there for answers.  When I see teams who are not using the text, I prompt them to look carefully at the nuggets they have mined - since gold is too valuable to waste!

Discuss Key Words

I ask my students to look at the first column of their lab sheets, and to draw a box around the prefix geo on the word geosphere.  I explain that this prefix means "Earth."  I have them write the word Earth in the key word box.  I then ask them to draw a box around the prefix hydro, explaining that it means water.  I have them write that term in the key word box.  I do the same for bio (life), and atmos, explaining that it means vapor or air.  A completed student lab sheet looks like this:

Reflection & Closure

5 minutes

Share Out Categories

I call my teams to attention and ask for them to share out how they resorted their cards.  In this Video Clip, I call on teams to name each category and ask if there are any teams that disagree.  There don't appear to be any, so I am thinking my class has a good basic understanding of Earth's systems.  We are ready to move ahead!