Evidence for Evolution - Morphology

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Students will be able to describe similarities in morphology as evidence for evolution.

Big Idea

Patterns reveal evolutionary relationships


10 minutes

In order to engage the students in today's lesson, I display the following slideshow. 

Slide 2 is set to be animated, so that I can wait for students to look at their notes and/or talk to one another about what they remember. After a volunteer or two offer up the evidence, I click and also click so that the check mark appears to indicate what we have already covered in depth. This is a simple exercise aimed just at setting the stage for learning.

I remind the students that we talked a little bit about morphology the day before, however today it will be about really looking for and understanding those similarities in morphology that might not be as obvious. 

Morphology Jigsaw Reading

20 minutes

I continue on to slide three to refine the student's definition of morphology, and its use as evidence for evolution.

The students will explore the Natural History Museum's Evolution - Morphology. The site offers 11 similarities in morphology examples, so I decided to have the students "jigsaw" the reading of the site.

In order to divide the reading, I have students number themselves one through eleven. Each number corresponds to one of the sections I want the students to read. This reading is done individually, so I ask each student to get a computer and navigate to the site.

I tell the students that, as they read, they should take notes. Each reading is organized into four sections, and they have to gather an idea from each section. Finally, they should have an answer to the question, "How does _____ provide evidence of evolutionary relationships?" This reading and note-taking is where the students are deriving meaning from scientific text (SP8).

After they are done with the individual reading of their section, it is time to meet with students that read the same section. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss what was read - following the pattern of notes they took, which allows the students to engage in a scientific discussion with their peers (SP8). After they have shared and clarified ideas, they must create a mini-poster that can be used to teach that idea to the class. This is a stand alone poster, which means it should include all the information another student would need to get the big idea from that section. 

Morphology Jigsaw Presentations

20 minutes

Once students are ready to proceed, I distribute a note-catcher, which the students use to write down the big idea from each mini presentation, as well as include their ideas about why it matters in the context of evolution. 

I then select one of the topics and ask that team to teach us about their topic. As the students are presenting, they are practicing clear communication skills (SP8).

Jigsaw activities are a cooperative strategy that provide students with an opportunity to help each other build comprehension. It helps when there is a lot of material to cover, in a short amount of time. It also emphasizes communication and listening skills. Students become experts in a particular topic and then teach what they learned to others. 

Listen in as a student explains how she feels more engaged by looking at other people's work. Did you catch her wonderful comparison?

The student work (SW1SW2) shows me that, although we covered a lot of material, the students were able to take the big ideas from the lesson and digest them into simple sentences.


5 minutes

To close this lesson, I post the following question on Edmodo, "How do similarities in morphology reveal evolutionary relationships?" In their answers I am looking for students to recognize similar patterns in morphology may reveal how closely related two species are (CCC Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships).