Natural Selection: Direct Instruction

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Students will be able to read an infogram about natural selection and pick out text features.

Big Idea

Infograms: An easier way to get understanding.

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Purpose of Lesson:

The purpose of this lesson is to introduce the genre of infographics and use visual pictures to help students understand the concepts of natural selection.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Shared Reading- A three day strategy for comprehending and decoding a complex text

2) Animated Powerpoint- An engaging way to lecture using visuals.

3) Writing to Think- A literacy strategy for verbalizing and processing information.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal: Discover some of the features of an infographic about natural selection.

Opening Question:  What do you notice about the picture on your desk?

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung.  I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets


5 minutes

The purpose of this section is to hook kids on the infographic genre and excite them about making their own.

I start by asking students if they have ever seen an infographic and if they have to describe one.  Then I explain that this week we will be learning our content from an infographic rather than a reading, and that at the end of the unit we will be creating our own infographic.  

I ask them to watch the Infographic of Infographics video and be prepared to tell me at the end what an infographic is and why an infographic might be easier to read than a regular text.

Shared Reading Day 1

10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to open up the my thinking about infograms and natural selection to the students.

Shared Reading is a strategy that I like to do when I am introducing content in a new genre form. Discussing HOW to read is equally if not more important than discussion WHAT you have read.  As well, shared reading is a three day strategy which gives students and extended time to understand a complex text.

Today's shared reading uses an infogram.  My purpose today is simply to introduce the genre and allow the students to preview the text while discussing different text features.  This is meant to be a short lesson of 5-7 min.  I start by telling students that my expectations are that their eyes are on the text and that they are focused on listening and recording.  I project the text and leave copies at the student desks.  As I am looking at the text, I point out my observations and the text features I see.  I keep track of my noticings on an anchor chart that we will use all three days.  I like to have students take notes on a three day template.  This way all of their notes are in one place and easily accessible. 

A video of a sample focus lesson is below.

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Once I am done with my lesson, I ask the students to read the boxes to each other taking notes on information and organization that is popping out at them.  They use the shared reading note catcher to record their thoughts.  This is a great tool that allows students to store all their thoughts in the same place.  Here is a picture of an example of a student using this type of notecatcher.  

When students have completed their notes, I ask the students how previewing the text helps them understand the information better.  This metacongition discussion is an important part of giving the students to tools they need to be independent readers.  

Guided Practice

20 minutes

The purpose of this section is to introduce the main concepts of Natural Selection in a story format.  

I love using animated powerpoints to tell stories.  I challenge myself to use as few words as possible and let the pictures and motions give the information.  This powerpoint is the Story of the Peppered moths.  Students use a storyboard method to take notes in their notebooks.  This way, later in the unit we can go back to the notes and label the pictures with the main concepts.  There is a blank story board template included attached and below is a picture of the completed notes and the notes with labels.  

Independent Practice

7 minutes

The purpose of this section is to give students a chance to individually process and verbalize their learning on the peppered moths.  My hope is that the students will start connecting the peppered moth story to the infogram on the birds and caterpillars.

Students will be doing a Writing to Think.  My students keep writing to think notebooks in their folders that we can get out at anytime.  The students know that the writing is for them and it won't be graded.  I ask the students to write for 3 minutes without stopping.  While I sometimes collect the Writing to Think notebooks, it is simply to make sure that the students are actually writing and thinking and not meant as a grade or assessment.

Today the prompt for students is, "How is the story of the peppered moths, similar to the infographic?"

I love the notebooks because it is so easy to organize and store the students' writing.  But I encourage teachers to NOT grade the writing.  I think when we grade the writing we put an evaluative number on student thoughts and that is exactly what we don't want to do.  This year was my first time using the writing to think notebooks.  I gave myself the luxury of just getting used to the structure and I didn't even read the writing until the end of the semester.  When I finally looked inside, I was so nervous I would see students just goofing off, not taking it seriously but I was really pleasantly surprised!  There were clearly some days when the students didn't want to write, but for the most part they were doing the right thing which was writing and thinking at their level.  This was an important lesson to me that if you build the right culture in the class, the students will rise further than your expectations.  




3 minutes

Closing Statement:  Today we started studying an infogram about natural selection.  We learned that infograms are a combination of writing and pictures that makes learning easy.

Closing Question:  If you were going to make an infogram about the peppered moths, what would you put on it?  How would you organize it?  This is going to be our project for the week.  We will be thinking about what makes a good inforgram over the next couple of days and then you will have a chance to create your own.

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.