Darwin @ the Comics! (#1 of 3)

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Objective

1. Students will creatively express (communicate) their understanding (pre-assessment) of Charles Darwin and his theory. 2. Students will understand the various opinions of students regarding The Theory of Natural Selection (aka “evolution”) and suggest reasons for these different points-of-view.

Big Idea

Charles Darwin and his Theory are interpreted in widely different ways by equally different people. Comics can be used to convey these ideas in graphical ways.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson...

1. students will creatively express (communicate) their understanding (pre-assessment) of Charles Darwin and his theory.

2. students will understand the various opinions of students regarding The Theory of Natural Selection (aka “evolution”) and suggest reasons for these different points-of-view.

I hope you get some value from my work! 

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to persevere and grapple with complex ideas?

Teaching Challenge: How do I develop a classroom culture where students engage in meaningful and productive scientific discourse with peers?

The main thrust of this three-day lesson series is to delve into the individual and collective consciousness of my students with regard to this weird, abstract, and contentious idea: that diverse and varied living organisms are subject to selective pressures in their respective environments, and, as a result, either adapt, migrate, or die; this is the movie trailer version of the theory.

So where and how to start unpacking what students accurately know, what they know that is not correct, and plainly what they don't know at all? There is a lot to consider here and I would be remiss to overlook a particularly rich and meaningful encounter with where my students are at present.

Much attention has been paid to the current deficits in STEM educational pathways (an appropriate critique for sure). However there is a missing letter here: an A. It stands for the arts. When A is added to STEM one gets a whole lot of STEAM-powered learning!

Being artistic myself, I am keenly aware of the potential for missing the opportunity for casting a wide instructional net on my whole class. To be honest, a minority of my students will likely pursue a STEM career therefore there are many others who need great instruction in order to become scientifically literate but also possess different interests and skill sets and are not your typical "geeky" kiddo. To this end, feel it is especially important to tap into this sub-group. The right-brained Bohemian. The random-abstract thinkers. The designers and visual art mavens. You get it, right?

So we're making comics. To start out, students were asked to look up different comics and choose one that strikes them as memorable. They e-mailed them to me and explained why they chose it and, if they had to grade it, what criteria would they come up with.

Turn & Talk- Students are prompted to discuss with the group the comic strip that they had chosen, why they had chosen it, and how they would go about grading it. 

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to persevere and grapple with complex tasks?

Darwin Comic Strip Handout- Performance assessments can be difficult for students to get a handle on; processing just takes time to do them well and it starts at the very beginning (sort of like the "Do Re Mi" song from The Sound of Music). I learned a method for laying out a project some years ago and have used it whenever a performance assessment is introduced. It is called G.R.A.S.P. which stands for Goal, Role, Audience, Strong Verb, and Product.

Interactive Discussion: Students are asked to read aloud sections of the prompt and then when called on, they will describe what they are to accomplish (G), what their job is (R), who will view their work (A), what the essential actions are (S), and what they will create (P). In this way the purpose and process ought to become clearer.

In this way I present the project and explain its purpose and the process that will occur over the next several days. I emphasize the differentiated nature of learners and how, in typical STEM courses (like this one) oftentimes the right-brained creative types get left out. In light of this, bringing in an artistic thread rounds out and balances this equation a bit.

I then make available several former student comic exemplars just to get the creative juices flowing, mindful that the intent of this process is a pre-assessment of their understanding of Darwin and Natural Selection not those of others.

For the balance of this lesson, students are prompted to brainstorm (e.g. via a storyboard or concept map) the core ideas that are floating in their heads about a very abstract and often misunderstood theory.

Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Comments and Questions- As class draws to a close, I want to capture student understanding of the pre-assessment (what it is and what it is not) and seek clarification for any student questions. With this in mind, I prompt students to write down a true descriptor of the project (on a Post-It note) and a descriptor that doesn't apply. In other words, what does she need to pay attention to and what is beyond the scope of the project?

Here is an sampling of student responses (correct details):

1. "There are four criteria to the project."

2. "The project is worth 48 points."

3. "There needs to be three panels to earn a '3'."

Here is an sampling of student responses (incorrect details):

1. "This is a partner project." (Actually an individual project)
2. "The 'content' is the least weighted part." (Actually this is the most heavily-weighted section)
3. "The minimum number of artistic details needed for a '3' is 7." (Actually 10-11)

(Link to Day #2)

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

HW: Complete the graphic organizer/storyboard/rough draft in order to progress forward tomorrow; working on final draft.