Darwin @ the Comics! (#3 of 3)

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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

(Link to Day #2 of 3)

"Backstage & Curtains"- provide a few minutes for students to get their comics ready (writing name, marking a last color item, etc.). Students should have their work ready for presentation at their desk.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

As my favorite NFL QB Russell Wilson often says, "The separation is in the preparation". We teachers will point to scaffolding instruction to lead to a climactic day of discussion or heavy-lifting. Only, I don't want to do the heavy lifting all on my own. So student work on Days 1 and 2 of this series leads to this point.

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

Addressing this particular challenge requires a focus on three key words:

Engage: Is the topic interesting and can students relate to it in a personal way? Does it have relevance to their experiences in the world beyond class?

Meaningful: Are the topic and discussion points based on substantive and rich concepts and notions that will be looped back upon as we do the "deep dive" into this often hot topic?

Productive: Have all students been given the chance to ponder their own notion of Natural Selection; what it means in and of itself and what it means to them? Have they been given the chance to make sense of the material and have they been given the chance to participate with an equal voice; rooted in a culture of mutual respect (teacher-students and student-student)?

These may seem like small potatoes but in my opinion, they could not be more monumental in importance. The rapport and respect that I begin cultivating from Day #1 and thereafter will show up on a discussion day like today. Or it won't. I think that is probably what many teachers dread when trying to cajole kids into talking about any topic. Moreover getting them to do so with a degree of depth and full inclusion is the more daunting challenge. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1) "Showtime!"/Gallery Walk: Using the Darwin Comic Exit Task, students will examine the work of each peer. All student comic strips are left at their desk and students are given 15 minutes to examine the point of view of the artist (generally 'Pro' or 'Con' regarding evolution), identify their favorite comic strip, and look for trends in the various stories, dialogues, etc.

Check out how this looks in these three scenes: Gallery Walk AGallery Walk BGallery Walk C 

2) Self-Assessment: As a reminder to students, I encourage them to examine the rubric found on the Darwin Comic Strip Handout for this assignment to make sure that they are checking all the boxes (or as the Brits say, "ticking the boxes"). Using the rubric, students will then grade their own work according to established criteria.

3) Think and Write: The next 5 minutes are given for students to think and write about their observations per the prompts in the Exit Task.

4) Class Discussion: An additional 15-20 minutes are allotted to bring observations and conclusions to the whole class level. The most critical instructional strategy for me is Wait Time. Think of it like a game of "academic chicken". Who is going to blink first? If the teacher does, it's probably over before it got started. But, with deft use of wait time and, if necessary, randomly chosen students, the ball will get rolling. if it seems that discussion stalls, I will also move to the next topic (in the list of pre-selected questions).

Guiding Discussion Questions:

  • General Focus- This forms part of my discussion prompts for students to think about. How many, if any, comics represented the ‘pro’ or ‘con’ point-of-view? Are these attitudes shared across the globe in the same way (in other words, is this class representative)?
    • Why might a person have that perspective? If someone is ‘con’ can there be room to learning about Natural Selection? It is notable that, according to a February 2009 Gallup Poll, approximately 60% of respondents rejected the Theory of Natural Selection as a viable explanation for life on Earth. It is also notable that the sentiment in Europe is much different. Many more subscribe to the Theory. So what is behind this phenomenon? Is it simply theists v. non-theists? Can a scientist also be a person of faith? What role(s) does education and age have on these results? Quite interesting discussion points!
    • What themes were common to many of the comics?
  • Specific Focus-What influenced a given student’s ideas (past and present factors)? Which comic was your favorite and why?
  • Turning the Tables-If time and interest exist, I like to give students the opportunity to ask questions not only of me but also others in class. This is the ultimate X-factor because you just never know what you are going to get!

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

5 minutes

Quick Write: I assign students to respond to this prompt (on the back of the Darwin Comic Exit Task) in the space of four minutes “Please explain how well you liked this form of a pre-assessment (artistic expression) as opposed to a pencil and paper quiz (or the like).” I want to determine the degree of student buy-in and at the same time affirm that there are myriad ways to evaluate initial understanding and that I value the holistic learner (both right and left brains).

Teacher Tools

For ease of grading and converting criterion scores to a whole grade value, I created these score sheets comic scoring sheets that I mark on and return to students. In this way, students will know exactly how their work was graded and, should they wish to discuss my marks, we have a common and transparent ground from which to work.

Additionally, to avoid calculation errors and to make the assessment process more efficient, I use this score Comic Score Converter that computes a final score based on the sub-scores in each criterion.