"It's Only Natural..."

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Students will cooperatively reflect on their original understanding of the Theory of Natural Selection and evaluate how it has changed throughout the unit.

Big Idea

Natural Selection is a very complex, abstract, and widely misunderstood theory. It's only natural to wonder how it all works!

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 be able to analyze and explain one’s initial point of view (P.O.V.) regarding the Theory of Natural Selection.
  2. students will be able to evaluate the accuracy of the portrayal (in light of what has been learned throughout the unit of instruction).
  3. students will be able to thoughtfully communicate one’s learning.

I hope you get some value from my work!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

10 minutes

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

Think Aloud- The first step to helping my students complete a multi-step and increasingly challenging task is to simply identify the required steps in student-friendly and explicit terms. Next, I model how they are to do the task themselves. So I will use the Think Aloud strategy to show students my metacognitive processing while completing the Comparison Matrix.

Click here to see how I implement this strategy.

The basic approach with the Think Aloud strategy (teacher audience here) for this context is:

1. Select a sample cartoon and display it with the five target Enduring Understandings on the front screen. 

2. Describe the main idea of the cartoon in a few sentences and three to four supporting evidences; the details in the cartoon.

3. Read each Enduring Understanding in the Comparison Matrix and determine if the either the main idea and/or supporting evidences matches it. Depending on how well it does so, I will check the appropriate. If there seems to be no relation, then I will mark that cell instead.

4. At the end of the process, a clear pattern will emerge. Is the cartoon properly aligned with the EUs or not?

Either way, much can be communicated, such as:

"If there is little correct alignment, can the student properly fill in the gaps or correct their initial misunderstanding(s)?"

Alternately, "If they were somewhat aligned, what have they learned to help clarify or focus their current perspective?"

"What lingering questions do they have?"

Teaching Challenge: How do I support my students to compose, communicate, and evaluate a clearly stated, evidence-based, compelling argument?

Having completed this chart, students will now be equipped with specific information (evidence):

  • Did their initial POV address one or more EU?
  • If they did address any of them, how well did they capture the essence of the EU?
  • If they didn't address one or more accurately, did they correctly learn (following that pre-assessment) the correct content or principles?
  • Can they now explain the theory of Natural Selection accurately?

Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

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

1. Cooperative Comparison Matrix (Peer Evaluation)

Having seen how this strategy is modeled, students will exchange comics and mutually analyze them. The complexity of this task can be alleviated by working in pairs. Oftentimes, seeing the work of others (through a fresh set of eyes) can reveal more about the actual details and meaning of ideas than by reviewing one's own work.

Additionally, student partners will share their feedback with the original comic artist in the following structured manner. In this way, the peer review process (outlined below) should give each student a better footing for the solo climb ahead.

Main Idea: Student A will share their interpretation of the main idea of Student B’s work and then switch roles.

Connection to Enduring Understandings: Student A will then review their interpretation of whether Student B’s work addressed any of the Enduring Understandings. If yes, they will relate how well and correctly it does so. Student B can then respond whether they agree, disagree or ask any clarifying questions. Then switch roles.

Lessons Learned: Student A will then share what they learned throughout the unit that reinforced concepts in their comic (original P.O.V.) or refuted what they originally thought.
After following this process, students will then have a basis to work from as they begin to make sense of their initial and present perspectives and how well they align with the formal Theory of Evolution.

Click here to see how I implement this strategy.

2. Independent Writing

Teaching Challenge: How do I support my students to compose, communicate, and evaluate a clearly stated, evidence-based, compelling argument?

Students will fill out the Fishbone Main Idea diagram that visualizes the main and supporting points made in the original comic strip. The operative word is "visualize". In matters of both literacy and numeracy, I have found that in order to process information, some method of making the abstract (e.g. ideas and numerical relationships) concrete is most useful; I like to incorporate graphic organizers where I can.

Click here to see how I implement this strategy.

Based on this particular graphic organizer, students will then write a blog post in response to the prompt (as outlined in the Natural Selection Cartoon Post Assessment).

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

5 minutes

Whip Around:  Pose the following question to the class and randomly select one person from each small group (8 groups in my case): "If you were to “chat with Charles”, what would you say or ask?"

Click here to see how I implement this strategy.

Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

Students will likely need more time to formulate and polish their final work. The posted response to blog should occur within 48 hours however.

Click here to see how I implement this strategy.

And click here to see student responses to the prompt!