I ask a opening question and students type (or write) independent answers. This helps us know what our starting point is, and gives me ideas on how to guide the lesson. I've learned never to make assumptions about what students do and do not know!
Common student responses were:
My goal in this part of the lesson is for students to develop their understanding of what a fossil is through the use and understanding of precise scientific vocabulary. At the conclusion of this lesson, their answer to the question, “What is a fossil?” should be more than “a dinosaur bone” or “an animal that died.”
In today's lesson, I use both online animations and a reading passage to help students expand their basic understanding of what does and does not constitute a fossil. I project these Guiding Questions (Introduction to Fossils) and we read them together as a class prior to students reading this article with a partner or independently.
Next, I project this animated explanation (click on the Resources tab) for students prior to having them read. This animation of from mylearning.org (Arts Council England). We discuss it and students share one new idea with a partner.
Third, I show students How Fossils Are Made from Sheppard Software.
Finally, students read and discuss the Introduction to Fossils passage. An alternative to the reading page that can be completed by high-level readers is the excellent What is a Fossil activity (Level One) from UC Berkeley.
I ask students to write an expanded answer to the question "What is a Fossil?" They write it in their science journals or on a whiteboard. Then I ask them to think about a non-example, and why that object might be confused with a fossil. Finally, I call on a few students to share out their answers with the class.