History of Earth: Part 1: Follow up

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Students will be able to understand the major events and developments of the Paleozoic Era.

Big Idea

Plants. Fish. Amphibians. Reptiles. Disaster.

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to trace the evolution of life during the paleozoic era.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1. Stop and Go film- Stopping the film often gives the students a chance to discuss, predict, take notes and identify important terms.


3 minutes

Learning Goal: Discover some of the major events in the history of life on earth.

Opening Question: What kinds of events can cause extinctions?

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

Today for the hook, students brainstorm events that can cause extinction.  When they have answered their opening question, I draw a circle map on the board and write the phrase "causes of extinction" inside.  Then as a class we brainstorm events that can cause extinctions.  Students record circle maps in their notebooks.

Once we have talked about the term extinction, I have students get out their TIP Chart and record information about the terms:

1) Explosion

2) Extinction


5 minutes

Today's section from The Story of Earth movie goes through all of the time periods in the Paleozoic era.  Before we watch, I go back to the timelines we studied in the last lesson bundle and make sure students are connecting the history of life on Earth with the timelines from our shared reading.  

To do this, I do a short focus lesson using one of the timelines.  

I make copies of the timeline and project one on the board so students can see both of them.  I remind students of some of the rules of reading the timelines and show them where we are so far in the movie.

Then I preview  the movie today by showing them the period they are going to see and doing some "outloud" thinking on what the major differences are between the periods. 

A sample focus lesson is below in a screencast.

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Movie Activity

30 minutes

I show the movie in short 13-20 min sections.  I stop the film often to have students record notes on major events using a notecatcher.  I also use notes that are already made for students with slow processing or writing difficulties.  These modified notes make it possible for all students to complete the final project. As we watch the movie, not only do I stop to talk about content but I also stop to point out important vocabulary words.  Students record these vocabulary words in their TIP Chart (Term- Information- Picture). 

Today I show from 35:50 - 53:36. Some of the major events in this film clip are:

1) The Cambrian explosion

2) The first land plants

3) The first fish

4) The first amphibians

5) the giant forests

6) The first reptiles

7) The causes and effects of the Permian Extinction.

Since this section is so long and complex, it really takes most of the class period.  

Independent Work

7 minutes

In the last section of class, we get out our timelines and continue to prepare them for the final project.  

For the timelines we use a very simple scale, 5 cm = 50 million years.  I discuss the purpose and meaning of this simple scale in the reflection. The students start at 5000 mya and simply measure and count backwards to zero.  

The timelines look the best if they put six dates per page on the front and the back.

Students make plenty of mistakes counting backwards, displacing zeros and missing pages.  For example, I had one student who went from 4750 to 4250.  Instead of subtracting 50, they had subtracted 500.  By catching this mistake quickly, the student was able to correct it before they had done too much "wrong" work.  Overall, despite the frustration, I find that by making and fixing these mistakes, students come to understand the timelines better.  

Somehow, it doesn't seem to matter how many times I tell them that most of Earth's history was single celled.  Until they've actually had to count out the numbers and leave all those empty pages ...they just don't get it.


2 minutes

Closing Statement:  Today we continued to look at the history of Earth. 

Closing Question:  What part of the history that we have studied so far is the most interesting to you?  Why?

For closure today, I have students share their opinions with the other people at their table.

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.