To engage students in the lesson I have students complete an interactive exercise titled Mystery Skull Interactive from the Smithsonian National Museum of National History.
In this activity, students act as scientists by comparing new fossils to skulls that have already been identified as a particular early human species. Students are required to identify the mystery skull by analyzing characteristic physical features of skulls. (MS-LS4-2. Apply scientific ideas to construct an explanation for the anatomical similarities and differences among modern organisms and between modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships/CCC - Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships). The reason I chose this activity to start the lesson is that it activates students prior knowledge from prior lesson (Human Evolution - Comparing Hominid Skulls) and because the visuals support my English Language Learners.
Teacher Note: Students complete the activity in pairs, which is another support for ELL students, using laptops. I use this time to walk around to monitor student learning.
In this section of the lesson, students explore human evolution by completing a Chronology Lab, from ENSI (Evolution & the Nature of Science Institutes) and written by Larry Flammer.
1. Different hominid species came and went over different periods of time over the past 4-5 million years, often with 2-3 species living at the same period of time and in the same general part of the world.
2. A provisional evolutionary tree of hominids may be constructed easily from the array, but still with areas of considerable uncertainty.
3. When used with the matching array of skulls, the gradual changes toward modern humans is inescapable. (CCC - Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships)
4. In concert with other, independent lines of evidence of human evolution, this shows how science can build confidence in a particular explanation (namely: humans have clearly evolved).
In this section of the lesson, students read an article titled Humanity on the Record from ReadWorks. This article elaborates on what students have learned about comparative human skull fossil analysis to infer evolutionary relationships.
ReadWorks provides research-based units, lessons, and authentic, leveled non-fiction and literary passages directly to educators online, for free, to be shared broadly.
The ReadWorks curriculum is aligned to the Common Core State Standards and the standards of all 50 states. Most importantly, ReadWorks is faithful to the most effective research-proven instructional practices in reading comprehension.
1. Students use Marking the Text to interact with the text. Marking the text allows students to identify key words and evidence used in complex texts.
Once students have read and marked text they answer text-dependent questions attached to article. I explain more about what text-dependent questions are and ways to support students in responding in my reflection.
In this part of the lesson students analyze the following picture to construct a scientific explanation that explains how scientists have used skull comparison to create a chronological timeline. (SP4 - Analyzing Data)
Using Evidence from today's lesson, explain how scientists have used anatomical similarities among modern and fossil organisms to infer evolutionary relationships. (SP6 - Construct Scientific Explanation/WHST.6.8.2 - Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.)