Draw It! Vocabulary Pre-Assessment

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Students will creatively express their interpretation of key concepts that collectively form the Theory of Natural Selection.

Big Idea

The Theory of Natural Selection is both complicated yet simple. Teasing out students' understanding of its key factors is a first big step to explaining 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...

Students will creatively express their interpretation of key concepts that collectively form the Theory of Natural Selection.

I hope you get some value from my work!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

“Possible Sentences” Strategy: Direct students to examine the eight vocabulary terms on their Vocab Pre-assessment handout. I team three to four students together with a total of 8 teams in my class. Each student performs one of four roles within the team: leader, manager, spokesperson, and recorder. Within each team, students will choose two pairs (four total) of the eight words in the word bank and develop a meaningful sentence that connects each pair of terms. The recorder will jot these down and, when prompted, the spokesperson will share these with the class.

This activity will set the stage for first developing the meaning of each individual "building block" (concept) and then assembling them together in a correct and increasingly sophisticated way ("wall" or "structure") as we continue this journey of exploration throughout the unit.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

"Engaging students with standard scientific explanations of the world-helping them to gain an understanding of the major ideas that science has developed-is a central aspect of science education." 

"And explanations are especially valuable for the classroom because of, rather than in spite of, the fact that there often are competing explanations offered for the same phenomenon...Deciding on the best explanation is a matter of argument that is resolved by how well any given explanation fits with all available data, how much it simplifies what would seem to be complex, and whether it produces a sense of understanding." (A Framework for K-12 Science Education, p. 68)

On these grounds I hope to address these primary teaching challenges:

How can I develop a classroom culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity, and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration?

How can I support students' use of appropriate and precise science vocabulary?


1. Draw-Pair-Share: Using this Vocab Pre-assessment PowerPoint as a guide, direct students to choose any six of the following eight terms. Using the student handout, have them label the heading of each drawing space with that term, express their understanding of the term in that space, and color it up! I budget approximately thirty to thirty five minutes for this stage; five to six minutes per drawing.

  1. Survival, n. (survive, v.)
  2. Variation (differences, n.)
  3. Adapt, v.
  4. Trait, n.
  5. Select, v. (selection, n.)
  6. Reproduce, v. (reproduction, n.)
  7. Species, n.
  8. Ancestor, n.

2. Draw-Pair-Share: Once students have completed their sketches, direct them to review what they had created with a team or classmate, taking turns discussing their drawing and their thinking behind why they approached the sketch the way they had done so. I budget approximately five for  this stage.

3. Draw-Pair-Share: At this point, there typically will be some student favorites rising to the top (as students have discussed each others work). I then solicit volunteers (which are typically never lacking) and students present their drawings to the class using the Elmo/document projector. As they present, they are to explain the basic details of the sketch and the underlying thinking. I budget approximately five for  this stage.

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

5 minutes

Reflection: Before students finish for the day, they are directed to complete the following reflection questions.

Identify the two words that you had the most difficulty putting into a visual (drawing).

Please explain what made them a challenge for you.

Word #1= _________________________________

  • Challenge because _____________________

 Word #2= _________________________________

  • Challenge because ______________________