Coastal & Inland Temperatures

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SWBAT create a graph and determine the relationship and cause between continental and coastal climactic changes

Big Idea

Students plot out and analyze several graphs that describe some annual temperature trends between inland and coastal locations.

Lesson Introduction

This is one of my absolute favorite lessons of the entire year, because it's easy to implement, helps the students practice a necessary skill (graphing), and reveals a concept that many students didn't even know about. I wasn't even aware of the differences between continental and coastal temperatures before I started teaching this course full-time, and I find it incredibly fascinating. Also, the way this exercise is constructed allows students to graph the information and then draw conclusions from it - they don't get to the "why am I doing this?" until later, when all the puzzle pieces fall into place for them. This graphing-based lesson uses real data to show students that there are climactic differences between continental and coastal areas, and asks them to help figure out why. Other than rulers (for graphing straight lines) there are no requisite materials needed for this lesson. 

[Note: For embedded comments, checks for understanding (CFUs), and key additional information on transitions and key parts of the lesson not necessarily included in the below narrative, please go to the comments in the following document: 6.2 - Temperature Ranges (Entire Lesson w/comments). Additionally, if you would like all of the resources together in a PDF document, that can be accessed as a complete resource here: 6.2 - Temperature Ranges (Entire Lesson)[PDF]. Finally, students may need their Earth Science Reference Tables [ESRT] for parts of the lesson (a document used widely in the New York State Earth Science Regents course) as well.]

Do Now

10 minutes

Students come in silently and complete the (attached) Do Now. In this case, the Do Now is a review of material and some "hot standards" from Unit 3 (Geologic History) in addition to some needed review on material from the former unit on Meteorology. After time expires (anywhere from 2-4 minutes depending on the type of Do Now and number of questions), we collectively go over the responses (usually involving a series of cold calls and/or volunteers), before I call on a student and ask them to read the objective out loud to start the lesson. 

As a general note, the Do Now serves a few purposes:

  1. It serves as a general review of the previous day's material;
  2. It is a re-activation of student knowledge to get them back into "student mode" and get them thinking about science after transitioning from another content area or alternate class;
  3. as a strategy for reviewing material students have struggled with (for example, using this as a focused review for material that they have struggled with on unit assessments or recent quizzes); and,
  4. It is an efficient and established routine for entering the classroom that is repeated each day with fidelity (I never let students enter the classroom talking. While it may seem potentially severe to have students enter silently each day, this is both a school wide expectation and a key component of my classroom. In many respects, I find that students readily enjoy the focus that starting with a quiet classrooms brings each day).

Introduction & Vocabulary

10 minutes

We start the lesson with the Introduction & Vocabulary resource, which first tasks students with the graphing exercise of plotting points between four different locations in the United States. We then collectively go over some basic vocabulary for uniformity in academic language [Note: the definitions can be found as embedded comments in the Word document in the Lesson Introduction section above], including a brief review of what constitutes a numerical range

I then have students quickly read the very straightforward procedural steps before having them transition to the next page, where they'll see (and begin to plot) the actual data.

Data & Graph

25 minutes

As we begin the Data & Graph portion of the lesson, we take a minute as a class to plot the locations of the cities on the actual map (Bismarck, North Dakota has been plotted already), which students annotate on their own maps as I do it projected on my document camera at the front of the room. We then go into a super quick oral review of our graphing steps. Having students turn to the graph paper, they will see that they need to do the following:

  1. Give the graph a title
  2. Set up the appropriate axes
  3. Identify the scale/interval for each axis
  4. Plot the points
  5. Create a key/legend

Generally speaking, by the stage of their development, most students have little to no trouble with these steps. However, if your students need some extra support or help, make sure to closely supervise the labeling of axes as well as the scale/intervals on the axes themselves. Sometimes, students either overshoot the numbers on their axes, which creates a graph that is hard to read, given that it takes up such a small section of the area of the graph, or they do the opposite and undershoot, which means that they can't actually graph all the data they need to. As a tripwire in this process, always have students find the lowest and highest values in the data, making sure that the axes always go a bit below (or at least start at zero) and a bit above the given data (for example, if the highest temperature is 78 degrees, I'd want my maximum value to be at least 80 degrees when I plot out my axes scale). 

Additionally, in the context of graph creation, I sometimes give out different colored pencils/pens, since students will be making four different lines on one sheet of graph paper. Similarly, they can also use different line types (i.e. solid vs. dashed) or symbols (circles vs. squares or triangles) to differentiate their lines. (See some examples: herehere, and here)

Despite all this, I find that some focused circulation and supervision is necessary and helpful. Students took the majority of this hour-long class period to plot the actual data, and they often finished their graphs at different times. Definitely encourage them to start on the next Analysis section (see below) as soon as they're finished graphing.

Discussion & Rubric

15 minutes

As noted in the previous section, once students are finished, I have them immediately start on the Discussion section. These questions ask the students to do some post-graph analysis of their work - what is the range of this data? Which one heated up or cooled down the fastest? I'm asking these questions because I want to have students start to think about what they've graphed, and how different cities have different yearly climates (which they can visually capture just by looking at the graph). There's more information on the Reflection in this section on this, but I wanted to do this purposefully so that when we revisit this graph and discuss the why, it becomes super clear based on the creation and analysis they've already done. 

As a final note, students also have access to the Rubric at the end of the lesson so that they're aware exactly what they're graded on. Since this is a non-Regents based lesson, but is one designed to build out the graph for later use and deeper conceptual understanding, there is no traditional exit ticket for this lesson. The evaluative tool is the creation of the actual graph in concert with the correctly answered discussion questions - they'll use the graphs later to build out the conceptual understanding, the why of all this, in future lessons. Given that there are so few materials in this lesson, I usually let them work up until about a minute or two before the bell, instruct them to pack up their things, and remind them that any unfinished work is to be completed at home.