Glaciers Lab

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SWBAT define how a glacier is formed and identify major landscape and erosional features caused by glacial movement (moraines, drumlins, kettle lakes, and outwash plains) [LAB]

Big Idea

There are myriad features left by glaciers, mostly as a result of direct glacier movement. They include features like drumlins, kettle lakes, and outwash plains

Lesson Introduction

This partner-based lab has students explore the idea of glaciers and the many features that they're required to know for success on their Regents examination. The easy part about this lab from a teaching perspective is that it's relatively self-guided - students work together on it to explore all the glacial features (and if you're in New York state, many, if not most landforms are a result of glacial erosion), as well as how glaciers manage to shape the landscape at all. Beyond the resources, there are no special materials or equipment 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: 7.9 - Glaciers (Whole 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: 7.9 - Glaciers (Whole 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 earlier units in addition to some needed review on material from the current unit on the Earth's Surface. 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,

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).

Glaciers Lab

25 minutes

As I indicated in the Lesson Introduction, the Glaciers Lab is relatively straightforward, if not completely self-guided. I give students about 25 minutes in total to work through the lab, making sure that all questions are answered (the questions are about information that was recently read, so it's important that they read carefully and answer the questions as they go). Here are two brief video is my students working in lab groups on this:


The lab itself also introduces key glacial features, such as u-shaped valleys, moraines, erratics, drumlins, and outwash plains. For whatever reason, the Regents really enjoys asking students about the myriad and very detailed glacial features, and the lab is pretty good in presenting students with information that they need to know (for example, that drumlins can be used to determine the direction of past glacial movement). I ask that students work in their lab groups on the lab itself, and remind them that the lab will be graded (there is no rubric for this lab - I usually just grade on completion and correctness of responses in the lab itself). Finally, here are some student and lab work photos from the lab itself: Lab Work ILab Work IILab Work III, & Student Work I.


15 minutes

The Practice section in this lesson is, like the vast majority of questions found in all of my classwork and homework, is 100% Regents-based. All of the questions come from prior Regents examinations. Likewise, as I try to generally do with all of my lessons, the questions are mostly organized to get increasingly more difficult and increase in complexity, which is why the harder questions tend to come toward the end. 

In terms of student work habits, I tend to sometimes make this decision in the moment, and as a response of what I know about the students and how they're processing the material on, but I'll either ask them to work independently, in partners, or (sometimes) give them the option. Usually, before starting practice, we tend to go over some steps for self-help ("What should you do if you're stuck?"), and I might reference a previously used multiple-choice or free response strategy in order to build their skills while simultaneously learning content (as an example - one popular one we always use - "If you aren't sure what the right answer is, see if you can eliminate some wrong answer choices"). I tend to circulate for compliance and then hone in on specific students while they're doing this. 

After about 10 minutes, we go over their responses. Students who finish early are encouraged to work on the exit ticket (resource below) and double-check their responses. We use a combination of strategies (active voting, cold calling, popsicle sticks, volunteers) to go over the responses, where students correct their work and ask any clarifying questions. 

Lab Closing & Rubric

5 minutes

Unlike most of my other lessons, there is no exit ticket associated with this lesson. In the last few minutes of class, I definitely want to have the room ready for either my next period, or an alternate class that might be using the room (I share a room with another science teacher, which makes clean up all the more important at the end of the period). I make sure they're aware of the attached Rubric contains the information on how they'll be assessed and graded. 

I generally say this in all my lab-based lessons, but I think it's always important to: 1.) save more time than you think you need and 2.) have a hard stop at the end of a lab. Once that time is reached, no lab should continue. If you're a student in the room, you immediately have to begin the process of cleaning up your work space. Since, as mentioned above, I also share a classroom, I also give them some time to make sure they're all prepared for transitioning out of the room.  

In the last minute or so, I utilize the same procedure I do on non-lab days, which is to ask the students time to think about their self-mastery of the objective (which is posted on the whiteboard), through some guided questions:

  1. Do you feel that you mastered the objective for the day?
  2. Can you reiterate one thing you learned about ____________ (in this case, something akin to asking about glacial features - moraines, outwash plains, etc.)

Once I take 2-3 individual responses (sometimes I'll ask for a binary "thumbs up/thumbs down" or something similar), I have students leave once the bell rings.