The Rise of the Dog: Day #1 of 2

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The prevailing theory explaining how man's best friend came to be has been recently challenged. Students will determine which of theory best matches the evidence.

Big Idea

The rise of the domestic dog has been been both rapid and well-researched but the theory is still a work in progress.

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...

1) Students will be able to construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: reproductive potential, heritable variation, competition for scarce resources, and survival of the fittest. (HS-LS4-2)

2) Students will understand that natural selection occurs only if there is both genetic (genotypic) variation and differences in its phenotypic expression (leading to an increased allelic frequency in the population). (HS-LS4-2 & 3)

3*) Students will be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of science and technical texts, attending to the specific details of explanations or descriptions. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.1)

I hope you get some value from my work!


*Potentially controversial, I have chosen to tag this lesson with the stated Common Core standard. While the medium featured in this lesson series is film rather than text based, I have seen similar tagging with films from reputable organizations. Fortunately, this series is not built upon this standard alone should my perspective be askew!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

15 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I develop and classroom culture where students engage in meaningful and productive discourse with peers?

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

To begin with, I am a dog guy. My family did have loads of pets, including cats so I have an unbiased perspective. My first best friend was a loveable, smart, and loyal German Shepard named Rusty. What joy he brought to my first 11-12 boyhood years that we shared. Perhaps the notion that a dog is man's best friend is shared by my students? I would like to believe so.

 Now, no disrespect to cat lovers (I am a biology teacher after all, right?) but the spotlight will not be on your buddies now. In this space of the lesson I want to engage my students and draw upon their relationships with canines (some of which might be negative but I'll roll the dice on this one).

So one question (obvious to me at least) is where did my domesticated BFF come from (as a breed rather than the "birds & bees" angle)?

Perhaps my students have an idea...

Canine Concept Map: Using the Canine Concept Map, the goal here is to determine the nature and extent of background knowledge for my students. Small groups are prompted to brainstorm what they have learned or experienced related to these three lines of inquiry:

1. "How do domestic dogs help humans?"

2. "What kinds of diversity exists among dog breeds?"

3. "How did the domestic dog breeds that we see today originally come about? How did they become so widely different?"

For this task, I leverage my small group structure. Four students, four roles: Leader, Recorder, Manager, and Spokesperson. The Recorder will be responsible for completing the Concept Map (based on input from all members) and the Spokesperson will share out the team's responses.

From a discussion perspective, I randomly draw three teams to share out one of the three prompts (my choice). Using the Stretch It technique I will probe their collective thinking. (see pp. 41-45 of Teach Like a Champion, by Doug Lemov)

These two variations can yield a deeper level of response:

1) Asking how or why they came to that answer

2) Asking for another way to answer the question

Now, to increase the dimensions of interaction (beyond Spokesperson and teacher), I randomly "lob the ball" (focus of interaction) to another student with a question like "Explain whether you agree or disagree and why". Another wrinkle would be to ask the Student B to paraphrase what Student A had said.

The main emphasis is enabling students to have the time to process their thinking as well as give a structure in which they can practice communicating their thoughts and experiences.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

35 minutes

Claim-Evidence-Reasoning Assignment

Showtime! NOVA Dogs the Changed the World: The Rise of the Dog (Part 1) (0:00-32:00)

Students will be prompted to fill out the CER Template: Rise of Dogs. To begin, each student ought to pre-read the three possible claims (Box 1 of CER template) that they will choose at the end of the film. I established that ten pieces of evidence would be required to earn mastery (Box 2 of CER template).

As the film is ongoing, what will I be doing? The main emphasis is on students becoming engaged and maintaining this focus throughout the film. I intentionally break up an hour film into to smaller segments (where possible) in order to build in the appropriate front-end business (goals, relevance, expectations, etc) and back-end closure (checks for understanding, making sense of the experience, etc).

The main way I strive to keep engagement is through circulating among the students of my class. I look for opportunities to interact with students (in unobtrusive ways so as to not distract others); I tend to kneel beside student desks a lot in order to have a "low-talk" interaction. I might ask them to keep focus or increase the pace of their note-taking if it seems that they are falling behind. Or I might affirm a response that seems especially detailed or insightful. The message I am sending with circulation is that I am not asleep at the wheel and neither should they. Every moment matters! Be engaged and glean what you can! 

Secondly, having previewed the film to determine sections that will be challenging to comprehend, I will pause the film (sparingly) and solicit student feedback, checking for understanding, and/or explaining the concepts in simpler terms. This, of course extends the "viewing time" but what's the point? Filling instructional time and space or really understanding the material?

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

5 minutes

Whip Around: Considering that a reasonably engaged student could identify and describe 5-6 pieces of evidence, I randomly choose 5-6 students and direct them to individually respond to the prompt, in turn: “Cite a piece of quantitative or qualitative evidence related to the possible origin of the domesticated dog.”

This not only reinforces what a student could have learned in class but also helps slower students to make up some ground if they didn't meet the quota for the day.

This information will form a crucial link between Day #1 and #2 as I am navigating my students to connect the various bits of evidence to the best and prevailing claim regarding canine evolution. Once this has been done, then we will turn our attention toward explaining our thinking (the "reasoning" in the CER model). But that is for a later time.

Follow up with the Day #2 lesson!