Connection to The Next Generation Science Standards
In this investigation, students begin the work that will lead them to explore the Disciplinary Core Idea of Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics - that food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers." Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of the ecosystem. (5-LS2-1) and the Crosscutting Concept of Systems and System Models - A system can be described in terms of its components and their interactions (5-LS2-1).
Please Note: The Lexile Level for Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Sheet Lesson 13 is 740 (5th Grade Range is 740 - 1010).
The Preparation Time for This Investigation is approximately 10 minutes.
Preparation time for first time construction of the following is approximately 20 minutes.
One copy for each student of Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2
I also make a reduced size copy of the labels (reduce to 80% on the copy machine) for my students to cut out and glue into their Science Notebooks.
Introduce the Scenario
I ask my students, "How many of you like to clean your room?" I hear mostly groans and sighs. There is always the one student who raises a hand. I think I can already tell how they feel about cleaning their rooms by looking inside their desks.
"Well," I say, "It shouldn't surprise you then that Plaid Pete doesn't like to clean his either. In fact, I have a new scenario here about that very issue!"
Before I can even pass out the Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Lab Scenario Sheet - Lesson 2 my students are already getting out their highlighters and asking me how many parts are in this scenario. I am thinking Readers Theater is here to stay. I tell them that this scenario involves Plaid Pete, his mother, and a narrator.
Students Read the Scenario in their Teams
I had originally began writing these scenarios, because I had received professional development that cited the effectiveness of beginning inquiry instruction using engaging scenarios. Now, after an entire trimester of using them, I am amazed at the eagerness of even my most reluctant readers. I have some students who really need that oral reading practice, and this activity provides a much needed opportunity for them. In this Video Clip this team is taking their roles very seriously!
After students finish reading the scenario, I say, "Wow - if we are going to help Plaid Pete with this project, I think we are going to need to figure out this whole idea of living vs. non-living." I share with my students that it wasn't an easy process for scientists to come together and agree on definitions for these things either. I tell them I have an activity that might help us to understand how these categories are defined.
Learning Objective & Success Criteria
Note: Consistent with the Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, I am now including a language objective with each lesson. These objectives were derived from the Washington State ELP Standards Frameworks that are correlated with the CCSS and the NGSS.
I share the learning objective and success criteria:
Learning Objective: I can name the 7 characteristics that are shared by all living things.
Language Objective: I can use academic words in speaking that signal logical relationships (e.g. in addition, however, similarly, etc.) when constructing explanations. [ELP.4-5.7]
Success Criteria: I can share the 7 characteristics with a partner.
Introduce Observation Charts
While students were reading the scenario, I have quickly taped up the 7 Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters In Ecosystems - Observation Charts - Lesson 2 around the classroom, with a large piece of Ledger paper taped next to each chart.
I ask my students to divide into groups of 3. I want the groups to be self-chosen. Self-chosen groups are more likely to engage in discussion and I want to get them talking. The group who is not at an observation chart will read through the scenario a second time.
Once students are in groups, I hand each group a different colored marker. Each group only gets one marker. I tell them that they must take turns writing, and talking. I tell them that I will give them about 2 minutes at each chart. They are to look at the chart and answer the question on the chart, "What Do They Have In Common?" and make any other observations.
I caution students that some of the pictures might lend themselves to interesting discussions, but that they need to keep it appropriate - because I will be listening!
I place a group of students at a chart, and begin the timer.
Students Make Observations
As students move through the charts making observations, I am listening to their dialogue. I prompt students as needed to discuss the pictures, and am making anecdotal notes about student comments that might indicate misconceptions. Some students want to make quick observations and move on, not fully attending to the visuals. In this Video Clip 1 I redirect students back to the visual, and "push their thinking" using questioning to get them to attend to the visual, and then compare it with the descriptive statement they have made. Part of this process is also getting them to really "listen" to each other. Students at this age and stage are apt to talk over their peers, without really processing the dialogue.
I am also prompting them to use academic words. In this Video Clip 2 I prompt this student to use academic language to add on to another student's comments. She is not currently using academic language in whole class settings. In order for students to use academic language in whole class settings, they first need to practice it in smaller groups like this one. Including a language objective and then providing the support for students to work towards that objective is critical to their achieving mastery of formal English Language structures.
Once all students have had an opportunity to make their comments, I ask them to return to their seats. I go around the room and read the comments that students have written on the charts. I tell them, "Class, you are very clever, you are well on your way to figuring out the 7 characteristics of all living things."
Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Nutrition" tag, students have posted these comments 1. Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Excretion" tag, students have posted these comments 2. Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Growth" tag, students have posted these comments 3. Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Respiration" tag, students have posted these comments 4. Next to the chart that will be labeled with the"Movement" tag, students have posted these comments 5 Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Sensitivity" tag, students have posted these comments 6. Next to the chart that will be labeled with the "Reproduction" tag, students have posted these comments 7
Students Label Observation Charts
I tell them that I have some labels that go with each chart. I share that each of the labels describes one of the 7 characteristics of all living things, and that one of the 7 charts that they have observed goes with that label. I give each group 1 of the labels from Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Observation Chart Labels - Lesson 2 I tell them to read it carefully. Their job will be to decide which chart they think the label goes with, and they will tape the label to the bottom of the chart. The group who did not receive a label will be the "checkers." They will go around after all of the groups are finished and decide if any final changes are needed. I send students off to attach the labels to the charts.
Review the Charts & Labels
After the "checkers" have had an opportunity to check the labels, We look at each chart as a class, and I read off the description from the label. We discuss as a group if the chart is accurately labeled. Some of the charts, such as Growth and Reproduction are easy.
Surprisingly, Excretion was difficult for my students. We live in a rural agricultural community, so I was surprised by this. Many students mistook the "brown stuff" coming from the tractor as soil. They were unaware that manure is used as a fertilizer. I sincerely hope I have not contributed to yet another excuse not to eat their vegetables! One of my students popped up with the comment, "It's just like the book, "Everybody Poops!" That generated a few laughs.
We have to spend extra time discussing the idea of Respiration, and the fact that it isn't just "breathing" but involves a whole chemical process of the body breaking down food for energy.
The issue of movement is also difficult to conceptualize. I have to draw my student's attention to the picture of the plant on the poster, and focus their attention on how it is moving towards the sunlight.
We finish off by chanting the 7 characteristics of all living things as I point to each of the posters. I tell my students that they are now well on their way to assisting Plaid Pete, yet again. Tomorrow, they will be hearing more about this project of his!
I have made a smaller sized copy of the Plaid Pete Discovers What Matters in Ecosystems - Observation Chart Labels - Lesson 2 for my students. They will cut them out and paste them in their Science Notebooks as their "Do Now" activity for tomorrow morning.