Volcanoes - Helpful or Harmful? Prove it!

37 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT state a claim, locate evidence by researching and then write a reasoning statement.

Big Idea

Are volcanoes helpful or harmful? We can state our claim, find evidence and use reasoning to support our ideas.

Teacher Notes

Activity Description:

Students will first write their knowledge about earthquakes on a circle map.  Then the children will use that knowledge to help them state a claim--if volcanoes are harmful or helpful.  The children will then research in a book to find evidence to support their claim.  They will then write their reasoning using a graphic organizer.  Then a short video or a book will be read to explain how volcanoes can be both helpful and harmful.  Then they will revise their claim using their new evidence.

NGSS Connection:

The children will be making observations from text to construct an evidence based account. The children will be constructing an argument with evidence to support a claim.








5 minutes

Most second grade children know something about volcanoes.  I want to reach into that knowledge and then use that as a base for their new learning.  This will help them connect their prior knowledge to what we are about to learn.  So I have them use a circle map.  Here is a  general example of what a finished circle map looks like.  My class has already worked with using circle maps in this lesson on animal classification, so we are familiar with using them.

I have them draw two concentric circles in their science journals as stated in the directions above.  One circle should be much larger than the other.  To aide them in drawing their circles, I use a tagboard tracer that I had previously, but you certainly don't need one.

In the inner circle, I would like you to write the word "volcanoes."

I demonstrate on the Smartboard.  Then I write the word since many students will not be able to spell it correctly.

Then in the outer circle, I would like you to write what you know about volcanoes.  It is alright if you don't know anything about them, since we have not studied them yet.  But some of you may know something about them.  I want to see what you know or don't know.  This helps me be able to teach you effectively.

Some children know about volcanoes, and many do not.  By doing this exercise, I can see exactly what they already know.  After about 5 minutes I move on to the "frame of reference" rectangle. 

Now I would like you to draw a rectangle around the outer circle.  In the rectangle space I would like you to write down how you know about the information in the circle.  Did someone teach it to you?  Did you read it in a book?  Did you experience it in some way?

This really gets them thinking about their evidence in a simplistic, relative way.  Here is a video clip that shows one of my girls working on the circle map.  Here is another.  My class usually takes this very seriously and works diligently since they like using circle maps.



25 minutes

Today we are going to learn about the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning strategy (C-E-R).  This can be used not only in experimentation in science, but also in scientific reading, which is what we are going to accomplish today. Even though most of my students have never heard of the CER strategy, they naturally make claims, they just don't call them claims.  But they need to learn how to support their claims with both evidence and reasoning.  This is all part of making an effective argument in the scientific process. Most children have the misconception that volcanoes are always devastating (see reflection). Therefore this makes a great starting point for teaching claims.  

I pair the students up with a partner.  Since the task is going to be challenging for some children, I pair a stronger student with one less strong (see reflection "Student grouping").  I have them go and sit by each other.  Then I pull up the Claim-evidence-reasoning poster on the Smartboard.  

Today we are going to be working on writing things like a scientist.  When scientists study about a topic, they make claims, research to find proof to back it up and then explain this new learning with reasoning.  Today you are going to be doing the same thing with your partner.  This poster shows you all of the steps.  

We look at the poster and go over the steps.  

The topic we are going to be discussing is volcanoes.  Here is the focus question: "Is a volcano harmful or helpful?"  I would like you to talk this over with your partner so you can agree on an answer. 

Then I give each student a CER recording sheet.  If you would like an easier version, click here.

You will be filling out this recording sheet.  So the first step is writing what you and your partner already think the answer to my question is.  You need to state your answer as a sentence.  This will be your claim.  

The children write their claim on the worksheet in the first box.  Since we are just learning about C-E-R the page contains sentence frames to help support their language and learning.

Then we move on to the second box, the evidence section.  For this the students will have to base their evidence on reading the books and finding parts of the text to support their answer.  So in advance, I have laid out all of my books about volcanoes.  

Each partner group will get a book about volcanoes.  You need to read this book to find evidence to support your claim.  Evidence is like proof that what you thought is really the truth.  I want you to look hard in the book to find evidence to support your claim.  Make sure it supports that claim that you have made.

After you have found evidence or an example from the text to support your claim, you can write it on your paper in the "evidence" box.  You need to finish the sentence starter on your page to make a complete sentence.

I have the partner groups come to the table and choose a book to look at to find evidence.  After they have found an example from the book, they write it on their paper.  I walk around the room and check that they are finding evidence that does indeed support their claim.  Click to see my students working hard to find their evidence in this video and this one.  Most students thought volcanoes were harmful--see  sample A, sample B and sample C.  A few groups, thought they were helpful.  Click here for a student sample with that thought process.


15 minutes

When they have all finished, we continue to the next part, explaining their ideas.

In the final box you need to write down your reasoning.  I want to know why you think the way you do by backing up your answer with a reason.  In the last box it states, "Based on this evidence we must conclude that ..." The words under it tells you to restate your claim.  So you might want to end that sentence with "volcanoes are ______ by writing what you thought, either helpful or harmful."  Then it says the words "because."  The words you write after the word because should explain why you think the way that you do.  What are your reasons?  Why do you think this way?

Writing the explanations is a great way for the children to be exposed to the idea that you have to have proof to back up your reasoning.  The proof must be reliable and accurate.

Then we watch a 2 minute wordless video that shows lava in all of its majesty.  Then we watch a video about volcanoes by Study Jams (very kid-friendly). You could also watch an informative 3 minute video that explains about volcanoes, called Volcano 101, by National Geographic (great info, not as kid-friendly and does contain images of Pompeii).

To get across the idea that volcanoes can also be helpful, I read the book Volcano Rising.  I love this book because it shows how volcanoes are both harmful and destructive.  

Note:  You can also use this book for a mini-ELA lesson on comparing texts since this book does contain information, such as volcanoes being helpful,  that many regular informative texts do not.








10 minutes

We have a whole-group class discussion about what we have learned about volcanoes.  We also talk about if their claims proved to be true or not.  

So are volcanoes helpful or harmful?  What do you think?  Did you find any new information that changes your original thoughts?  Talk it over with your partner (see video clip).

Actually, volcanoes can be both harmful and helpful.  So we go back and revise our previous findings by adding either harmful or helpful to their original claim.  Then they need to cite the evidence for what they have newly found and write that down.  Click for student sample A and sample B.


5 minutes

To end the lesson, we review what we have learned.

Boys and girls, you have worked very hard today.  You have done work like real scientists.  You made a claim, backed it up with evidence that you found and then explained your reasoning.  Some of you found out that your original claim needed to be changed.  It's okay to change your claim, you just needed to go back and revise your evidence and reasoning.  That's what scientists do.

I collect their papers.  I check to make sure that the children have written all 3 parts of the CER correctly.  Since I have used sentence frames, they have a great chance for being successful.

Here's what I am looking for:

  • Claim--They must have stated a claim in sentence form. Basically on this paper they just had to fill in volcanoes are either helpful or harmful.
  • Evidence--They needed to find one example and it must support their claim.
  • Reasoning--Their reason must be logical.