Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Identify the potential benefits of bioinsecticides produced from spider venom, as well as the problems of traditional insecticides on the environment, on human and wildlife health, and on the quality of the food and water supply.
- Identify the environmental consequences of the traditional application of chemical pesticides in an attempt to sustain land for agricultural purposes.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Organize the ideas from the article into an extended writing response that establishes a main point, utilizes transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
This lesson should be taught after a good deal of content has been covered in a traditional environmental science course or within an advanced course, as there is a good deal of background information students will need in order to fully appreciate the point of the article.
In regards to science students should know:
- Biology terms: toxin, vertebrate, environment, nervous system, gene, genus, species, venom, virus
- Chemistry terms: compound, chemical, dosage, molecular structure, insecticide, pesticide
- A basic understanding of environmental problems caused by:
- using chemical pesticides for spraying crops
- spraying chemicals and administering drugs to control the spread of diseases such as malaria
- Understanding how natural selection causes:
- species to become resistant over time to chemicals and drugs
- parasites, bacteria and insects become resistant to chemicals in insecticides and drugs in medications
- A list of many problems caused by pesticides can be found at .
- Basic knowledge of the water cycle. An overview of the water cycle can be found at Water Cycle. Students should understand that pesticides and insecticides contain toxins or chemical compounds that are harmful to wildlife and humans. These chemical compounds are absorbed by the soil and can seep into groundwater. Any liquid chemicals not absorbed by the soil can evaporate into the air we breathe or run off into other bodies of water such as lakes, bayous, and oceans. All bodies of water, groundwater and rainwater, can then carry these chemicals to drinking water or be present in the plants that the organisms consume.
- Understanding of the Law of Conservation of Mass: to relate to the idea that whatever chemical is introduced to an area never leaves, but is taken up by the organisms, soil and water bodies of that ecosystem.
- Biomagnification: it may seem inconsequential if one small organism is exposed to a chemical, but when a top predator accumulates a larger amount of toxin by eating infected smaller organisms, this can be harmful.
In regards to literacy skillsstudents should have:
- Prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of words in a text. For this lesson, prior experience in using context clues to determine the meaning of unknown words would be beneficial. In addition, students should have some dictionary skills that will enable them to look up words with multiple meanings and determine the most appropriate meaning based on how a word is used in a text.
- Students should have an awareness that authors can organize or structure a text in many different ways. In "Spider Venom Could Yield Eco-Friendly Insecticides," some of the text structures include cause/effect and problem/solution.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the spider venom article include: title, summary, photograph, caption, and a partial glossary (definitions to words or phrases that students may be unfamiliar with such as ion channels and neurotoxins).
- Students should be able to respond to a writing prompt in a clear, organized manner that includes use of an introduction to establish the main point(s), a body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and includes relevant and specific textual evidence, and a conclusion that supports the main point(s).
- Students should have some awareness that use of transition words or phrases can help a piece of writing flow smoothly from one point or idea to the next. Often students will remember to use transitions at the start of the body paragraphs or conclusion paragraph, but may forget to use them in the midst of paragraphs to connect ideas or to make the content within each paragraph flow. Teachers might wish to provide students with a list of transitions to help them.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
Main investigation questions:
- How do environmental scientists solve problems?
Environmental scientists must look at the big picture.There are so many factors that affect the health of an ecosystem. Changing one small part can have a huge impact. Scientists are starting to look at natural ways to solve problems that in the past were solved without much thought to the impact they would have on the environment. One such area is the problem of weeds and insects harming our crops. Spraying harsh chemical insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides have been shown to have negative consequences.
- Why is biochemist Glenn King searching for an alternative to chemical pesticides?
Chemical pesticides only work to a certain extent. Today the world is still experiencing a 25% loss in agricultural crops due to insect pests, even though we are spraying pesticides that should kill these insects, because insects are becoming resistant to the pesticides. Even though a millionth of a pound of some pesticides can cause death, we are still spraying more than a billion pounds of pesticide on crops in the U.S. each year. Our methods of creating pesticides are not selective. Many different types of wildlife and insects are killed with the pesticides, not just the insect pests.
- Why does King believe that spider venom is a better alternative to chemical pesticides?
Most of the chemicals that make up spider venom are toxic to insects, but not to vertebrates. King believes he can modify these chemicals even further to be more selective to only those insects we are targeting as pests and destroying crops. King also believes we can encode genes with spider toxin into viruses to further target a certain insect genus or small number of species within a genus. These viruses will not harm beneficial insects such as bees, and the toxin will not end up in food and water supplies.
- Are there still problems with using natural alternatives to chemical pesticides?
Natural alternatives still upset the balance by adding an "unknown" factor into an ecosystem. We may not know the effects something new introduced to an environment could cause. One solution can cause 10 new problems that were not anticipated.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
Lesson opener/attention getter:
Begin the lesson by asking the class:
- How do we end up with such an abundance of crops to feed so many people?
Students may bring up something about modern agriculture and new technologies.
- How do we control problems like weeds and pests?
Students may bring up pesticides and fertilizers.
- Are these all safe? Do they cause any problems?
Students may give mixed responses depending on their background knowledge. Fertilizers, pesticides, etc. may be necessary to grow so much food successfully. Others may state that chemical pesticides are bad and that is why they only "eat organic."
Next, ask "Why are pesticides harmful to the environment?"
- Write students' responses on the board. Students will most likely respond by stating that they pollute the environment by getting into water and food supplies. Some students may know about the pesticide DDT that contributed to putting the bald eagle in danger of extinction. Students may realize that small doses of pesticides may cause health problems like asthma and allergies, while large doses may cause cancer or even death. Once pesticides are sprayed on the crops, they can seep into water supplies, evaporate into the air supply if volatile enough, and travel by wind—not to mention that they will stay on the original crops even through processing.
- If necessary, show this short clip about the return of the bald eagle:
- The teacher may want to further the discussion by asking students what pesticides contain. Pesticides contain chemical compounds that are sprayed on crops to kill insect pests. The word pesticide is a general term that includes, but is not limited to, insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and rodenticides.
The teacher may ask, "What do chemical insecticides do to insects?"
- Students will probably state that one or more chemicals in the insecticide kills the insect or stops it from eating crops. Some students may know that the chemicals are called toxins. Some students may even know that the toxins affect the nervous system and are called neurotoxins. Neurotoxins affect the nervous system by paralyzing the insect or disrupting components of the nervous system often causing death. Many venomous organisms use their neurotoxins to subdue a predator or prey very rapidly. Some neurotoxins are very specific to certain organisms or prey.
- "Are the chemical insects only harming the insects we want them to harm?" Currently, many chemical pesticides are not specific to certain species of crop-eating insects. It would be helpful to create insecticides that would only target the insect that is destroying the crops. We don't want the insecticide to kill bees, because bees are beneficial to humans and the environment.
- Show: https://youtu.be/aTm7i84mcMI
The teacher may ask, "What about drugs and medicines that are invented to cure diseases like malaria? Can these drugs also be harmful to the environment?"
- Students will probably realize that drugs used to kill viruses, bacteria, and parasites may also end up harming wildlife and organisms that are beneficial to humans, life, or the environment. We wouldn't really want these drugs or medicines in our water supply or hanging around in the environment where children are playing.
The teacher may ask, "How can insects, parasites, and bacteria become resistant to pesticides, drugs, and medicines?"
- Students may say that organisms that are exposed to the same chemical over and over again become resistant to the chemical over time. Natural selection will cause certain genes to be passed on to offspring. These genes are essential to survival of the species in certain environments. An overview of how pesticide resistance develops can be found: How Pesticide Resistance Develops
- An overview of how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics may also be helpful: How Bacteria Become Resistant To Antibiotics.
Lead the discussion toward nature's way of defense or predation.
- One way is by using venom. Poisonous venom can contain hundreds of chemical compounds.
- Most of the compounds are neurotoxins that will cause paralysis or death. Scientists have been analyzing these chemical compounds in the laboratory by gas chromatography, mass spectrometry and spectroscopy.
- One of the ways to analyze neurotoxins thoroughly is by nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy (NMR). This type of analysis uses an instrument that can determine the three-dimensional structure of neurotoxins, thus helping scientists determine how the substance works inside the victim/prey.
- If we study the prey anatomy and the neurotoxin, it helps us understand how the toxin works inside the victim's body. It will also help us determine specific organisms or species of organisms affected by the toxin. Some toxins may only target certain types of organisms or species of organisms.
End the discussion by telling students that they will read an article about how one scientist is trying to take something like spider venom and use it effectively as an insecticide. Remind students that venom is made up of many different chemical compounds. Many of the compounds are neurotoxins.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
Instructions for setting up and leading the activity that the students will complete with teacher guidance:
- Provide each student with a copy of the article, "Spider Venom Could Yield Eco-Friendly Insecticides." For class discussions, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section before they read (11 paragraphs).
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide.
- Provide each student with a compare/contrast graphic organizer.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: "Spider Venom Could Yield Eco-Friendly Insecticides"
- Summary of Article: You could call Glenn King "The Spider Man." The University of Connecticut research scientist is mapping spider toxins at the molecular level. His work may result in an insecticide that takes out agricultural pests without harming other insects.
- Caption: Milking a Blue Mountains funnel-web spider for venom (located under spider photograph).
- Partial Glossary:
- The Blue Mountain funnel-web spider – a large Australian spider with a bite that is deadly to humans and insects
- neurotoxins – toxins that either paralyze insects or send their nervous systems into overdrive
- ion channels – allow the movement of ions across cell membranes
- ions – small charged molecules
- Have students fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in a small group. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- Then, students should complete the graphic organizer. Explain to students that when there is a key term (in italics) in the left box, they are to define it in the right using context clues from the text and their dictionary skills. When there is a main/central idea on the left, they are to explain it on the right using at least 2 details from the text.
- Explain to students that on the graphic organizer, they are to compare insecticides to bioinsecticides in the categories provided, using information from the text. Hint that this organizer will be very helpful on their upcoming writing assignment.
How Will You Check for Student Understanding?
- Teachers can check student understanding by collecting their completed note-taking guide and/or graphic organizer, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers can use this answer key for the note-taking guide and this answer key for the graphic organizer to help them assess students' answers.
- For discussion of student's answers to the defined vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to not only ask students to explain the meaning they determined for a word, but the strategy they used to arrive at that meaning. This will allow the teacher to provide alternative suggestions as to how the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
- Note: based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary students will define on the note-taking guide.
- For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific (in other words, subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and use a dictionary to define the words.
- If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected academic vocabulary, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Milking (Caption under spider photograph): to extract something as if by milking. Encourage students to use the photograph and a dictionary. What is happening in the photo? The caption states that someone is "milking a Blue Mountain funnel-web spider for venom." There is a tube or pipette on the left side of the photograph. It can be inferred that this tube will suck venom from the spider. The spider would need to "release" its venom or reveals its fangs to help the scientist "extract" or "aspirate" its venom. When we read further in paragraph 2, we find out that the spider "cooperates" when it feels threatened (provoked), thus making it easy to aspirate venom from the fangs.
- Aspirate (Paragraph 2, sentence 2): to remove a fluid by use of an aspirator or suction syringe. Encourage students to use the photograph and a dictionary. Students should look at the picture of the tube in the left side of the photograph of the spider. Students should also be asked if they notice any droplets of venom near or on the spider or the aspirator tube. Does the spider look like it is "rearing up for a fight?" How does this make it easy to take venom from its fangs?
- Australian funnel-web spider (Paragraph 2, sentence 1): a large Australian spider with a bite that is deadly to humans and insects. The photograph and paragraph 2 help students understand why scientists use this spider for venom: its long life in captivity and the ease of milking its venom.
- Brew (paragraph 3, sentence 1): any concoction, especially a liquid produced by a mixture of unusual ingredients. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Students should be encouraged to elaborate on the meaning of the venom "brew" referred to in this paragraph. The brew is a mixture of over 100 chemical compounds and not just one compound is toxic to insects. Many of the 100 compounds are toxic to insects and not vertebrates.
- Venom (Used in numerous places including the photograph and paragraphs 2, 3, 7 and 10): the poisonous fluid that some animals, like certain snakes and spiders, secrete and introduce into the bodies of their victims by biting, stinging, etc. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. It is important for students to note that venom contains many chemical compounds and many of the compounds are neurotoxins. The molecular structure of these chemical compounds and neurotoxins is of key importance to figuring out what happens in the body of the prey. Does the neurotoxin paralyze or kill the prey? How does the neurotoxin do this? Anatomy of the organism/victim/prey and the molecular structure of the neurotoxin must both be studied.
- Neurotoxin (used in numerous places including paragraph 1, 3, 6, 7, 9 and 10): any of several natural substances that interfere with electrical activities of nerves, thus preventing them from functioning. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. The teacher may want students to brainstorm or "visualize" how these neurotoxins would "look" from the outside and inside. In other words, what would the insect or victim/prey look like if it were affected by a neurotoxin? At dictionary.reference.com, it states that some difficulty in breathing may occur. What would be happening to the nervous system of the victim inside the nervous system, and how would it affect the other systems inside the body?
- Nervous system (used in paragraphs 3, 6, 7, and 9): the system of nerves and nerve centers in animal or human, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and ganglia. The sensory and control apparatus of all multi-cellular animals above the level of sponges, consisting of a network of nerve cells. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Students can visualize how a chemical, specifically a neurotoxin, would affect one's nervous system.
- Panacea (used in paragraph 4): an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties. A remedy for all diseases; cure-all. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. The text implies that people originally felt that pesticides such as DDT were the final solution for insect control and that medicines that cured people of malaria were amazing "cure-alls."
- Genes (used in paragraph 8): the basic unit of heredity; a linear sequence of nucleotides along a segment of DNA that provides the coded instructions for synthesis of RNA, which, when translated into protein, leads to the expression of heredity character. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Students will need to visualize how a gene can encode a spider toxin.
- (Genetic) Encoding (used in paragraph 8): to convert (a message, information, etc.) into a code; to specify the genetic code for the synthesis of a protein molecule or a part of a protein molecule. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Students can deduce that species-specific neurotoxins will be inserted into viruses and the insect species will be exposed to this toxin-carrying virus.
- Virus (used in paragraphs 8 and 9): an ultramicroscopic, metabolically inert, infectious agent that replicates only within the cells of living hosts, mainly bacteria, plants and animals: composed of RNA and DNA core, a protein coat, and, in more complex types, a surrounding envelope. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary.
- Molecule or molecular (used in the summary and paragraphs 6, 7 and 9): the smallest unit of an element or compound, consisting of one or more like atoms in an element and two or more different atoms in a compound. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Molecules are used to describe the smallest component of each chemical compound in the spider venom. Molecular target is used to describe the molecules inside an insect’s nervous system that the neurotoxin will target, specifically.
- Vertebrates (paragraphs 3, 7, and 11): having vertebrae; having a backbone or spinal column. Belonging or pertaining to the Vertebrata (or Craniata), a subphylum of chordate animals, comprising those having a brain enclosed in a skull or cranium and a segmented spinal column; a major taxonomic group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fishes.
Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Have students think about how some neurotoxins can attack just insects and not vertebrates. It is the molecular structure of these neurotoxins and the anatomy of the organism that will determine whether or not the neurotoxin will affect the organism. Some neurotoxins may even only affect certain insects while leaving other insects unharmed.
- Pesticides (found in paragraphs 1 and 5): a chemical preparation for destroying plant, fungal or animal pests. Encourage students to use both context clues and a dictionary. Students can deduce that pesticides include insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides. All of these contain chemical compounds that can be harmful to the environment, including wildlife and humans.
After reading and completing the text dependent questions from the article, be sure to review responses to the text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points contained in the sample answer key.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Instructions for setting up and leading the activity that the students will complete with teacher guidance:
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions and graphic organizer to complete. Students should be reminded to continually refer back to the text and to use relevant and specific evidence from the text to support their answers.
Students may want to use a highlighter while reading to mark sections of the text.
Once students have been given sufficient time to complete the text dependent questions, the teacher will have an opportunity to review the student responses.
The next day:
The teacher will review responses with students either as a class or as individual written feedback.
The next part of the lesson will be for the teacher to reinforce proper writing elements required for a written response (see Guided Practice).
We have had an opportunity to read and review the article with some detail. For this final part we will be responding to a final writing prompt.
Students will work on their response to the writing prompt, either in class or at home, as the teacher sees fit (see Summative Assessment).
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
As a final element to this assignment, the teacher may hold a discussion about what they have learned by having certain students share their writing with the class. Students can comment and discuss on each written response.
The teacher could show some samples of student responses to showcase areas where the goals were met. The teacher may identify key pieces that show the strength of the writing or evidence of effective writing.
Have a final discussion with students about their thoughts on the article and some areas where they still may have questions.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. They should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They should refer back to the text as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over the rubric with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
- Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address. Encourage students to underline key parts of the prompt as the teacher goes over it so they will remember to answer all the required parts.
Prompt: Use evidence from the text to compare traditional insecticides to bioinsecticides such as those made from spider venom.Consider the positive and negative environmental impacts of traditional insecticides as well as those of bioinsecticides in your discussion.
- Teachers should use the provided rubric to assess students' written responses.
- After students' written responses have been reviewed and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. The teacher can review the following:
- Have students examine how the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph. Go over how this writer opened his or her piece of writing. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Help students identify the use of some textual specifics in the body paragraphs that illustrate how using spider venom could result in eco-friendly insecticides.
- Point out how direct quotations are used to support the points the author is making.
- Explain how the author devotes one body paragraph each to both types of insecticides.
- Show students how the author wraps up the main points in a concluding paragraph. Brainstorm other ways the author might have ended his/her response.
Specific suggestions for conducting Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for conducting Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"