This lesson uses an informational text resource intended to support reading in the content area. The text informs readers about siphonophores, a relatively little-studied organism related to jellyfish and corals. It can grow as long as 160 ft. (49 m) and can move through the water column in a coordinated fashion, and knowledge of its locomotion may help humans propel themselves efficiently underwater. The lesson plan includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric. Numerous options to extend the lesson are also included.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 11, 12
Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: siphonophores, colonial organism, marine ecology, jellyfish, Nanomia bijuga, biomimicry, text complexity
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Describe the basic characteristics of a siphonophore.
- Explain how siphonophores are unique compared to other marine organisms that use jet propulsion systems to swim.
- Describe the biological niche the siphonophore occupies and how it has adapted to its environment.
- Explain the purpose of this research and why the results may prove useful to developing human technology.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Use vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Determine the central ideas of the text.
- Construct a written response that clearly establishes the main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the 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?
In regards to science:
- To help students understand this reading, they should be familiar with the characteristics of members of the phylum Cnidaria, including jellyfish, anemones, and corals, and the role they play in marine ecosystems.
- Students should be able to clearly differentiate between abiotic and biotic factors in a marine ecosystem.
- Students should understand what jet propulsion is and the different jet propulsion systems used by marine organisms.
- Students should understand what a colonial organism is and how individual specialized units within such an organism function as one.
In regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text. For this lesson, prior experience in using context clues to determine the meaning of words in a text 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 understand the term "central idea" and be able to distinguish central ideas from key details.
- "Central idea" means the same thing as "main idea." The central idea is the author's main point about the topic or topics in a text. The central ideas are the dominant, most important, or chief ideas that emerge from all the ideas presented in a text. Students should be aware that the author can have several main points he or she wants to make about the topic or topics in a piece of writing, and as a result, there can be multiple central ideas in a text, especially in longer more complex pieces like this text.
- Key, or in other words, important, details in a text help an author support and develop his or her central ideas.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in this article include: title, subtitle, headings, photographs, and captions.
- 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.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- What are some basic characteristics of siphonophores?
Siphonophores are transparent jelly-like organisms which are very thin and long, reaching up to 160 ft. They are colonies of many different animals each serving a different role. The members of the colony involved in the jet propulsion system are all genetically identical to each other (clones) and are called nectosomes. The colony also has members involved in feeding and reproduction.
- Why are siphonophores unique compared to related species like jellyfish?
Unlike individual organisms like jellyfish that use jet propulsion for movement, siphonophores are colonial organisms whose movement is coordinated by the actions of different members of the colony.
- How do siphonophores swim?
Siphonophores swim by jet propulsion. The younger members at the front of the colony use their jets for turning and steering. At the back of the colony are the older and larger members; they have a more powerful thrust used for moving place to place.
- What aspects of the scientific method and scientific collaboration are evident in this article?
- Observations were made: there were extremely long organisms being pulled along by a short segment of the organism.
- Questions were formulated: How could such a short propulsion area pull such a comparably long organism through the water for such long distances? How could it change directions?
- Experiments were designed: blue-water diving allowed the research to be done in the open ocean.
- Data was collected.
- Results were communicated: a peer-reviewed journal article was written.
- Why is the information gathered from this research relevant to human exploration of the oceans?
There is still so much information we have yet to discover about our oceans and marine ecosystems. By studying the siphonophore and how it moves and functions in the ocean, its design system could provide the basis for efficiently powering underwater submersibles for humans.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by asking students to describe what conditions and life forms are found in the open sea. Students might describe different amounts of light, temperature, etc. and might observe that there are fish, marine mammals, jellyfish, etc.
- Ask students to think about how organisms move or swim in the open sea.
- Next ask students if they are familiar with or know of any marine organisms who use a jet propulsion system for movement. Some students might be familiar with organisms such as squid or jellyfish. Ask students to discuss what they know about them.
- Next ask students if theyhaveeverseenasiphonophore before.
- Few, if any, are likely to know about these pelagic (open ocean) creatures.
- Show the associated with the article and the one at this link.
- Show this short video about siphonophores.
- Show pictures of related organisms like jellyfish and have students compare the organisms.
- Next tell students they are going to try to coordinate theirownmovementslikeasiphonophore.
- Have students make 2-3 long lines (at least 6 per line) with one person behind the other in each line.
- Without giving detailed instructions, tell them to coordinate a swimming motion with their arms as if they were one organism.
- After, ask the students what type of problems they encountered during this process. Tell the students the siphonophores are able to perfectly coordinate their actions... without a brain!
- After the "chaos" settles, have the students reoccupy their seats and give you quiet attention.
- Explain to students siphonophores are like jellyfish, anemones, and corals. They are multiple individuals that are so closely related they form one "organism." Different individuals specialize in different activities: feeding, reproduction, and locomotion.
- Tell the students they will be reading an article describing the siphonophore species Nanomia bijuga and how it uses a jet propulsion system to move.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
Provide the article "Clues to Future of Undersea Exploration May Reside Inside a Jellyfish-like Creature."
- For discussion purposes, the teacher may want to have students number each paragraph.
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide. These can be completed individually, in pairs, or in small groups as they read the article. Students should take notes as they read to complete each section.
- The teacher can circulate around the room as the note-taking guides are being completed and note of any specific insights or misconceptions that should be discussed with the whole class. The teacher could also take note of any answers that were not text-based and relied on reader background knowledge.
- Students can present different aspects of their note-taking guides to the class using white boards, and discussions can be held based on these student responses.
- Class discussion of the note-taking guide will identify depth and breadth of knowledge as well as any misconceptions.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed note-taking guide, 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 sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- For discussion on students' 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.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Students may not fully comprehend what a colonial organism is.
- A colonial organism is a group of closely related individuals that are similar (like the nectophores that specialize in propulsion) but have different specialties like reproduction and feeding.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions 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.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' answers to the text-dependent questions, checking their work, providing written feedback, and maybe 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 the following answer key to evaluate students responses.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Refer to the answer key for the text-dependent questions.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
Closure for literacy:
- Before the students complete the writing assignment, review the responses to the text-dependent questions completed earlier by the students. Make sure the misconceptions are corrected and the key points (as found in the sample answer key) are discussed.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a well-organized, detailed written response. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with an LCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- How the writer introduced the topic in an engaging way that addresses the prompt. Brainstorm alternate ways the writer might have begun the piece.
- How the writer used different body paragraphs to address the different questions in the prompt.
- How the writer used quotes and details from the text to support the response.
- How the writer closed the topic in a satisfying way. Brainstorm alternate possibilities for a conclusion.
- As one final option, teachers might want students to use the rubric to provide a score for the sample written response and have them justify the score they gave, possibly providing revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
Closure for science:
Have students turn in an "exit ticket" after the second day of this lesson. Have students answer the following questions and then address several of the responses the following day.
- Describe a siphonophore in one sentence.
- What unanswered questions from yesterday were answered today?
- What science concept do you still not fully understand?
- 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 can refer back to the text as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the rubric and go over it 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.
- Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
Prompt: Describe a siphonophore and its behavior. Explain how the nectosome increases in size and why it could be described as the "seat of power." Explain how the younger nectophores, though small, have so much influence on overall locomotion. Finally, explain how the results of this research might lead to biomimicry (the development of technology based on examples already developed in nature) with the potential to improve underwater travel.
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?"
Accommodations & Recommendations
- For students who would benefit from extra visual stimuli, show these images or videos ofsiphonophores:
- Show videos of submarine travel, like this video of the ALVIN submersible.
- Point out how the sub has propulsion toward the back only, whereas the siphonophore has the propulsion and steerage units well separated.
- Show the different specialized units of siphonophores.
For struggling readers:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read section one, then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight the selected vocabulary for section one on the article. Work with students to model ways to define a few of the academic vocabulary words to get them started. The teacher can think aloud as he or she decides which vocabulary strategy or strategies to use to define a word, and think aloud while deciding which meaning from a dictionary entry with multiple meanings would be the best fit for how the word is used in the context of the article.
- Then, have students complete the note-taking guide for the rest of section one. When students are ready, have them share out their answers and provide corrective verbal feedback as needed, allowing students to make corrections to their work. Then repeat this process for the other sections of the text if needed. Or, at least have students complete the graphic organizer for the next section and receive feedback on their work before they move on.
For struggling writers:
It might help struggling writers to provide them with an outline to help them structure their response. The outline might include places for them to record:
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A place to list the central idea(s)
- Topic sentences for the body paragraphs
- Quotes and text evidence to be used to illustrate key points
- Ideas on how to conclude the piece and connect back to the main point(s)
- Compare siphonophores that live in different areas of the ocean. For example, compare the Portuguese Man o' War, which lives on the surface, to deep sea species.
- Students might conduct further research on the adaptive advantages of these soft and apparently delicate creatures. How do they survive and reproduce in the highly competitive oceanic environment? (One aspect is the venom they produce and inject using their nematocysts that allows them to capture larger swimming organisms without being torn apart.)
Suggested Technology: Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
Special Materials Needed:
It is important that the students see the provided for this article. They show the structures of the organisms, how the long tentacles allow the siphonophore to be a formidable predator, the research being conducted, etc.
The text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Michael Mitchell
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Charlotte
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.