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In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text that discusses the impacts of El Niño and the need for current research on the topic. The lesson plan includes text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric. Ideas for extending the lesson are also included.
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
Define El Niño and explain how El Niño is linked to severe weather.
Explain how an El Niño event can affect North American weather and climate.
Explain the role the NSF has taken to help researchers study El Niño .
Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
Determine the central ideas of the text.
Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
Make predictions based on evidence in the text.
Construct a multi-paragraph 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?
Basic knowledge of atmospheric and ocean interactions. Students would benefit from some understanding of how the ocean and atmosphere interact to create basic weather patterns.
Basic Knowledge of ocean temperatures and the mechanisms for warming.
Some knowledge of coral reef ecosystems and their requirements for survival, such as an optimal ocean temperature.
By visiting the , students can review topics such as weather systems and factors affecting climate, including El Niño.
This link provides access to the U.S. Geological Survey page specifically on El Niño.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
Why is it important/urgent to study El Niño?
In addition to wreaking havoc on sensitive marine ecosystems, such as coral and fisheries, El Niño can cause severe weather on land that can be very damaging to human coastal communities.
What is El Niño and what are its effects?
El Niño is the warming of ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific on semi-regular, recurring basis. The warmer than normal ocean temperatures during an El Niño can cause disruptions to marine and fresh water ecosystems, as well as severe weather on land.
How does El Niño impact coral reefs?
Coral live in the ocean but require a constant and predictable temperature to survive. Coral are ecologically fragile and already face many threats. Warmer than normal ocean temperatures can result in coral bleaching and ultimately, reef decline and collapse.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
Begin the lesson by showing the class the short "Understanding El Niño" (2:06) from NOAA's Climate.govwebsite. Ask the class to answer the following questions on a sheet of paper while watching the video:
What is happening to the temperature of the Southern Pacific Ocean during an El Niño? It is getting warmer.
What happens to the winter climate over the northern part of the United States? It is drier and warmer than normal conditions.
What happens to the winter climate over the southern part of the United States? It is wetter and cooler than normal conditions.
After the video, review the answers to the above questions as a large group, addressing any misconceptions as necessary.
Next, ask the students what they thought the scientists meant by their statement that El Niño was "an average." Students will respond that it doesn’t necessarily represent the weather pattern every day, but an overall average for the winter months combined that helps climatologists predict what to expect.
Next, ask the question, "If the weather is drier and warmer than normal, what do you think will happen to lakes and rivers in those areas?". Student might say that water levels will decline and drought could result.
Then ask the question, "If the weather is wetter and cooler than normal, what do you think will happen to the lakes and rivers in those areas?". Students will say they might begin to overfill and flood, possibly even resulting in landslides.
Next, ask the students, how increased or decreased precipitation might change the chemistry of the water, such as temperature or salinity. Student responses will vary but the important point is for students to begin to understand that many Earth systems are interconnected and a change in precipitation can impact fresh and salt water in many ways.
End the discussion by asking students if they know what might happen to organisms, living on land or in the water if there are changes in precipitation, temperature, or water chemistry. Students will respond that organisms may or may not tolerate the changes that occur. If they can’t tolerate these changes, the organisms may not survive and their populations will decline. In closing, ask students if they can speculate on how these types of changes might affect human communities as well.
Explain to the students that since the world was experiencing one of the largest El Niños on record during 2015-2016, scientists needed funding for research on the impacts of El Niño in short order. As a result, the National Science Foundation (NSF) gave out Rapid Response Grants so that scientists could gather data quickly during the current El Niño event. Inform students that they will read an article on El Niño, its impacts, and the Rapid Response Grants that were given to researchers.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
For discussion purposes, the teacher may want to have students number each paragraph. The note-taking guides can be completed individually, in pairs, or in small groups as students read the article. Students should take notes as they read to complete each section.
Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the vocabulary of the article to help them learn and locate information. The student answers will vary. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
Note: A sample answer key for the note-taking guide is included for teacher reference.
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.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
The teacher can circulate around the room as the note-taking guides are being completed and take 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 and discussions can be held based on these student responses.
Open discussion of the note-taking guide will identify depth and breadth of knowledge as well as identify any misconceptions.
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.
Note: A sample answer key for the text-dependent questions document is included for teacher reference.
Formative assessment can come in the form of the following:
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 sample answer key to help them assess students' answers. Please refer to the sample answer key for common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
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. Going over how the response is structured, pointing out ways to open and close the piece, showing use of effective transitions, and pointing out places to incorporate the natural use of vocabulary can really help students grow in their own writing skills for future writing tasks. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or withanLCD projector and discuss some of the following:
Have students examine how the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph. (Students often struggle with ideas in how to start a written response, and they often want to repeat the prompt back in the first sentence because they are not sure what other options they have. Go over how this writer opened his or her piece of writing. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.)
Point out the writer’s use of transitions and textual evidence throughout this piece.
In the final paragraph, point out how the concluding sentences support the main points. Brainstorm with students additional ideas about how to wrap up the piece.
Throughout the sample response, have students identify the effective use of domain-specific vocabulary, including coastal ecosystems and equatorial Pacific.
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 on.
Ask student to write an exit slip answering the following question: How might El Niño impact an ocean habitat?
Student answers will vary. Students will likely say that the warmer than normal waters caused by El Niño can create stress in sensitive habitats, such as coral reefs, resulting in reef decline or even collapse.
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 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.
Explain what El Niño is and how it is linked to severe weather on land and sea. Do you think the article provides justification for the NSF rapid response funding for studying El Niño? Explain your position. Be sure to cite evidence from the text in your response.
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed note-taking guides, 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.
2. For discussion on students’ answers to the words they need to define, teachers are encouraged to ask the students to explain what they think the meaning for a word is, to allow for class discussion on definitions. This will allow for students to have a class discussion to learn the meaning of the vocabulary words from classmates and before they begin reading the text.
3. 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.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for providing Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond."
Accommodations & Recommendations
It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read page one, then have several strong readers read page one.
Then, have students highlight the selected vocabulary for page 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 text-dependent questions for the rest of the reading. 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.
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 few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
A place to write down their main point(s)
Topic sentence (the first sentence of each body paragraph that will reveal the point of the paragraph and will connect to the paper’s overall main point)
Specific evidence from the text for support in each body paragraph
Ideas for transition words
Ideas for use of selected vocabulary
Ideas on how to wrap up their piece and connect back to the main point(s).
Direct students to research produced by NOAA for pictures and scientific data about El Niño and coral reefs.
Ask students to research and prepare a presentation or paper on the opposite weather pattern in ENSO, La Niña, including its causes and effects.
Ask students to research historical El Niño events and present on the severe weather associated with them.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones
For teachers who would like more support in understanding and implementing Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects into their science curriculum, please see the teacher tutorials and resources featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Elena Duduk
District/Organization of Contributor(s): St. Johns
Click "View Site" to open a full-screen version. This tutorial is designed to help secondary science teachers learn how to integrate literacy skills into their science curriculum. This tutorial will demonstrate a number of strategies teachers can impart to students to help them use context clues to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words within science texts. It will also help them teach students how to select the appropriate definition from reference materials. The focus on literacy across content areas is intended to help foster students' reading, writing, and thinking skills in multiple disciplines.
Click "View Site" to open a full-screen version. This tutorial is designed to help secondary science teachers learn how to integrate literacy skills within their science curriculum. This tutorial focuses on using specific textual evidence to support students' responses as they analyze science texts. The focus on literacy across content areas is designed to help students independently build knowledge in different disciplines through reading and writing.
Click "View Site" to open a full-screen version. This tutorial is designed to help secondary science teachers learn how to integrate literacy skills within their science curriculum. The focus on literacy across content areas is designed to help students independently build knowledge in different disciplines through reading and writing. This tutorial will demonstrate a series of steps that teachers can teach students to help them determine the central ideas of a science text. This tutorial will also explain what an effective summary contains and provide steps teachers can use to help students with paraphrasing.
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