Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Explain how scientific inferences are drawn from scientific observations.
- Describe how creative thought was a vital part of the experimentation to determine the relationship between brain size and cognitive ability in mammalian species.
- Cite specific and relevant textual evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Determine the meaning of selected academic and domain-specific words in 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:
- Students should understand the role of scientific methods in experimentation.
- Students should be able to explain the differences between observations and inferences.
- Students should recognize the role that creative thought plays in a scientific investigation.
- Students should be familiar with some animal taxonomy to understand the placement of mammalian carnivores. This will provide background information for students if needed.
- Students should be familiar with the factors that define intelligence and have some basic knowledge of animal behaviors.
In regards to literacy skills:
- Students should have prior experience utilizing various vocabulary strategies to determine the meaning of unknown words in a text, skills that include use of context clues and determining word meaning through use of a dictionary.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the article for this lesson include: title, subtitle, headings, a photograph, and one caption.
- Based on the writing rubric used with this lesson, 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).
- Based on the writing rubric used with this lesson, 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. Teachers might wish to provide students with a sheet of transitions to help them. The site "Smart Words" has a list of transitions that teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
1. Explain how the observations in this research were used to infer that brain size reflects an animal's problem solving skills.
An observation uses one or more of the five senses to collect information and is a fact. Observations should mean the same to everyone. Example: The sky is blue vs. the sky is pretty. In order to make an inference or draw a conclusion based on observations, one needs strong data to be used as evidence. In this article, the scientists observed 140 animals but only 35% of the animals tested were able to open a latched box with food in it within the thirty-minute time period. The most successful animals were the bears at 70%, while the smaller animals, such as meerkats and mongooses, were the least successful. The scientists used these observations to make the inference that brain size can reflect the problem solving abilities of animals.
2. How can new ideas and approaches to experimentation lead to new findings for scientists?
There has been much speculation between the relationship of brain size in animals and their intelligence. There has been a lack of actual evidence to support whether or not brain size can be related to cognitive abilities. This experiment took a novel and creative approach to test this idea by using mammalian carnivores as their test subjects. The scientists traveled across the country to 9 zoos and tested 140 animals from 39 mammalian carnivore species with a problem solving task not seen before. The puzzle given to the animals was designed so that all species tested could use the same apparatus scaled for their size. The results support that larger brain size correlated to better problem solving skills.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
1. Begin the lesson by posing a general question to the class: What is the difference between an observation and an inference? Students should be able to answer that observations are using one's senses to gather information and inferences are an attempt to explain the observation.
2. Next ask the students: How are observations and inferences used in science? Students are likely to suggest that observations are used to collect data that is directly observed and then can be used to make inferences for explanations about the data gathered.
3. Ask the students: What traits have you observed that intelligent people display? Students might say they make good grades, they are talented in specific areas, they make wise decisions, etc.
4. Then ask the students: What animals do you think are intelligent and why? Students might suggest dolphins because of their use of communication, dogs because they are able to learn commands, primates because they can use tools, etc. At least some students in the class should be able to list the following: animals using language to communicate, problem solving, and tool use (or manipulation of the environment).
- If these answers are not provided by students, the teacher may want to provide background into the components of intelligence. This could be used as a quick talking point. This can provide the background for this discussion.
5. Tell the students to think about this question (What animals do you think are intelligent and why?) while they are reading the assigned article. This article will describe how scientists are looking at the relationship between brain size and cognitive ability, and it will also explain how scientists are using a new study to make observations and form inferences about animal intelligence.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
1. Provide each student with a copy of the article "Do Bigger Brains Make Smarter Carnivores?"
2. Have students use a text coding strategy to help them identify or take notice of the following as they read the article for the first time. Consider using the following text coding:
- B = Brain
- CA = Cognitive Ability
- I = Intelligence
- O = Observation
- PS = Problem Solving
Explain to students that whenever they come across information about brains, they can write a B in the margin of the text. When the article references problem solving, they can write an PS in the margin of the text. They will do this for each of the items listed (teachers can add more items or remove certain items to meet the needs of their students.)
3. Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: "Do Bigger Brains Make Smarter Carnivores?"
- Subtitle: Scientists Confirm that Species with Larger Brain Size are More Intelligent
- Headings: Brain size and cognitive ability; Larger brain, greater intelligence?; Living in large groups not a factor
- Caption: Located under the opening photograph
4. Have students read and mark the text (have the text-coding items displayed for students). The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
5. Students should also work to discern the meaning of selected vocabulary from the text during their initial reading of the text, or if it is easier for students, after their first reading of the text. For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words (e.g., use of context clues, word parts, or a dictionary). 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.
- Students could use online or print dictionaries to define the following domain-specific words (teachers can add more if they wish): hypothesis, cognitive ability, species, and carnivore
- Hypothesis: a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation
- Cognitive ability: the capacity to perform higher mental processes of reasoning, remembering, understanding, and problem solving
- Species: a group of living organisms consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding
- Carnivore: an animal that feeds on flesh
- Students could use word parts, context clues, and/or dictionaries to define the following academic vocabulary words: speculation, intelligence, novel, correlation, garnered
- Speculation: the forming of a theory or conjecture without firm evidence
- Intelligence: the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills
- Novel: of a new kind; different from anything seen or known before
- Correlation: a mutual or reciprocal relationship between two or more things
- Garnered: to get; acquire; earn
6. Discuss as a class: "How do you prove one species has more intelligence than another in the wild based on observations?" Have students use evidence from the article to support their response.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for student understanding?):
1. Teachers can check students' understanding by having students share out what they text-coded in the article and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion. Students can also share out their determined meanings of the vocabulary words and receive feedback to help them correct their work.
2. 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:
1. Language and communication have to be present for intelligence.
The definition of intelligence is simply the acquisition and application of knowledge and/or skills. Multiple species exhibit this and can be marked as intelligent. Chimpanzees and bonobos are most commonly placed in this category outside of humans, but birds such as crows and ravens and water mammals such as whales and dolphins have also been able to prove that they can learn and transfer information from one to another and improve upon skills. Mice and rats have even been tested for this ability, and the more we learn about intelligence the more signs we find in nature.
2. All observations can be tested and made into inferences.
This misconception probably comes from continuously teaching observation, inference, and prediction together, but many observations cannot lead to experimentation in nature. Testing certain behaviors, signals, or environmental factors may cause permanent damage or even death to multiple organisms and cannot always be studied further. For these and many other reasons, it can be hard to use observations to correctly make inferences and assumptions about nature.
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.
Formative Assessment (How will teachers check for understanding?):
1. 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.
2. Teachers can use the sample answer key included with the text-dependent questions to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
1. Before students complete the writing prompt, be sure to review responses to the text-dependent questions as a class.
2. After students' written responses for the summative assessment have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the sample response provided with the attached text-dependent questions 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 with a 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 structure of the introduction, the use of some specifics, and where the writer makes the main point clear. Connect the main point back to the writing prompt to help students see how this writer's response is answering what was asked of them.
- Have students identify use of specific evidence from the text, particularly in paragraph two and three, that the writer uses to support the main point.
- Have students identify correct use of science and academic vocabulary from the text within the written response (e.g., science: mammalian carnivore species, controlled variables, cognitive ability; e.g. academic: scaled, baited, novel)
- Help students identify different uses of transition words or phrases in each of the paragraphs that help the writing flow more effectively.
- Point out to students how the writer brings the response to a close in the final paragraph.
3. At the very end of the lesson: Teachers might wish to provide a few questions for students to answer as part of an exit ticket.
- Differentiate between an observation and an inference.
- Science concepts I still have questions about are...
- I really understand the science concept of...
1. 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 a conclusion or concluding statement. They can refer back to the text as they construct their response.
2. Provide students with a copy of the writing rubric and go over the rubric with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
3. Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address.
The prompt: Using your knowledge of scientific methods and evidence from the text, explain how scientists in this study designed a creative method to test and connect brain size to cognitive ability in carnivores.
4. Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
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 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."