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 an El Niño event can affect North American weather and climate.
- Explain the role the USGS has on monitoring hazardous weather events.
- Describe the impact an El Niño has on severe weather events.
- 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 written argumentative 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 difference between weather and climate, whereas weather refers to short term atmospheric events and climate refers to long term atmospheric patterns and behavior.
- Students should be familiar with severe weather events and hazards such as floods, landslides, and erosion, and how they can occur.
- Students should have a basic understanding of the El Niño phenomenon.
- Students should be familiar with graphs which show ocean temperatures and climate patterns in order to recognize the changes that occur during an El Niño event.
By visiting the , students can review topics such as weather systems and factors affecting climate. By using the search tool, they can have access to articles on El Niño , the USGS, etc.
This link provides access to the USGS page specifically on El Niño.
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. Key, or in other words, important, details in a text help an author support and develop his or her central ideas.
- Students should have an awareness that authors can organize or structure a text in many different ways. In longer, more complex nonfiction pieces, authors sometimes use several types of structures in one text. In this article, some of the text structures include cause/effect, problem/solution, and sequence.
- 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 include: title, subtitle, headings, photographs, 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. Often students will remember to use transitions at the start of the body paragraphs or conclusion paragraph, but will 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 sheet of transitions to help them. This site offers a list of transitions that teachers might provide for support.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
How does El Niño affect the weather of the United States?
El Niño is a weather system that occurs approximately every three-to-seven years. The weather patterns are not only felt globally, but those living on the west coast of the United States feel the effects as well. In California, El Niño can cause the winters to be either extremely cold and wet, or in some years, the winters can be drier than usual. In the northern continental United States, El Niño usually causes warmer and drier winters. The effects of an El Niño event can be felt as early as October, but usually are strongest in the winter and spring seasons.
How does El Niño affect severe weather events in the United States?
An El Niño not only affects weather, but as a result, often causes natural hazardous events brought on by the weather. Floods and flash floods are not uncommon during an El Niño event. Numerous and intense storms which can cause too much water in rivers and streams leading to flooding are typical. With large amounts of rain, soil becomes unstable leading to landslides. Coastal erosion is a concern with the intense storms and waves brought on by El Niño. Cliff retreat and serious beach erosion are also common.
What impact does the USGS have concerning preparation and decision-making regarding severe weather?
The USGS is not involved in predicting or forecasting weather, but they are involved in the study of long term climate change and weather events across the United States. They closely monitor real time data and help the National Weather Service with alerting communities about severe weather or events that might occur. They monitor areas which are prone to flooding, helping emergency managers in these areas. They are involved in studying events that trigger landslides and the impacts they have on communities and ecosystems. The USGS monitors and assesses areas subjected to beach erosion and helps prepare people for response and recovery.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
Begin the lesson by asking students, "How many of you have heard of the weather event called El Niño?"
Have students work with a partner to brainstorm everything they know about El Niño and place their responses in a shared circle map. Students are likely to state that El Niño produces more severe storms or increased rainfall but might not know temperature can also be affected. They may have heard of El Niño and La Nina together and are confused on the differences.
If needed, explain El Niño is a result of warmer than average ocean temperatures while La Niña is a result of colder than average ocean temperatures. The results are large scale impacts on weather and climate across the world. provides information on the two systems.
Encourage students to share answers with the class. Record all answers on a giant circle map on the board.
Next, have students view the two video clips from YouTube listed and then revisit their circle maps and make changes as needed.
Clip #1: So What-What is El Niño? So Why-Why is studying El Niño important for Scientists and the public?
Clip #2: Review of the ocean and climate
Next, ask students if they have heard of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
Many of the students will respond they are an agency or a group that deals primarily with concerns regarding the geosphere. Explain to them the USGS is also involved in monitoring the events and impact of severe weather and climate change on the United States. This link provides more information on the USGS and El Niño.
Then tell the students they are going to read an article that explains what El Niño is and the impact it has on areas of the West Coast of the United States. The article will also discuss the role the USGS plays in monitoring the events caused by El Niño. As they read this article students should be thinking about the impact to the environment, Earth's surface, climate, and human beings.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
Provide each student with a copy of the article, "USGS Science for an El Niño Winter," as well as the note-taking guide.
- 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.
- Note: A sample answer key for the note-taking guide is included for teacher reference.
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.
- As students begin reading, teachers may wish to guide them by posing the following questions:
How is El Niño impacting landforms, communities, and habitats?
What are the immediate and long term effects on all three areas stated in the previous question?
What are the implications of the damage on a community’s finances?
What should state and local agencies do to counteract these effects?
- Students will most likely state evidence from the text which says there is flooding, landslides and community property damage. Millions of dollars are spent for equipment, personnel, and clean up. Habitats are unbalanced and destroyed and organisms are redistributed or affected negatively. They may suggest that people move or stop building in those areas or increase their budget for education about El Niño and its effects and for cleanup.
- They should also be able to use the note-taking guide and the text to analyze the graphics which provide supporting information and allow a more in depth understanding of the USGS's findings. In particular, the link between increased sea levels and beach erosion and El Niño years.
- 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.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
1. 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: The text-dependent questions handout also contains a sample answer key for teacher reference that should not be distributed to students.
- 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
2. 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?
1. 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 included in the document) 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 with an LCD 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 two paragraphs, point out how the concluding sentences support the main argument. 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 storm surge, erosion, cliff retreat, and others (see the note-taking guide vocabulary list). Have them identify the use of academic vocabulary such as expenditures, succumb, and cyclical.
2. 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.
Have students answer the following statements on an exit ticket. Review and discuss the results the following day.
1. Describe the effects of El Niño on the United States.
2. The biggest impact the USGS has on monitoring weather is...
3. One science concept I still do not understand is...
- 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 address all the required parts.
- 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."