In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The text discusses the presence of monomethyl mercury in California sea fog and how it is affecting nearby terrestrial environments. The article further explains the research that was conducted and discusses future studies. The lesson plan includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 11, 12
Computer for Presenter, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Overhead Projector, Speakers/Headphones, Microsoft Office
2 Hour(s) 30 Minute(s)
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: bioaccumulation, sea fog, monomethyl mercury, food web, text complexity, mercury, California, Santa Cruz, fog
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Discuss the health implications of the presence of mercury in sea fog.
- Describe the most likely source of the mercury as explained in this article.
- Explain the significance of the research conducted in this study in regards to deposition of methyl mercury on land.
- 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.
- Identify important scientific issues in the text that the author leaves unresolved.
- Construct a written response that clearly establishes a 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?
With regards to science:
- Students should understand the differences between the various forms of mercury. This leads to the EPA "Health Effects Notebook for Hazardous Air Pollutants" that contains information about mercury compounds, which the students might find helpful depending on their chemistry background.
- Students should be familiar with the processes of biomagnification and bioaccumulation and the differences between them. Refer to the site "Mercury Science and Policy at MIT" for more information.
- Students should be familiar with trophic levels within food webs and food chains. The following Khan Academy site titled "Ecological Interactions" does an excellent job explaining the different components of food chains and food webs if students need review.
With 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 with 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 be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the NSF article used in this lesson include: title, subheadings, photograph, and caption.
- Based on the rubric provided 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).
- 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 the effects of methyl mercury in the environment?
Methyl mercury has the ability to bioaccumulate in aquatic food webs. As a result, organisms found higher in the food web will have a higher concentration of mercury in them. These animals are often consumed by humans, and by eating them, humans can ingest the mercury.
- What is the significance of this study?
There have been many studies on the presence of methyl mercury in aquatic ecosystems. However, there has not been research conducted on the deposition of methyl mercury onto land by fog. When mercury levels were quantified, fog contained a higher level of mercury than rain. Scientists realized fog could be a major contributor to the methyl mercury found in coastal environments. Further studies will research the possibility of bioaccumulation in the surrounding terrestrial ecosystems.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by asking students if they know what mercury is. Many students will know it is an element and that it is considered to be dangerous. Some might say it used to be found in thermometers; some may be familiar with the term "mad as a hatter" and how it relates to mercury.
- Explain to students that mercury is found almost everywhere on Earth and has different chemical forms. Depending on the amount of chemistry the teacher chooses to discuss, there is information about this topic in Prior Knowledge and Accommodations.
- Show students the following short , titled "Mercury Bioaccumulation" by the RJD Shark Research Program at the University of Miami. Explain to students that the presence of methyl mercury is a widespread problem found in aquatic food webs and has been studied in great detail.
- Next, ask students if they have ever been to the Central or Northern Coast of California. Show a picture of the fog rolling in at Santa Cruz. Let them know that fog is a constant weather phenomenon seen in this area.
- Finally, tell students they will be reading an article that discusses research about the deposition of methyl mercury through fog. Explain to them this study is determining the effects methyl mercury might be having on land ecosystems. Display the map of California so they can locate Santa Cruz, where the first study took place, and so they can see the distance between Eureka and Monterey, where the second study occurred.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Pass out to each student a copy of the NSF article titled "Mercury-laden Fog Swirls over Coastal California, Scientists Find."
- For discussion purposes, the teacher may want to have students number each paragraph of the article.
- Have students use text coding 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:
- M = Mercury
- B = Bioaccumulation
- E= Effects of mercury
- R = Results of the studies
- Explain to students whenever they come across information about mercury they can write a M in the margin of the text. When the article references bioaccumulation, they can write an B in the margin, etc. 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.
- Provide each student with the attached vocabulary note-taking guide. Have students complete this list during or after their first reading of the article. Make sure to provide print or online dictionaries for students to use for the vocabulary words.
- Based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers may 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, use context clues, and/or use a dictionary to define the words.
- Students can work individually, in pairs, or in small groups.
- If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected vocabulary, teachers might use the following tips to help them:
- Tendrils (Paragraph 2): something thin and curling. If students are not familiar with the term, have them try to think of characteristics of fog. If this does not help with the definition, have them use a dictionary and determine the correct meaning by plugging in the different definitions and see which one fits the best.
- Neurotoxin (Paragraph 7): substances that are poisonous or destructive to nerve tissue. There are a few context clues for this word, but students should be able to rely on word parts (prefixes and roots) to help determine the most appropriate meaning for this context. The prefix neuro- means "pertaining to the nervous system." Toxin refers to a substance that is considered poisonous.
- Emissions (Paragraph 8): something sent out or given off. Students should use context clues to determine the meaning of the word. In the sentence before the term is used, atmospheric is used which might help with the meaning. Within the sentence, an example of an emission provided is coal combustion.
- Moored (Paragraph 8): to secure of fix firmly into place. The sentence the term is found in provides a context clue: the John H. Martin, a boat, was temporarily moored. This provides the clue needed to understand the meaning of the word.
- Quantification (Paragraph 14): to place a number value.Students may be able to determine the meaning of the word if they know what quantify means. If not, have them use a dictionary to determine the definition.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- The teacher can circulate around the room as the text-marking and vocabulary terms are being completed and take note of any specific insights or misconceptions that should be discussed with the whole class.
- The teacher can also take note of any answers that were not text-based and relied on reader background knowledge.
- Open discussion of the text marking and note-taking guide will identify depth and breadth of knowledge as well as identify any misconceptions.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Make sure students understand the differences between biomagnification, bioconcentration, and bioaccumulation. There is a link in the prior knowledge section if they still have questions.
- Explain to the students that mercury is a naturally occurring element that can be released into the environment by volcanic eruptions and natural erosion events. It is not solely a result of human activity.
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.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the answer key for the text-dependent questions.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- Before the students complete the writing assignment for the summative assessment, 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 share a 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 withanLCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- How the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Have students examine each of the body paragraphs to explain how each supports the main point of the piece.
- Have students identify where the writer effectively uses textual evidence from the article for support of his or her points.
- Have students identify the use of transition words or phrases to make the ideas flow.
- Ask students to identify where domain-specific vocabulary (bioaccumulation, methyl mercury, food webs) is used accurately and effectively.
- Have students read the final paragraph to see how the writer wrapped up the piece and connected back to the main point established in the introduction.
- Have students respond to the following statement in writing and then have them share their answers with the class: "The reason scientists need to study and research what is occurring in the environment is..."
- Tell students they must use what they learned from the article to justify their response.
- Responses can be used as the basis for a concluding class discussion.
- 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:
- Using evidence from the text, explain how innovative research like the study in this article can be beneficial to our environment.
- 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 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
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: Ellen Muse
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.