In this lesson, students will read an article from the National Science Foundation that discusses the information gained through the first-ever sequencing of the octopus genome. The information gained will help scientists learn more about the function and development of the nervous system and can be applied to various aspects of brain research. This lesson is designed to support reading in the content area. 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
Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Speakers/Headphones
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: cephalopod, invertebrate, genome, genome sequencing, brain research, octopus, nervous system research, informational text, 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 specific findings discovered by the genomic sequencing on the California two-spot octopus.
- Explain how the first-ever sequencing of the octopus' genome may impact scientists' understanding of brain and nervous system development.
- Cite specific and relevant text 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 or concluding statement.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
With regard to science content knowledge:
- To help students fully understand the text used in this lesson, students should be familiar with the defining characteristics of cephalopods. The University of California Museum of Palaeontology provides a thorough introduction to these organisms. This website from the World Animal Foundation provides a fact sheet specifically on the octopus.
- Students should understand the process and science behind genomic sequencing. This tutorial by Wiley and Sons is a comprehensive and thorough explanation of DNA and genomic sequencing.
- Students should have some prior knowledge about the nervous system in both invertebrates and chordates. This website from the textbook Animal Physiology by Richard Hill provides an introduction to this idea.
- Students should have a general understanding of the structures and functions of the animal nervous system and brain. The following Khan Academy resource offers information on the structures and functions of the nervous system. It includes information on the neuron, the action potential, as well as the brain. This link provides access to the website Neuroscience for Kids, which allows access to information on a variety of topics about the nervous system.
- Depending on the different approaches the teacher chooses to explore, the following National Institute of Health website can explain some of the genetics within the article. For example, it can help explain gene families, how genes direct the production of proteins, etc. There is a search engine within the site as well as specific headings.
With regard 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, as would use of word parts and dictionary skills.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in the National Science Foundation article used in this lesson include: title, subtitle, and one photograph with a 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 or concluding statement 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. Teachers might wish to provide students with a sheet of transitions to help them. This site provides transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- What type of information can be learned from sequencing the genome of organisms?
The sequencing of an organism allows scientists to have insight into the evolutionary history as well as unique biological characteristics of that organism. It also creates new questions based on findings that scientists now have the opportunity to explore. In the case of the octopus, researchers were surprised with the new information they learned regarding genes involved in nervous system function.
- What new information was gained through sequencing the octopus' genome?
The study provided new information specifically on two sets of gene families found in the octopus. One of these gene families was only thought to be found in vertebrates, so this came as a huge surprise. The gene family is involved in setting up the nervous system in mammals, and it was discovered the octopus actually has more of these genes than mammals. The other gene family also plays a role in nervous system function and development. Researchers found that the octopus genome has 1,800 transcription factors--the second-largest gene family discovered so far in animals. This research also allowed scientists to see the differences between the octopus and other invertebrates. They found that the octopus has gene families similar to other invertebrates but the arrangement differs. As a result, there would be different regulatory factors affecting the octopus' genes.
- Why is biotechnology such a powerful tool in discovering new information?
The use of biotechnology is so powerful because it allows the integration of a variety of different science disciplines. Scientists are able to use the information gained through the use of biotechnology practices in the fields of cellular biology, molecular biology, evolutionary biology, and genetics. Due to the sequencing of the octopus' genome, researchers have a model organism to study for nervous system and brain development.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by showing students the National Geographic of an octopus squeezing its way through a narrow opening (a short, engaging article accompanies the video that teachers might wish to use). Ask students to brainstorm and write down everything they know about the octopus. Some responses might include they have 8 legs, they are known for their problem-solving skills, they use camouflage, they have ink sacs, etc.
- Inform students the octopus is considered to have some of the most sophisticated behaviors in the animal kingdom. Expand on the octopus' problem solving skills by mentioning they are able to unscrew the lids on jars to access food, etc. Show the following National Geographic video clip (a short article is provided as well) of the possible use of tools by an octopus. Discuss how they have unique physical traits such as highly developed eyes, the ability to regenerate, and the ability for camouflage. Show the following National Geographic video clip of an octopus hunting.
- Next ask if anyone has heard of genomic sequencing. Some students will have heard of the Human Genome project so they might have some general idea about the process. Explain to students that genomic sequencing involves identifying all of the genes and mapping the genes of an organism so scientists know their location and function. Explain to students for the first time the entire genome of an octopus has been sequenced and there were some surprising results.
- Finally, let the students know they will be reading an article that explains the findings of the gene sequencing of the California two-spot octopus and the implications the findings may have on brain and nervous system research.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Pass out to each student a copy of the article titled "First-Ever Octopus Genome Sequenced" or make it available to students electronically.
- For discussion purposes, the teacher may want to have students number each paragraph of the article. If using an electronic copy of the article, students can use a PDF mark-up tool (several tools are available as free downloads).
- Provide each student with a note-taking guide. Have students complete this guide during or after their first reading of the article. Make sure to provide print or online dictionaries for students to use for the vocabulary section. Students can work individually, in pairs, or with a small group.
- Note: Based on the needs and skills of the students, teachers can 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 (e.g., context clues, word parts, dictionary skills). 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.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting students' completed note-taking guide, checking their work, providing written feedback, and possibly a grade. 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 give alternative suggestions on ways the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
Common errors or misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- Students often believe because animals are invertebrates, they are not as complex or intelligent as vertebrates. Reiterate the information found within the article about the unique traits and intelligence the octopus possesses.
- Students often forget the is also in the taxonomic class Cephalopoda along with squid and octopus. The nautilus is considered to be more like the first cephalopods versus those that evolved later. They do not share the large, complex brains that squid and octopus have.
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 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 this sample answer key to assess students' answers.
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 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 use the provided sample response with the class. Students who are struggling writers can benefit greatly from seeing a detailed written response. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or with anLCD projector and discuss some of the following:
- Have students identify effective use of textual evidence from the article throughout the written response.
- Have students identify effective and accurate use of domain-specific vocabulary (e.g., molecular, cellular, invertebrates, genome, gene families, protocadherins) and academic vocabulary (i.e., camouflage).
- At the end of the lesson: Have students respond to the 1st and 3rd guiding questions again. Have students share with a partner their thoughts and answers on the questions. Let them know they will be sharing their answers with the class.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. If using the attached rubric to assess students' work, they should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion or concluding statement. 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:
James Deschler, a director within the NSF, makes the following statement: "This research is going to kick off new studies." Describe the characteristics of the octopus, the new research that was conducted on this cephalopod, and explain how the scientists' findings may be used to further new studies. Use evidence from the text to support your response.
- 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.
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
The text's grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the Florida 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.