In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article briefly summarizes the nitrogen cycle, then explains how human activities have impacted ecosystems through the increased release of nitrogen and explores potential solutions to alleviate the issues caused by excess nitrogen. A video is also presented which explores why Florida had a large-scale eutrophication event in 2016 and presents solutions and economic implications of the event. By reading, viewing, and synthesizing information from the article and video, students learn how excess nitrogen impacts aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Further, they will be able to provide suggestions to lessen our impact on these systems. This lesson 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, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Office
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: eutrophication, nitrogen fixation, legumes, algae bloom, nitrogen, nitrogen cycle, human impact on ecosystems, sustainability
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 inefficient nitrogen use leads to water pollution.
- Explain how interventions will reduce the impact of fertilizer use on aquatic systems.
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of the text.
- Determine the central idea(s) of a text.
- Use various vocabulary strategies to define academic and domain-specific words in the text.
- Construct a written argument 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.
- Integrate multiple sources of information to address a single writing prompt.
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
Students should have basic knowledge that energy and nutrients move within and between biotic and abiotic components of an ecosystem via physical, chemical and biological processes.
- If students need a review of this concept, CPALMS provides a tutorial called (Resource ID 116229). This would be an appropriate homework assignment for students before you begin this lesson.
- In addition, this CPALMS Limiting Factors in Ecosystems Expert Perspectives video (Resource ID 128679) titled explains ecosystems and limiting factors.
Students should have general knowledge the distribution of organisms is determined by the interactions between organisms and between organisms and the non-living environment.
- The video "What is an Ecosystem?" (1:55, uploaded by YouTube user red Orbit) reviews all the important components of an ecosystem.
- If students need a review of this concept, PBS provides a NOVA tutorial called Population Ecology.This would be an appropriate homework assignment for students before you begin this lesson.
Students should have general knowledge of farming practices such as fertilizer application, selective breeding and genetic engineering.
- This video titled "Applying Aggrand Natural Fertilizers on Agricultural Applications" (5:12, uploaded by YouTube user OilSpecialist) gives a basic demonstration on fertilizer application.
- This video titled "Nitrogen Fixation - Seven Wonders of the Microbe World" (3:33, uploaded by YouTube user ouLearn on YouTube) explains what nitrogen fixation is and the role it plays in crop rotation.
- 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.
- Students should be aware of text features that can help them locate and learn information when reading a text. The text features in Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems with Nitrogen include the title, subtitle, and headings.
- Students should be aware that authors can organize or structure a text in many different ways. In Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems with Nitrogen, some of the text structures include cause/effect and problem/solution.
- Based on the provided writing rubric, 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), body paragraph(s) that support the main point(s) and include 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. This site offers transitions teachers might provide.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- Why is nitrogen essential for organisms?
- Nitrogen is needed by ALL living things to create proteins, DNA and RNA, and by plants to grow and photosynthesize.
- What is the importance of nitrogen fixation?
- Nitrogen fixation transforms non-biologically useful forms of nitrogen from the atmosphere into biologically useful forms of nitrogen. In nature, nitrogen fixation is performed mostly by bacteria. Organisms cannot pull the nitrogen out of the air and use it to create proteins and other macromolecules.
- What actions have humans taken that have made an impact on how nitrogen cycles through ecosystems?
- Humans have added 45% more useful nitrogen, mainly through the use of nitrogen fertilizer. Much of this nitrogen fertilizer is never incorporated into crops and is free to pollute aquatic systems and cause eutrophication. In addition, some nitrogen reactions release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change at a higher rate than carbon dioxide. Nitrous oxide is also capable of destroying stratospheric ozone, thus increasing the amount of UV radiation that strikes Earth's surface.
- What are some methods of reducing nitrogen overloading in ecosystems?
- Rotating crops that supply nitrogen to the soil.
- Optimizing the timing, amount and efficiency through selective breeding or genetic engineering of plants.
- Boosting the ability of plants to work with microbial communities to enhance the efficiency of nitrogen uptake by the plants.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin by asking students if they have ever had too much of a good thing and what happened.
- An example response may be that they ate too much chocolate cake and got a stomach ache.
- Note: Teachers may wish to incorporate this element as a warm-up writing prompt for students to respond to as they enter class.
- Next ask students what do plants need to survive and grow? Where do they get these essentials?
- Have students watch this titled "Where Do Trees Get Their Mass From?" (4:09, uploaded by YouTube user Veritasium).
- After the video, students should answer the above question by stating that plants get carbon dioxide from the air, energy from the sun, and nutrients, water, and minerals from the soil.
- Then, ask students what may happen if the environment gets too much of these essentials. Some responses may include the following:
- Too much sun could cause plants to dry out and potentially die.
- Too much water could flood habitats and drown plants or cause root rot.
- Too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is linked to climate change.
- End the discussion by informing students that the class will be reading an article that explores nitrogen, an important limiting nutrient for plants. The article addresses how humans have interfered with the nitrogen cycle, the consequences of our interference, and methods that can be utilized to lessen the impact that excess nitrogen has on our ecosystems.
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
Instructions for setting up and leading the activity that the students will complete with teacher guidance:
- Provide each student with copy of the article, "Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems with Nitrogen."
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph within each section. They can also number the sections. (Section 1 follows the subtitle, Section 2 is "The Nitrogen Cycle," Section 3 is "Human Impacts on the Nitrogen Cycle," and Section 4 is "Methods to Reduce Nitrogen Overloading.")
- Provide each student with a copy of the note-taking guide.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems with Nitrogen
- Subtitle: Resulting ecological damage is serious, but could be reduced by wider use of more sustainable, time-honored practices.
- Headings: The Nitrogen Cycle, Human Impacts on the Nitrogen Cycle, and Methods to Reduce Nitrogen Overloading.
- If students struggle with determining the meaning of the selected academic vocabulary teachers may use the following tips:
- Sustainable - Encourage students to use a dictionary. There are multiple meanings for sustainable. Have students plug in the meanings into the text to determine which meaning is the correct one.
- Transforms - Encourage students to use context clues to define. In this article, the author talks about how the nitrogen cycle transforms non-biologically useful forms of nitrogen into biologically useful forms. Using this sentence, students may be able to derive that transforms is defined as changes.
- Eutrophication - Encourage students to explore the meanings of prefixes and suffixes. Dictionary.com defines the prefix eu- as good, well. The suffix -troph as the one who nourishes. Here students can begin to understand that eutrophication deals with a well nourished system.
- Have students fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. The teacher should monitor students as they work, providing support and guidance as needed.
- 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 and use a dictionary to define the words.
- Note: The answer key for the note-taking guide includes other useful tips/suggestions for students who might be struggling with some of the definitions.
- Based on the needs and skills of the students, the teacher can decrease the number of academic or domain-specific vocabulary students will define on the note-taking guide.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their completed note-taking guides, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers should use the answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- For discussion of 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:
- Students may believe that all fertilizer applied to a crop is utilized by the plants, however, upwards of 60% of nitrogen fertilizer is not incorporated into plants and washes out of the root zone.
- Most students do not fully comprehend the essential role that bacteria play in the nitrogen cycle. Students can often have a hard time believing that the majority of bacteria on the planet are beneficial.
- Students may think that all nitrogen fertilizer is obtained from naturals sources (manure, mining, compost). However, much of the nitrogen fertilizer used is synthetically produced through the Haber-Bosch process that utilizes high-temperature combustion and methane to covert atmosphere nitrogen (non-biologically useful nitrogen) into ammonium (a biologically useful form of nitrogen).
- Students may think that all crops use nitrogen at the same rate and timing, however each crop, like individuals, have different metabolisms when using nitrogen.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Instructions for facilitating the activity that the students will complete independently or in groups:
- 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 document also contains the summative writing prompt as well as a sample answer key for these materials. Teachers should be careful not to distribute the keys to students.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their 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 should use the sample answer key included with the document to help them assess students’ responses to the text-dependent questions.
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?
- Before students complete the writing prompt, be sure to review their responses to the other text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- Before assigning the students the writing prompt, have them view this 7-minute video on the . Ask students to take notes as they watch the video. The information in this video will be integrated into their response to the writing prompt.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. The teacher could project the sample response with anLCD projector and discuss:
- How the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph; have students identify the main point of the piece. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Have students examine each of the body paragraphs and explain how each supports the main point of the piece.
- Have students identify where the writer effectively uses textual evidence from the article (as well as the video on the Algae Crisis) for support of his or her points.
- Have students identify the use of transition words or phrases that make the ideas flow.
- Ask students to identify where domain-specific vocabulary 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.
- Teachers may have students 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.
- Have students sketch different agricultural methods that could increase nitrogen efficiency and its necessity.
- Have students work in groups to create and present a skit that describes the process and cause of eutrophication.
- 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 must refer back to both the text and Algae Crisis video as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the writing 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. 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:
After the 2016 algae crisis and fish kill in Florida, the Governor wants to divert funds from the agriculture budget to the real estate development budget to bring people back to the state. Using evidence from the text and video, develop an argument against this move.
- 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.
Accommodations & Recommendations
For students struggling with the science content:
- This titled "Eutrophication Animation" (1:28, uploaded by YouTube user Piotr Sokolowki) offers a great introduction to eutrophication for students who may benefit from receiving the information in a visual format. For assistance in understanding the nitrogen cycle, students may view the first five minutes of this YouTube video by Crash Course Ecology. These videos may be shown before students read the text Too Much of a Good Thing: Human Activities Overload Ecosystems with Nitrogen.
- The EPA has a great website to assist in reviewing nutrient pollution, its causes, effects, and solutions. You may ask struggling students to read through this website (independently or together prior to reading the text or during the lesson if students seem to struggle with the concepts).
For readers struggling with the note-taking guide:
- Teachers might want to fill in some of the answers for the vocabulary, leaving others for students to complete on their own.
- Teachers might want to fill in some of the answers for the chart graphic organizer, leaving others for students to complete on their own.
For readers struggling with the text:
- It might benefit students to chunk the text. Have students independently read section one, then have several strong readers read section one aloud.
- Then, have students highlight selected vocabulary for section 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.
- When students are ready, have them share their answers and provide corrective verbal feedback as needed, allowing students to make corrections to their work. Then repeat this process for the other sections of the text if needed. Or, at least have students complete the graphic organizer for the next section and receive feedback on their work before they move on.
For struggling writers:
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 sentences (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)
- has excellent lessons and videos to help students understand farming, fertilizer use and sustainable practices.
- Continue learning about eutrophication by exploring Harmful Algal Blooms. This website by NOAA provides some great resources on harmful algal blooms.
- Explore more solutions to nitrogen pollution via the EPA website.
- Students can also research what they can do to stop eutrophication around their home using the St. Johns River Water Management website.
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Computer for Presenter, Computers for Students, Internet Connection, LCD Projector, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft Office
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 featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The 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: Heather Singler
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Miami-Dade
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.