ALEX Lesson Plan

     

Stories From Past Lives: How Can the Fossil Record Provide Data About the Patterns of Change in Anatomical Structures of Organisms?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Hannah Bradley
System: Dothan City
School: Carver Magnet School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35247

Title:

Stories From Past Lives: How Can the Fossil Record Provide Data About the Patterns of Change in Anatomical Structures of Organisms?

Overview/Annotation:

The lesson will begin by students accessing their prior knowledge of fossils and the fossil record by creating a "chain letter" with their classmates. Next, students will participate in an introductory WebQuest which will explain how the anatomical structure of the whale has changed over time. With a collaborative group, students will create a timeline of the Eocene epoch that will depict the chronological order of whale fossil appearance in rock layers. Using the jigsaw strategy, students will read an informational text pertaining to the change in the anatomical structures of the whale over time and complete a data table. Lastly, students will complete an exit slip, which will serve as the summative assessment for the lesson's objectives. 

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
LIT2010 (6-8) Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects
5. Analyze the structure an author uses to organize a text, including how the major sections contribute to the whole and to an understanding of the topic.
SC2015 (7) Life Science
15. Analyze and interpret data for patterns of change in anatomical structures of organisms using the fossil record and the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers.

Local/National Standards:

 

Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will analyze and interpret data to determine the patterns of change in anatomical structures of organisms using the fossil record.
  • Students will analyze and interpret data to determine the patterns of change in anatomical structures of organisms using the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers.
  • Students will analyze the organizational structure of a non-fiction text passage and use the jigsaw method to determine how the major sections of the passage relate to an overall understanding of the topic. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 
 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Student Materials (per student)

Notebook paper

Pencil or pen

"Whale Data Table" from PBS.org

"The Origin of Whales and the Power of Independent Evidence" article by Raymond Sutera from Indiana University (pages 1-6 will be used for lesson)

Student Materials (per group)

"Whales in the Making" from PBS.org

"Eocene Epoch Timeline" from Indiana University

Website for before strategy: "Past Lives" (page C7) from the University of California Museum of Paleontology

Websites for Acceleration Activities

"The Evolution of Horses" from the American Museum of Natural History

"Exploring Evolution" from the Educational Development Center

Technology Resources Needed:

Student Technology Resources

Internet-capable technology devices (iPads, Chromebooks, laptops, etc.)

Background/Preparation:

Student Background Information: Prior to teaching this lesson, the teacher should be sure that students understand how fossils are formed. If students do not possess this background knowledge, the teacher can show the following video clip as an engaging introduction to this topic: "How to Fossilize...Yourself" from TED-Ed on youtube.com. If students need an additional review on this concept before proceeding to this lesson, the students can complete a WebQuest on the following website: "Stories from the Fossil Record" from the University of California Museum of Paleontology. 

During this lesson, students will be required to navigate to a website using a technological device. Students will be required to work in collaborative groups of six students.

Teacher Background Information: Fossils provide us with evidence of past life forms, such as the organism's anatomical structures and behavior. The fossil record can also provide information about how long the organism lived and how the organism changed over time. Fossils are fairly rare, in fact, only 0.01% of organisms will ever become a fossil. Most fossils form when a dead organism is buried in sediments. Over time, the soft parts of the organism will decay, and minerals will seep into the spaces in the organism's bones and harden. More rarely, ancient organisms can be preserved in tree sap (amber), ice, or tar. 

The teacher should make all required copies prior to teaching the lesson.

This lesson was adapted from "Fossil Record Experience" and "Say What? A Whale is a Mammal" from Better Lesson (a free account must be created to view the lessons). 

  Procedures/Activities: 

Before Strategy/Engage: 25 minutes

1. Students should write their name and the following question at the top of their notebook paper: "What type of information can fossils provide us about past organisms?" Each student should write a response to the question using at least one complete sentence.

2. Each student should pass the paper to another classmate (the teacher can direct students about the specific way to pass the paper, i.e. down the row, across the group, etc.). The students should read the classmate's response, then write at least one complete sentence to expand upon the classmate's idea. The teacher should allow students to complete this step three additional times (for a total of four passes). The teacher should remind students that their answers should respond to and expand upon their classmate's response, not be an exact copy. After passing the paper to four different students, the paper should be passed back to its original owner. Each student will need to keep his or her chain note until the end of the lesson.

3. For the next portion of the lesson, students will need access to an internet-capable technology device. Depending on the number of available devices, students can complete the following activity independently or in partners. Students will need to navigate to the following website: "Past Lives" (page C7) from the University of California Museum of Paleontology.

Note: Students should carefully read the information on pages C7, C7b, and C8 (these page numbers are found at the end of the web address, right before ".html") of the WebQuest.

Students should also answer the self-checking questions. As students travel through the website, they should answer the following questions on the back of their notebook paper:

  • How have paleontologists learned that the whale has changed over time?
  • After viewing the timeline of whale evolution, describe how the whale's anatomical structures have changed over time.
  • Why might the leg shape of whales have changed over time?

During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 60 minutes

1. The teacher should divide students into collaborative groups of six students each. Each student group will need a copy of "Whales in the Making" from PBS.org and "Eocene Epoch Timeline" from Indiana University. 

2. The students should set the timeline up in a vertical manner, with 55 mya (million years ago) at the bottom of the timeline and 34 mya at the top. This teacher should explain that this vertical timeline will represent the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers.

Note: As an additional challenge, students can create a scaled model timeline with their group members, rather than using the pre-made timeline. Using a scale of 1 inch=1  million years, the students can create a timeline showing the beginning of the Eocene epoch (55 mya) until the end of the Eocene epoch (34 mya). Students will need a ruler and at least 21 inches of paper to create this timeline.

3. Students should cut apart the six strips of fossil sketches on "Whales in the Making" and place the strips in the correct order on the timeline. For example, strip #1 would be placed towards the top of the timeline, at the 36 mya mark, showing those organisms existed approximately 36 million years ago.

4. The teacher should give each student a copy of the "Whale Data Table" from PBS.org. The students should attempt to fill out the data table as completely as possible, using just their timeline.

5. The teacher should give each student a copy of "The Origin of Whales and the Power of Independent Evidence" article by Raymond Sutera from Indiana University (alternatively, the students could view this article on an internet-capable device). The teacher can read (or allow students to read independently) the first three sections (the introduction, "What is a whale?", and "Thinking about the ancestry of the whale"). 

6. The teacher should assign each student in the group one organism from the "Paleontological Evidence" section: Sinonyx, Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rodhocetus, Basilosaurus, and Dorudon. The student should read his or her assigned section and complete the corresponding row on the data table. For example, the student assigned the Sinonyx section would complete the Mesonychids row on the data table.

Note: On the"Whale Data Table", Sinonyx is labeled as "Mesonychids" and Dorudon is labeled as "Zygorhiza". 

7. After students have had ample time to read their assigned section and complete the corresponding row on the data table, the teacher should allow students to discuss their answers with their group members. At the end of the discussion, every student should have the data completed. For example, the student assigned the Sinonyx section from the informational text would share his or her answers for the Mesonychids row on the data table, and the group members would write the information on their data tables.

After Strategy/Explain & Elaborate: 15 minutes

1. The students should return to the chain note started at the beginning of the lesson. The students should review both their response and their classmates' responses to the question that was posed at the beginning of the lesson.

2. The students should respond to the following "exit slip" writing prompt on their paper: How have scientists used the fossil record and the chronological order of fossil appearance in rock layers to explain the patterns of change in the whale's anatomical structures (bodily features)? The teacher should instruct the students to use evidence from the lesson's activities to support their answer. The teacher may allow students to respond using both writing and drawings. 


  Assessment  

Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment: The teacher should informally assess students in the before strategy, as students work with their classmates to create a chain note explaining their current knowledge of fossils. The teacher should review each student's answers from the WebQuest to ensure students grasped the pertinent information. The students will be informally assessed as they work with their group members creating a timeline of the whale's evolution during the Eocene epoch.

Summative Assessment: The teacher should formally assess students by reviewing each student's "Whale Data Table" at the conclusion of the lesson. The teacher should review each student's "exit slip" to ensure the students have achieved the stated objectives of the lesson.

Acceleration:

Students can expand upon their understanding of the concepts introduced in this lesson by researching the patterns of change in anatomical structures in other organisms. The following website provides information about the fossil records that have shown how horses have changed over time: "The Evolution of Horses" from the American Museum of Natural History. 

Students who require acceleration opportunities can develop the skills learned in this lesson by completing a WebQuest on the following website: "Exploring Evolution" from the Educational Development Center.

Intervention:

Students who require additional preparation before the lesson can complete a WebQuest on the following website: "Stories from the Fossil Record" from the University of California Museum of Paleontology. 

Students who need additional assistance during the lesson can view one or both of the following video clips, which show the changes in the anatomical structure of the whale over time.

"Evolution of the Whale" from youtube.com-2:26

"Evolution of Whales Animation" from youtube.com-4:06

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.