7th Grade Science : Unit #10 - Adaptation: Natural Selection : Lesson #5

Natural Selection: Problem Solving

Objective: Students will be able to summarize the main steps of natural selection using the infogram.
Standards: MS-LS1-4 HS-LS4-4
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Teachers' Lounge - 0 minutes

Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is finish the shared reading on infographics and natural selection and to introduce the Peppered Moth infographic project.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Shared Reading- A three day strategy designed to help kids decode, recognize text features, determine importance and use information gathered in readings.

2) Slideshow examplars- Using a slideshow of google images is a quick way to make sure that students understand  the different options for infographics.

2 Ready. Set. Engage - 5 minutes

Learning Goal: Understand how the infographic explains the process of natural selection.

Opening Question: Using the infogram, how would it answer the question- "How did the elephant get its trunk?"

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung.  I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets

3 Hook - 5 minutes

This is a funny video showing Bill Nye using Emojis to explain evolution.  It is great in many ways because it is Bill Nye, it's funny and it has great visuals.  However, my students had a hard time decoding it on their own.  I suggest stopping it at different points to point out to students what they are seeing and how it relates to the vocabulary words the students are using.  


4 Shared Reading Day 3 - 15 minutes

This is the third and final day of the Shared Reading strategy.  Today I am concentrating on summarizing.  My goal for students on this assignment is that students will be able to summarize natural selection information on the infographic in five to five sentences. 

I start by using the anchor chart to point out text features that we identified on day one.  Then I model for the students how I summarize and combine information on the page.  I think this is one of the most difficult skills for students simply because we often aren't clear about what we want students to do.  

I generally encourage students to use bullets for summation instead of paragraph writing so that grammar, transitions, and flow don't get in the way of their thinking.  

Below is a video of how I might approach this task with students.


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5 Understand and Describe the Problem - 10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to help students understand the project we will be working on and the goal for the day.  

The project I want the students complete is to create their own infographic of the story of the peppered moths.  This project has a double purpose, to show that students understand the basics of infographics and the basic content.  Because of this I will be giving it two grades.  For more on my grading system check on the reflection.

To introduce this project, I remind students that we have been following two stories this week, the birds and caterpillars and the peppered moths.  I summarize the learning that we have done so far on infographics and let the students know that our next step is to make our own infographics about the peppered moth story. 

I start by showing the students a slideshow of different types of infographics.  We quickly stop on each infographic and talk about what we see and whether we think that is a good system for organization.  

Then together the students and I make a checklist of success criteria that all the infographics will need to have.  I start the checklist with these items;

Infographic needs to contain

1) information about the main ideas of natural selection.

2) Information about the peppered moth story.

Then students add the items they think are important.  This year my students added;

3) Words and descriptions

4) Pictures and visuals (such as arrows).

These items become the categories on the rubric.  This method of getting student buy-in really helps students feel motivated and involved in the class.  By putting my essential learnings first, I make sure that I am getting what I need out of the assignment.

Grade Book and Data Analysis

In the Pless Lab, students are assessed on their understanding of the Colorado State Standards taught during that trimester as well as their growth in understanding.  This means that grades will be calculated very differently from a typical middle school classroom.  I will collect student data on several categories; standards-practice, standards-assessment, classroom behaviors, and skill growth.   Students will have chances to practice the standards through guided, collaborative, and independent work.    On assessments, students will show understanding of concepts and standards through a series of  "checks."  Students will have multiple chances and ways to succeed at each check.  I will take weekly data on classroom behaviors for parents to use in reflection conversations with students. However, it will not be a part of the student grade.  Along the way, I will be assessing and guiding students to grow in their reading, writing, numeracy and critical thinking skill.  

Below is a table that shows what each individual score means.  Students can meet with me after school for more instruction to help their understanding as well as take practice work home.


Each piece of work is graded out of 4 points.  The grading scaled used to calculate the letter grade is below, however, since letter grade is always an inaccurate measure of understanding, parents and students should seek assistance in understanding the grade.  Students will also be self-assessing themselves through the units and using their perceptions to set and meet new goals.  

6 Obtain a Plan - 15 minutes

The purpose of this section is to ensure that students understand the four- five main ideas of natural selection.  Different resources list different main ideas, but the ones I go with are;

1) There is variation between individuals.

2) There is a struggle to survive.

3) Some organisms have better traits than others that give them a better chance of survival.

4) When organisms reproduce they pass on their traits to their offspring.

5) Overtime, individuals with beneficial traits live longer and reproduce more, making those traits more common in the population.  


The students should have a pretty good idea of these five concepts from reading the infographic.  But, they might not be able to quite verbalize them yet.  The purpose of this mini-lesson is to make sure that students can verbalize, write, and explain these ideas.

With different classes I take different approaches.  With an Advanced or GT class, I would simply ask the students use the infographic to tell me the biggest ideas of natural selection.  My gifted students excel at this type of assignment and enjoy brainstorming and aligning their ideas.

With more mainstream or impacted classes, I start by listing the ideas on the board and having the  students list them in their notebook.  Then I ask the students to align each idea with the infographic. 

Whichever way you use, you want students at the end to have the 4-5 ideas written down in their notebooks.

7 Closure - 3 minutes

Closing Statement: Today we finished our investigation of infographics and the basics of Natural Selection.  Tomorrow you will be making your own infographics using the peppered moth story to illustrate the concepts natural selection.

Closing Question: Which ideas are you going to use on your infographic tomorrow?  How will you match up the concepts of natural selection with the peppered moth story?

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.


8 Ready. Set. Engage. Day 2 - 3 minutes

Learning Goal: Create an infogram for natural selection using the story of the peppered moths.

Opening Question:  What will you put in your infogram and how will it help the reader gain understanding?

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung.  I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets


9 Hook Day 2 - 5 minutes

This video shows the basics of natural selection.  It is great to use right before the students are about to make their infographics.  I ask students to watch the video with a partner. During the video I stop often and address important questions to the class. Students discuss the answer with their partners and then I get a few answers from the class.  



10 Carry out the Plan Day 2 - 30 minutes

While students are working independently to finish their infograms, I circulate throughout the room to help with questions and keep kids on track.  I also play soft music on the speakers to help keep the conversation level down.  I'm not sure why this works, because it seems like it would just be more noise, but putting soft music on allows students to get into the flow of the assignment.  

11 Evaluate the Results -Day 2 - 10 minutes

The purpose of this lesson is to show students how to evaluate their projects based on the rubric. 

When doing a performance assessment, I like students to get three grades, the one from me, the one from their peers and the one they give themselves.  Using a rubric is the best way to grade projects that will also show students where they are on the project spectrum and show them how to improve their product.  

Ideally, students get a peer evaluation in the middle of the work time.  This allows them to not only get feedback on ways they can improve, but also allows students to come to a better understanding of the rubric.  I like to group students into partners using homogenous groupings for peer evaluation.  That way you don't end up with the highest students working with the lowest student.  I ask students to switch papers and then start by simply spending 2-3 min reading the infographic.  The I walk the students through the rubric category by category, asking them to mark their partner in the appropriate place.  When the papers are marked, students have a structured conversation where they explain their thinking and give suggestions.  

Peer evaluation can be very powerful in classrooms that have a community feel.  

12 Closure- Day 2 - 5 minutes

Closing Statement: Today we made infograms to help show our understanding of Natural Selection.  

Closing Question:  How does a infogram help people understand a topic? 

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.