7th Grade Science : Unit #11 - Adaptation: Natural Selection in the Wild : Lesson #5

Natural Selection in the Wild - Problem Solving 1

Objective: Students will be able to research the adaptations that help a specific organism survive.
Standards: W.7.7 MS-LS4-4
Subject(s): Science
60 minutes
1 Teachers' Lounge - 0 minutes

Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to set up the problem for the students and get the beginning organization prepared so that students can be successful tomorrow.


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Checklist/Rubric- Joint construction of a checklist that can be easily expanded into a rubric.

2) Taped Focus lesson- Using a taped focus lesson when computers are in the room allows me to break away from the computer and help students.

2 Ready. Set. Engage! - 5 minutes

Learning Goal: Use research skills to identify adaptations on a variety of animals and plants. 

Opening Question: Do you think plants have adaptations as well?  Why or why not?

This is a question I ask simply to tease the kids a little.  I want them to consider making their movie projects about plants as well as animals.

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 - 7 minutes

This is a great student made video that shows several adaptations on three different animals and explains the purpose of each adaptation in helping the animal survive.  I love this video because it is student work but is obviously really well done.  I tell the students that we are going to be making similar video products and to watch this as a model for our work. 


After the movie I have the students tell me what they noticed about the film and how the film got across it's point.  Today the students noticed that

-They defined adaptation

-They showed many examples

-They explained each example

-They used pictures appropriately to help understanding.

4 Understand and Describe the Problem - 15 minutes

The purpose of this section is to set the students up with the problem statement and give them the clarity they need to tackle the task.  Today, the problem statement is:

Choose an animal or plant to research.  What structural adaptations does this organism have to help it survive?  Describe at least three adaptations and explain the purpose as each relates to survival.

This problem statement is deliberately open.  The student gets to choose the organism and which adaptations to highlight.  It is not enough to simply state the adaptation, they have to connect that trait with survival.  For the purpose of this unit and being able to focus on inheritable traits, I am asking the students to focus on structural adaptations.  

The first thing the students are going to want to do is open Animoto and start playing.  For the MAJORITY of students this is a catastrophic mistake.  (See the reflection of this section for the exception to this rule) The students FIRST need a chance to get their research and organize their thinking.  I first ask the students to choose a biome.  I put a list on the board and assure the students that they can change their minds later. 

Then I let the students access the biome animals and plant lists online.  This is ridiculously easy in this day and age!  Students simple google, "Plants and animals of the Rainforest."  I give them about 7 min to surf and then ask that they choose an organism.  Again, it is important to let the students know that they are not locked into a choice.

I hand out  this graphic organizer and ask the students to start to research their organism.  They need to find three adaptations that help it survive.  Adaptations can be structures that help the organism eat, hide, mate, stay warm, stay cool, and so on.  

Whole to part processors
Advanced Students

I recently butted heads with a GT student for a week in class. This stubborn, engaged, brilliant child was REFUSING to make the graphic organizers for their project. For days I nagged, assigned detentions, called home, and used a variety of methods to try to get work out of the child. But I failed. Finally, in my last attempt I asked the student why they were not going to do the organizers and what I could do to help. The child had also reached a point of frustration and so started crying and yelled out, "IT'S JUST SO STUPID!!! WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THE WORK TWICE. YOU WANT ME TO WRITE IT DOWN SO THAT I CAN WRITE IT DOWN AGAIN."

And suddenly I realized that I was dealing with a whole to part processor. This is ironic because I am also a whole to part processor and I understand the frustration. We holistic thinkers CAN NOT learn part of a task we have to jump right in and then learn the minutia. I immediately backed off and told the kid that he could start the next day on his project without doing the graphic organizers. If his project met the requirements for organization and content, I would simply give him the points in the gradebook because CLEARLY he would have done the work.

This is an example of how good teaching can go wrong. Scaffolding, chunking, modeling, planning, and organizing are all essential teaching practices and they were killing this guy's love of learning. Remember the whole point of the scaffold is for them to be able to complete the end result. If they can do the end result without the scaffold they should be allowed to.  

5 Obtain a Plan - 5 minutes

Now that students have the FACTS they need about their organism they need to think about the overall story they are going to be telling on their animotos.  A great place to start storytelling is to push the students to tell a story.  I ask them to turn to their partner and describe the organism they chose and its adaptations.  

Then I bring the whole group back and ask the question, "What is important to tell in your story?"  

Today the students quickly came up with:

  • Facts about the adaptations
  • A description of the adaptation
  • How it helps the animal survive.

I added in...

  • A definition of the word adaptation.

The great thing about this discussion is that we have just built a simple lesson checklist. It is very simple to take this checklist and expand it into a rubric that is owned by the class community. When the students use the rubric they will remember that they are the ones that produced it and they will be more likely to read and follow it!

Below is a video that shows how to turn the checklist into a rubric. The rubric is attached to this section.  

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

Finally, I have the students begin to get their pictures saved in a folder on their computers.  I like using google images for this. It is amazingly fast and simple. It a short amount of time students can have many pictures and are ready to begin the task the next day. The video below is a focus lesson that I play on the projector as I walk around to students and help with computer issues.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

6 Closure - 3 minutes

Closing Statement:  Today we got our project planned out and organized. Tomorrow we will begin putting our movie together.

Closing Question:  When you think about tomorrow, how are you going to make your movie interesting to others?

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.