Yesterday I argued that the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts can represent types of reasoning, especially to be used when students are making and critiquing arguments. When students use the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning framework for arguments, their reasoning is usually the most challenging part. I presented an example vignette in which a teacher helped a student to improve their initial argument by using one of the Crosscutting Concepts as a specific type of reasoning to revise the reasoning part of the argument.
Critique these Lesson Plans
Today I’ve got two “literacy-in-science” lessons (one for K-5, the other for grades 9-12), similar to what you might find at the Literacy Design Collaborative. These plans are works-in-progress, so you can help me out by being a Critical Friend. How well does each lesson plan use the Crosscutting Concepts to address the reasoning problem?
- Students gain a broader and more specific understanding of what constitutes “reasoning.”
- Students get the opportunity to practice identifying and using specific types of reasoning.
Lesson 1: Wolf Management (high school)
The first lesson uses close reading of part of an article that questions wildlife management policies and practices in the U.S. The overall task for students (see NGSS performance expectation HS-LS2-7) presents an engineering situation (design a solution to a human problem):
- “Propose a solution for managing wolves in an environment that includes National Parks and livestock range. Your solution should offer the best chance for long-term stability of the ecosystem, including living, non-living, non-human, and human-designed factors.”
To complete this task, students will need to read carefully to understand the different solutions to the wolf problem, but it is the cause-and-effect reasoning (NGSS Crosscutting Concept #2) that will help students to distinguish strong evidence from weaker evidence and emotional appeals.
Here is a summary of the lesson plan:`
- (first reading) Teacher models reading the article excerpt, and students mark the text for difficult and important words to be clarified.
- (second reading) Students read to identify the competing points-of-view. How do various stakeholders define the problem and the criteria for a successful solution?
- (third reading) Students identify and diagram the many cause-and-effect interactions, including normal ecosystem interactions and unintended/undesirable interactions.
- Students rate the relative importance of each point-of-view, with respect to long term stability and minimal unintended cause-and-effect interactions.
- Students propose a solution to the wolf problem.
Lesson 2: Mary Anning, Fossil Hunter (4th or 5th grade)
The second lesson also uses close reading for part of the children’s biography, Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter, an early-1800s story of a 10-year-old girl who collects fossils and grows up contributing to the scientific discourse about life on Earth long ago. The overall task for students (see NGSS performance expectation 3-LS4-1) is to act as a paleontologist:
- “Use fossil evidence to infer about past organisms and environments where Mary Anning lived.”
To complete this task, students will need to read carefully about the structures-and-functions of each fossil organism (and study drawings) that Mary found, then continue to use that structure-and-function reasoning (NGSS Crosscutting Concept #6) to infer what kind of environment existed long ago where the coastal town of Lyme Regis, England stands today.
Here is a summary of the lesson plan:
- (first reading) Students do a “cold reading” (very little introduction) of several initial pages about how fossils form, marking the text for difficult and important words to be clarified.
- (second reading) Teacher models reading of a passage that includes a description and drawing of an Ammonite fossil found by Mary Anning. The teacher models how to make a “fossil card” for Ammonites that uses structure-and-function reasoning to describe (1) a similar organism living today (Nautilus), and (2) the type of environment that the Ammonite must have lived in long ago.
- Students continue reading on their own about other fossils that Mary found, and make additional fossil cards using structure-and-function reasoning.
- Groups of students pool their fossil cards, and build “Argument Blocks” of talking points that follow the argument pattern of “Claim-Evidence-Reasoning.” Their oral argument will be about the type of environment they think must have existed at the time the fossils were alive.
- Groups present their arguments verbally and visually, and give constructive criticism for other groups’ arguments.
These lessons—compared to other argumentation tasks that I’ve used—add something extra: the texts that students read provide models of using a specific type of reasoning (cause-and-effect; structure-and-function), and then students continue using that type of reasoning to build their arguments.
That’s it for now, Critical Friend. How can these plans be strengthened?