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A Lesson on Changing the Ecosystem Export Lesson as PDF | Save As Favorite

A Lesson on Changing the Ecosystem Grade: Grade 4
Subject: English Language Arts
Created by: Olivia Crumpacker
Lesson Length: 2 hours
Keywords/Tags: reading, writing, vocabulary, ecosystem, food chain, farming
Lesson Description: The goal of this lesson is to allow students to exercise their foundational knowledge of reading comprehension. Students will use context clues to determine the meaning of new vocabulary words, assess informational text, and consider the impacts of the author's words beyond the text. By reading a passage on changes within an ecosystem, students will understand the importance of the food chain, and how human population can affect the population of plants and animals in an ecosystem. Through meaningful discussion and writing exercises, students will be able to understand the impact of our existence on the world around us.
Common Core Standards Covered with This Lesson
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7: Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1d: Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.4a: Use context (e.g., definitions, examples, or restatements in text) as a clue to the meaning of a word or phrase.
Lesson Content: Reading
Instructions: Please read the following reading passage as many times as needed (aloud and silent) before starting to go through other lesson pages. Understanding the content of this passage is very important since the lesson activities will be all about this content. Feel free to print the passage if needed.

Changing the Ecosystem

A food chain is a link between plants and animals. It starts with a plant. The next part of the link is a plant eater. When the prairie plants were uprooted, the animals that depended on them lost their food source. So while the farmers produced more food for people, they broke the animals’ food chain.

A food chain is part of a bigger system called a food web. That web links the living things in an ecosystem. The herbivores in that system depend on the plants. If the plants are removed, the herbivores cannot survive. Then the carnivores, the animals that eat other animals, lose their food, too. Remove just one kind of plant from an environment and you disrupt the food web. Plow up the land and you destroy the whole system. 

Read the following time-line and figure out the rate of population growth. To do that, divide the bigger number by the smaller number. You can estimate the answer. For example, one million is two times 500 thousand. For between 1880 and 1890 the population more than doubled. 

1880      Population of the city is 503,185; farms continue to expand
1890      Population of the city is 1,099,850
1900      Population is 1,698,676
1910      Factories expand in the city; population is 2,185,283
1920      City population has grown to 2,701,705
1929      A farmer near Chicago reports plowing up several frogs as he 
            got his field ready for planting this spring.
1930      City population is 3,376,438

We do not have population information on the butterflies, but we do know about the bison. By 1880, only a few hundred bison still live in this country. By 1900, Illinois and other Midwestern states were becoming known as the nation’s breadbasket. Millions of acres of land had been turned from prairie into farms. Read this letter from a farmer to understand what this change meant for the animals.

Dear Martha,

Today, I was plowing the new field, and I saw a meadowlark. I really like that kind of bird. I love its song. It’s a good neighbor, too. It eats the insects, and you know we have too many of them. That bird kept flying back and forth. It seemed to be looking for something. Maybe it was looking for its nest from last year. There’s about ten acres of prairie that I’ve left near the road. So I thought the bird would go there. But it flew away. I’m not sure where it went.

I got the whole field plowed today. Tomorrow we’ll put in the seed. This is going to be a great year. I hope you can come to visit this spring. Of course, we’ll have some work for you to do, but it will be good to be together again.

Task 1: Vocabulary Activity (25 points)
Instructions: Please complete the following vocabulary activity by choosing the correct meaning of each word selected from the passage and use of each word correctly in a sentence.

Vocabulary Questions

Word/Phrase: disrupt | Tier: 2 | Points: 6
Q1 The author in our story says, "Remove just one kind of plant from an environment and you disrupt the food web." What does the word "disrupt" mean in this sentence?
A. cause a problem *
B. build
C. repair
D. impress

Which of the following sentences uses the word "disrupt" correctly?
A. I walked in to a big mess and had to disrupt it.
B. We need to disrupt these cards so that we can find the one we need.
C. If you follow the rules, the game will be disrupt.
D. I need to be quiet, I wouldn't want to disrupt the other students while they work. *

Word/Phrase: expand | Tier: 2 | Points: 6
Q2 The author of this story states in the timeline, "farms continue to expand" and "factories expand in the city." What does the author mean by expand?
A. become smaller
B. become heavier
C. become larger *
D. become louder

Which of the following sentences uses the word "expand" correctly?
A. If there is too much extra space, you need to expand it.
B. We need to expand the area so that we have more room. *
C. I expanded the volume because it became too loud.
D. When I'm scared, I want to expand away and hide.

Word/Phrase: uprooted | Tier: 3 | Points: 7
Q3 The author in our story says "When the prairie plants were uprooted..." What does the word "uprooted" mean in this sentence?
A. removed *
B. put in a box
C. left alone
D. gathered

Which one of the sentences below uses the word "uprooted" correctly?
A. The bushes looked fine, so I uprooted them.
B. My mother can't wait until the flowers she uprooted bloom in the spring.
C. I uprooted my books so that I could take them to school tomorrow.
D. I uprooted the weeds in my garden. *

Word/Phrase: meadowlark | Tier: 3 | Points: 6
Q4 The author in our story says, "Today, I was plowing the new field, and I saw a meadowlark." What does the word "meadowlark" mean in this sentence
A. A type of tree
B. A type of flower
C. A type of insect
D. A type of bird *

Which one of the sentences below uses the word "meadowlark" correctly?
A. My father used a meadowlark to help fix the car.
B. I hoped to see a meadowlark on our nature walk today. *
C. A meadowlark crawled across the floor, so I squished it.
D. I used a meadowlark to help me with my homework.

Standards Covered with This Lesson Activity: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.4.4a,
Task 2: Discussion Activity (30 points)
Instructions: This discussion forum will have questions for students to respond. Read the posted questions, and respond to each. Students are responsible for posting one initial and and two peer responses for each topic.

  Topic Title Replies

Message Population Levels
The author states in his timeline that the human populations increased. Later, he talks about how bison population decreased. Why do you think that human populations got larger and bison populations got smaller? What could be the reason for this? 
Sent on: Feb 25, 2021 by: Olivia Crumpacker

Message Timeline
Using the timeline the author provides, what other things expanded, in addition to the population?
Sent on: Feb 25, 2021 by: Olivia Crumpacker

Message Food Chain
Using the text, what happens if a link in the food chain is broken? How does losing a plant source impact carnivores, if they don't eat plants directly? 
Sent on: Feb 25, 2021 by: Olivia Crumpacker

Standards Covered with This Lesson Activity: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7,
Task 3: Writing Activity (45 points)
Instructions: Answer the following questions using at least 300 words. First, imagine that one of your major food sources was suddenly taken away from you. How might this affect you? What might you do to find food without this source? Next, based on your readings, explain why the food chain is important. Use specific examples from the text. 
Standards Covered with This Lesson Activity: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.9, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.1d,

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