A discussion frame is an organizational tool that helps learners prepare a well-supported argument. By considering both sides of a provocative issue or claim, students are better able to build a case to support their own stance on the issue.
In this lesson, students will use a discussion frame in a group activity designed to help them compare hibernation and sleep. In the process, they will learn the defining characteristics of hibernation, and the different types of hibernation exhibited in the animal kingdom.
This lesson will also demonstrate the use of a simple monitoring technique using colored index cards, which students and teachers can use to check on student progress in discussion groups
Photo credit: (c) Michael Himbault, 2010 via Creative Commons
- Copies of the discussion frame (one per group of students)
- Non-fiction resources (texts, articles, web resources) on hibernation and sleep
- Writing tools
- Colored index cards (red, yellow, green) – one set per table group
Background Information for the Teacher
Before assigning the task to students, you will need to do your own research, to determine the following pieces of information:
- Are sleep and hibernation the same thing?
- What are the essential features of hibernation that I want students to understand?
- What key vocabulary do I hope that students uncover during their research?
Do not provide the answers to these questions to students, but use the information to guide discussion as students work, and when you debrief after the learning task.
What is Hibernation?
Most biologists define hibernation as “specialized, seasonal reduction in metabolism, concurrent with scarcity of food and cold weather (“Hibernation”. Bear.org. 2004-07-19. Retrieved 2012-11-27).
Some key physiological changes that occur in mammalian hibernation include the following:
- Significant decrease in body temperature
- Onset of a coma-like state, from which an animal has difficulty arousing
- Cessation of eating and drinking
- Cessation or drastic decrease in frequency of defecation and urination
States Similar to Hibernation
Estivation is a hibernation-like state that occurs during the summer, usually during extremely hot or dry periods.
Brumation is the term used to describe the winter physiological changes in reptiles, which cannot regulate their own body temperature. During this hibernation-like state, reptiles find refuge from freezing temperatures, as their surroundings cause decreases in their body temperature.
Torpor is a short-term period of reduced body temperature and metabolism, in response to diurnal or weather changes, such as extreme hot spells or the heat of the day in the desert.
So What is Sleep, Then?
While hibernation is characterized by significant changes in physiology, especially body temperature, sleep primarily brings on changes in brain activity, and only minor changes in physiology.
During sleep, heart rate and breathing rate decrease slightly, and body temperature decreases, but the changes that occur in these are not nearly as dramatic as the changes seen in hibernating animals, where one of the most marked changes is in body temperature. Sleeping animals can resume normal activities within minutes of being aroused, while an animal coming out of hibernation often acts sleep-deprived, and needs extra sleep over the next several days.
Conversely, a sleeping animal demonstrates dramatic changes in the amplitude and types of its brain waves, and different phases of sleep have their own characteristic patterns. Studies of the brain waves of hibernating animals show their brain activity looks much like the brain activity of wakeful animals.
Important Tier 2 Vocabulary Words:
- Hibernation, sleep
- Physiology, neurology
- Rate, frequency, duration
- Increase, decrease
Building Background Knowledge
On the SmartBoard, on chart paper or on the board, write the word, hibernation. Invite students to share everything they think of when they think of the word, hibernation. As students share ideas, create a concept web, grouping like responses together (e.g., “sleep,” “body slows down,” “body temp drops” will be grouped together, as will responses like “bears,” “toads,” and other hibernating animals) – see diagram, below, for an example. It is not important to “edit” student responses at this time, as you will return to this concept web to revise it, after the students complete their research.
Use a concept web to gather students’ prior knowledge about a scientific concept, such as hibernation. Ideas can be revised after further study. Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012
Post the completed web in view of all the groups.
A Note on Forming Groups
The focus of this learning task is on building an argument using evidence. This skill is accomplished through the use of cooperative structures which use discussion as an oral rehearsal for producing a written argument. So groups should be structured in a way to provide language models for students who are not as skilled in oral presentation, and to provide peer scaffolding for making meaning from a variety of non-fiction texts. See “Creating Mixed Instructional Groups” for more information on forming cooperative groups for activities such as this.
Mixed ability instructional groups can provide peer scaffolding for comprehension, oral language and team building.
Having students assign team roles is helpful for all ages of student. Roles that will be helpful for this task include a time keeper, a recorder, a task master, and a materials manager. Some teachers add an encourager, wordsmith or illustrator, when working with groups of five. A wordsmith might be helpful when working with science texts.
The Discussion Frame: A Comprehension Tool
When posed with a provocative issue, students will quickly decide what their stance is on the issue. This is problematic, for several reasons:
- Their quick response is often based on emotion, misconception, or a limited amount of (often “popular”) information about the topic;
- Once committed to a view, it is difficult to persuade students of another viewpoint, even if their own turns out to be in error;
- The highest quality arguments anticipate alternative viewpoints, and prepare evidence to address these views ahead of time.
So, when using a discussion frame, students must use the text available to gather evidence both in agreement with and opposed to the central view or argument. Only when the teacher approves their evidence, is a group allowed to proceed to deciding on a stance on the issue. In this way, their view is more well-informed, has considered multiple possible views, and is prepared to address any dissenting views with appropriate evidence.
The Discussion Frame: A Cooperative Learning Tool
Each group should receive the appropriate text materials (which, ideally, have been previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), as well as a copy of the discussion frame. If possible, enlarge to frame on 10” x 13” paper, to enable the whole group to more easily see the chart.
In the center of the discussion frame, have students write the statement: “Hibernation is simply a type of deep sleep.” (NOTE: When using discussion frames, using a declarative statement as the argument provokes more discourse than a question, which can lead to “yes” and “no” responses.).
You may print out the hibernation discussion frame, or the blank discussion frame, and edit as desired.
Provide students with enough non-fiction resources (ideally, previewed by the teacher for their appropriateness for the task), for all groups to have an assortment of reference materials to complete both the “Evidence to Support” and “Evidence to Refute” sides of the frame. They may use their concept web as a starting place for their research (as they will need to find evidence to support (or not) the ideas they have on the web. Remind students that they are NOT to take a stance until you approve their research.
As a means of monitoring groups’ progress, pass out three colored index cards to each group: one pink, one yellow, one green. Prior to the groups beginning their discussions, instruct students to use the cards to indicate how their work is going: green if things are going well, yellow if they need clarification or some guidance, and pink if they are confused, or have reached an impasse in their team work. Periodically during the discussion period, use questioning to elicit a response from teams. Here are some examples of questions you might use:
- [Before beginning]: “Show me with your cards how well you understand the task I have given you.”
- [During discussion]: “Ok – just checking in. Use your cards to show me how well the team roles are going.”
- [During discussion]: “Can I have your attention for a moment? Just doing a time check – use your cards to show me how close you are to finding evidence for both sides of the argument: green if you could stop now, yellow if you need a few more minutes to finish up, pink if you think you have a long way to go still.”
- [After discussion]: “Ok – before we debrief: use your cards to show me how comfortable you are with the stance you have taken, how well you think you can defend it with the evidence you have. Green if you are confident, yellow if you think you have a good case, but could use some feedback, pink if you know that you need more or better evidence.”
As students are winding down their discussions, pass word to each group, via the task manager, that each group should be taking a stance, based on their evidence, and that they should indicate what they feel are the three strongest pieces of evidence to support their stance (they do not need to write their argument at this time – just choose their evidence).
Begin by asking for a show of hands indicating whether the groups believed that hibernation was a kind of sleep, or not. Then ask groups to share what they thought were the most significant pieces of evidence. Project an image of the discussion frame, and record these pieces of evidence for all to see.
If time allows, discuss any evidence they recorded which they determined wasn’t strong or supporting evidence, and talk about why they decided so.
Return to the concept web, and invite students to revise their thinking about what hibernation is, and isn’t. Record changes to the chart in a different color.
Photo credit: (c) Gilles San Martin, 2010 via Creative Commons
Possible Follow-up Tasks for Individual Student Research & Response
- Create a written argument, using the information on the discussion frame
- Conduct further research on any evidence which seems controversial or contradictory (e.g., black bears do not reach a coma-like state – are they true hibernators?)
- Conduct further research on one of the hibernation-like states (torpor, estivation, etc.)
- Create a double bubble map comparing hibernation and sleep
- Investigate the hibernation habits of an animal species of student’s choice, indicating specific environmental triggers and the animal’s response to them
Image credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 2012