Global Warming - Teacher Introduction

National Standards addressed in this unit:

UCP.1: Systems, order and organization


UCP.2: Evidence, models and explanation


UCP.3: Change, constancy and measurement


D.2: Geochemical cycles


F.4: Environmental quality


F.5: Natural and human-induced hazards


F.6: Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges



Students hear about global warming in the news and from adults all the time. Many of them probably have firm opinions about the causes of global warming and what, if anything, should be done about it. This unit challenges students to find supporting evidence in defending their opinions about the need for action regarding global warming. To begin this unit, watch "An Inconvenient Truth," a movie still being hotly debated in our culture. Some of the students' prior knowledge and opinions will begin to emerge as they take notes on this movie. Showing the movie is not meant to sway anyone, it is simply a jumping off point and a source of information.


The debate may become heated. However, the question is meant to eliminate the "blame" of global warming and focus on a need for action. The amount of information regarding this topic is overwhelming. You will find several websites with legitimate information linked to this unit. Students are encouraged to gather resources beyond those provided, and to assess those sources for accuracy. After the debate, students have a chance to share their own opinions through a writing exercise. Some students may have changed their minds, some may not. The metacognition involved in the reflection makes this portion of the unit essential.



This unit provides opportunity to integrate with a language arts teacher. If possible, the language arts teacher could teach the finer points of debate and argument making, as well as opinion essays for the final reflection portion.


Day 1:

You may need permission slips for the students to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" in your school. Some parents will have strong opinions about the content in the movie and will want to know you will be showing it. A few years ago, a teacher lost her job for showing this movie without parental permission. To be on the safe side, request permission slips.

Introduce the concept of climate change. Begin with a KWL with the words "climate change" as the focus. To begin, write "Climate Change" at the top of a large butcher block paper. Separate the paper into three columns. Write the heading "know" on the first column, "want to learn" on the second column, and "learned" on the top of the third column. Ask students what they already know about climate change. Write all things said in the first column. Next, ask students what they want to learn and write those statements in the second column. Leave the third column blank until the end of the unit. Some students may not correlate climate change with global warming at first. The KWL list will help identify misconceptions, as well as prior knowledge. Keep these lists posted in the classroom during the unit.

Show "An Inconvenient Truth." Have students keep notes during the movie. Have them write down any terms they are not familiar with, any surprising or new information, and anything they are not sure they agree with during the movie. Spend the last 3-5 minutes discussing their notes from the day.

Day 2: Continue movie and notes, spend last 3-5 minutes reviewing notes.

Day 3:

Finish movie. Each student should have 1 to 1 1/2 pages of notes. Break into groups of 3 to discuss notes with each other. As a whole class, write down and discuss any terms students were unfamiliar with in the movie, as well as clear up any misunderstandings from the movie. 
Give Lecture notes, see "Climate Change Notes" in this unit.


Day 4:

Have students line themselves up on a spectrum line. On the far left are those who believe global warming is a crisis and must be dealt with immediately. On the far right are those who believe there is no global warming.
Example: arrows represent students
Crisis/immediate action ? ? ?? ? ?? ? no global warming
Student can place themselves on an end or somewhere in between based on their current opinions. Anyone in the middle needs to lean one way or the other. Split the class into two groups based on their placement on the spectrum line. If it is lopsided, move some of the students closest to the middle to the other side. These groups will be the debate teams for the next activity. The team on the left will argue immediate action must be taken to reduce global warming. The team on the right will argue there is no need for immediate action.
Officially introduce global warming debate (see "Debate Guidelines" document in this unit). Set the ground rules and expectations. Have groups elect three representatives each. The representatives will be responsible for obtaining resources from you. You may want to print out the resources (see the links in this unit) or provide a list of websites suitable for research (also provided in this unit) and plan a computer day. Groups will need to assign roles to each member, read the resources, and devise a plan for the debate.


Day 5:

Continue prep work for debate. Spend the class period on research, either using the printouts from this unit, or using the internet at the computer lab to find their own resources. Students should write down or highlight pieces of information helpful for their arguments. All group members need to be involved in this step.


Day 6:

Continue prep work for debate. The emphasis for this day is visual aid construction. The students designated in the visual aids role need to work to produce diagrams and have at least the rough drafts ready for tomorrow's disclosure session. All other students need to finish gathering evidence and selecting pertinent information to develop their cases.


Day 7:

Have a disclosure day. 4 members from each team sit down together and disclose the evidence they are planning to present during the debate. As one team presents evidence, the other team may take notes or discuss among themselves, but may not ask questions. Only those 8 students are in the disclosure meeting, the other students should be practicing their opening statements, looking for arguments, and finishing any visual aids to be used during the debate.

Day 8:

Final preparations for the debate. The disclosure groups will inform their teammates about the evidence from the other group. Groups should prepare counter-arguments based on the evidence disclosed. All visual aids should be finished, as well as opening statements. Roles for students during the debate need to be finalized within the groups.

Day 9: Debate. Remind students of format and ground rules.

Day 10:

Reflections about the debate (see "Reflections" document in this unit). Revisit KWL. Address any items not covered from the "want to learn" list. Ask students what they learned about climate change and write those items in the third column of your KWL butcher block paper.  

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