Resource Type
Middle School and Up
Download and Share
Colored pens or pencils needed
Large whiteboard for each group
Post It or half sheet of paper
Poster or whiteboard with warm-up question where students can place stickies


Students will be able to:

  • Analyze graphical data to draw conclusions
  • Compare and contrast the chemical structures of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide
  • Explain how differences in the structure of nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide lead to differences in their reactivity and functions as a greenhouse gas
  • Argue how changing shrubbery impacts climate change and greenhouse gases


Students will need some background with regards to climate change including the role of carbon dioxide in global warming and chemical equations.


  • Provide students with student handout. Suggested grouping of 3-4 with student roles such as “reporter”, “reader”, “scribe”, “leader”.
  • If following the Extension: Rulers, calculators, and/or colored pens or pencils needed


Suggested grouping of 3-4 students (see suggested roles above). This can be achieved with breakout rooms in Zoom. Other platforms may have similar features.

Student presentation software or website access such as PowerPoint or Google Slides

Optional: Students can record videos of themselves presenting and share it with their group or class. There are numerous ways to achieve this. Some options are smartphones, Zoom recordings completed outside of class, or websites such as Flipgrid.


Sticky Matrix Warm-Up


  • Pass out a Post-it to each student as they enter the room.

  • Post the question “Which greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide, will have a greater impact on climate change?” either on a poster or the whiteboard in plain view that is easy for students to access. This is a formative assessment; there is no right or wrong answer at this point. Tell students they do not need to write their names (to reduce students' fear about getting the “right” answer).

  • Ask students to place their sticky for their choice on the poster or board. Students will revisit this question at the end of the lesson. It may be helpful to save the poster or take a picture of it to compare student responses. When students have placed their Post-its on the board they can take their seats.

Snowball Fight Alternative: Have students gather in a circle after writing their choice on a Post-it or half sheet of paper and instruct them to throw the crumpled paper into the circle. Instruct them to pick up the crumpled paper and randomly pick students to read the answers aloud.

  • Tally the total for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. The teacher may also ask students to volunteer their reasoning. Refer back to this result at the end of the lesson.


  • If using a platform such as Zoom the teacher can post the question by sharing their screen and ask students to respond in the chat.
  • Tally the total for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide. The teacher may also ask students to volunteer their reasoning. Refer back to this result at the end of the lesson.



  1. Choose readers to read the introduction. The teacher may also want to project the images and reading at the front of the classroom.
  2. Review the graph either in small groups or independently. See Extension directions below for additional challenges for students.
  3. Allow students to answer questions 1-3 in small groups or independently before reviewing as a class.
  4. Choose readers for the next reading segment. Review chemical equations with the class if needed.
  5. To complete the chart, students will need access to computers or books to research answers to each section. The teacher may provide the websites for more support if needed.
  6. This is ideally completed as a group.
  7. Once students have completed their research allows them to continue on and answer questions 4-6 as a group while writing their answers on the handout. This handout can be collected at the end of the activity for credit.
  8. Have groups write their claim, evidence, and reasoning on their posters. It is useful to show the class a format for this such as a 2x2 chart with headers of Evidence and Reasoning for each claim.
  • The teacher can ask for more or less than three lines of evidence. It seems to help students focus their thinking by reminding them what evidence is and asking for a minimum number.
  • The teacher may also want to provide sentence starters for the claims, evidence, and reasoning.
  • Allow enough time for groups to finish their posters or whiteboards.
  • Depending on the set of students, they may spend a significant amount of time on the appearance of the presentation rather than the content. If this is the case a class timer is recommended. If students do not complete their posters before time is up, they can present their information verbally.
  • Have one or two students remain with the poster to present it while the remaining members of the group rotate. * It may help to keep students accountable if presenters and reviewers are required to take notes. Instruct reviewers to rotate to each group to listen to presentations and remind presenters to ask for feedback at the end of their presentation. The teacher may provide more structure by only allowing rotations when the timer goes off or allow students to move freely. Depending on how the presentations are progressing and the number of groups the teacher may elect to have students return to their original group if the teacher feels they have gathered enough feedback or information to modify their presentation if needed.
  • Allow students to revise their presentations and complete the rotations again. In both rotations, the teacher should make sure to rotate with students so they can help to steer conversations and assess student understanding.

  • After the rotations, review findings with the class. Hopefully, there is some consensus about which greenhouse gas is more potent. If not, discuss student research and findings to carefully guide students. The teacher may also want to preview question 7 with the students and begin a class discussion at this point.

  • Return to the warm-up question to reassess students. This can be in the form of an exit ticket where the teacher projects the question and asks students to write their answers on a separate sheet of paper.
  • Have students complete question 7. Depending on the group of students the teacher may elect to have students write a longer paper in response to the question or they could also ask students to present their answers as a group in a presentation to the class.


  • The above steps can be modified to be completed in breakout groups and whole-class presentations.
  • Students can also record their presentations on Zoom or similar formats such as Flipgrid. They can then share their recorded presentations with others.
  • The handout for rotations will be difficult for students to complete virtually while they watch presentations. It is suggested that students either print this document at home or direct students to copy the document’s format onto a sheet of paper. The teacher can collect this handout by asking students to take pictures of it and submitting it to the LMS if necessary.


  • You can remove the data points or the entire graph from this lesson for more graphing practice. For example, provide a box for graphing in place of the graph. Then, provide students with data points and allow them to determine how to graph data.
  • You can also opt to have students complete graphs in a graphing program such as Excel and determine equations through line-of-best-fit, etc. Review as a class.
  • Poster or whiteboard gallery walks help to quickly assess student understanding, identify misconceptions, and encourage student discussions as students support their group-constructed graphs. See argument-driven inquiry (ADI) models for more detail on this procedure.
  • Be sure to confirm all students have the correct final graph before moving on to complete this lesson!


Free downloadable resources are available

Page Keeley Formative Assessment Probes


Student worksheet can be assessed.


Kate Steeper, PolarTREC Teacher 2019 Lennox Mathematics, Science, and Technology Academy Inglewood, CA Katesteeper [at]

Dr. Syndonia Bret-Harte University of Alaska Fairbanks Fairbanks, AK msbretharte [at]

Standards Other

HS-ESS3-5 HS-PS1-4

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This program is supported by the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed by this program are those of the PIs and coordinating team, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.