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What is Phragmites?  Developing a Phragmites Biography in Bio-Poem format

phragmitesGrade Level: 6-8

Time Frame: 40-45 minutes

Introduction to Lesson:  This is the start of the entire two-week unit on Phragmites, so we need to find out a little bit about Phragmites.  In this lesson, the students will use computers to find out interesting facts about Phragmites using prescribed guidelines and will create a bio-poem when finished.  Students should work individually on this project to ensure that each student learns what Phragmites is and why it is important to learn about.  The teacher can show the sample bio-poem if they wish, so that students understand what they are being asked to do. Students should ONLY use the websites provided to them when developing their bio-poem.  It will be interesting and fun to see what the students come up with!     

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards

STANDARD 5.5 (Characteristics of Life) All students will gain an understanding of the structure, characteristics, and basic needs of organisms and will investigate the diversity of life.

B. Diversity and Biological Evolution

          Describe and give examples of the major categories of organisms and of the characteristics shared by organisms.

          Compare and contrast acquired and inherited characteristics in human and other species

STANDARD 5.10 (Environmental Studies) All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a system of interdependent components affected by human activity and natural phenomena.

A. Natural Systems and Interactions

          Explain how organisms interact with other components of an ecosystem.

          Describe the natural processes that occur over time in places where direct human impact is minimal.

B. Human Interactions and Impact

          Describe the effect of human activities on various ecosystems.

          Evaluate the impact of personal activities on the local environment.

STANDARD 3.1 (Reading) All students will understand and apply the knowledge of sounds, letters, and words in written English to become independent and fluent readers, and will read a variety of materials and texts with fluency and comprehension.

H. Inquiry and Research

          Develop and revise questions for investigations prior to, during, and after reading.

          Select and use multiple sources to locate information relevant to research questions.

          Draw conclusions from information gathered from multiple sources.

          Summarize and organize information by taking notes, outlining ideas, and/or making charts.

          Produce projects and reports, using visuals, media, and/or technology to show learning and support the learning of an audience.

STANDARD 3.2 (Writing) All students will write in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes

A. Writing as a Process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, postwriting)

          Expand knowledge about form, structure, and voice in a variety of genres.

          Draft writing in a selected genre with supporting structure and appropriate voice according to the intended message, audience, and purpose for writing.

          Make decisions about the use of precise language, including adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and specific details, and justify the choices made.

          Understand and apply the elements of a scoring rubric to improve and evaluate writing.

B. Writing as a Product (resulting in a formal product or publication)

          Expand knowledge of characteristics, structures, and tone of selected genres.

          Write a range of grade appropriate essays across curricula (e.g., persuasive, personal, descriptive, issue- based)

          Write grade appropriate, multi-paragraph expository pieces across curricula (e.g., problem/solution, cause/effect, hypothesis/results, feature articles, critique, research reports).

          Write various types of prose, such as short stories, biography, autobiography, or memoir that contain narrative elements.

D. Writing Forms, Audiences, and Purposes (exploring a variety of forms)

          Write for different purposes (e.g., to express ideas, inform, entertain, respond to literature, persuade, question, reflect, clarify, share) and a variety of audiences (e.g., self, peers, community).

          Gather, select, and organize information appropriate to a topic, task, and audience.

          Develop and use knowledge of a variety of genres, including expository, narrative, persuasive, poetry, critiques, and everyday/ workplace writing.

Materials and Resources:


        Phragmites stalks collected from your neighborhood (optional)


2.    Website list for students  (or hardcopies of these pages if access to the internet is not available during class time)  (see below)


3.    Biopoem outline


      Biopoem rubric

 Objectives:  After receiving a list of websites and searching these websites, SWBAT describe information about Phragmites through a biopoem

Assessment: Students will complete biopoem and will be graded with a rubric.

Anticipatory Set:  Teacher will show students what Phragmites is using provided specimens and / or pictures in the PowerPoint presentation provided, and will ask the students if they have ever seen Phragmites.  If they do not think that they have, the teacher should suggest that they keep their eyes open as they move through their neighborhoods on the way to school, the stores, etc. since this species is extremely widespread and is found in roadside ditches, alongside train tracks, in open parcels of land, etc.   Once they know what they are looking for, the students may find that they are surprised how often they see this species in their everyday lives.

Sequence Instruction:

1.     The teacher will explain to students what the next two weeks will be about (2-5 minutes)


Explain to students that they will be learning about invasive species, which are species that come from outside the ecosystem and, once present in an environment, tend to take over that habitat, causing a number of problems for the plants and animals that are normally found there.  While there are a lot of invasive species in America today, to keep things focused, we will be concentrating on learning about one specific invasive plant, the common reed, Phragmites australis.  The students will be learning all of their subjects as they normally would, but all of the classes will be interconnected since all will be looking at different aspects of the same invasive species.

2.     The teacher will then give directions on what they students are learning that day (2-5 minutes)


Students will be using the websites listed below to discover what Phragmites is.  They will use the bio-poem guide (provided with this learning unit) to develop their poems, and will ultimately create a bio-poem that they will be also using as part of a Physical Education class elsewhere in the learning unit.

3.     Students will work independently on their Phragmites bio-poem for the remainder of the class (25 minutes)


The intention here is to allow the students to find out for themselves what Phragmites so that they will gain ownership of their learning experience, as well as providing them with an opportunity to hone their research and writing skills.  Wherever possible, the teacher should try to help students to shape their questions and research strategies so as to allow them to find the answers for themselves, rather than simply telling them the answers. 

Accommodations and Modification:

If some students need additional help or support on this activity, they can be paired with a partner

Anchor Activity (if lesson goes shorter than planned)

Have students present their bio-poems to the class


Line by line (following bio-poem outline), students will take turns in reading off what they discovered about Phragmites.  Once ten students pass (since the bio-poem is only 10 lines long) begin with the top line and have ten more students read an interesting fact that they found about Phragmites.  Continue this until all students have had the opportunity to share at least one line from their bio-poem (5-10 minutes)


Have students come up with a creative way to display their bio-poem e.g. glue it onto construction paper and use markers to make it colorful or anything else creative that they can think of (scrapbooking etc.).  The resulting posters can then be displayed on the walls of the classroom if desired.

NOTE:  The bio-poem created in this class will be used for an activity within the physical education component of this learning unit, so students should be encouraged to retain a copy of it to bring to that class.

Websites: What is Phragmites?


TEACHER FEEDBACK REQUEST:  We are always to working to improve these lesson plans. If you use this lesson plan, we'd love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and suggestions for future improvements.  Please take the time to fill in our survey at .  Thanks!


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2009.  Jodi Sisk (Author), Louise Wootton and Claire Gallagher (Editors)

 Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement NE97262206  to Georgian Court   University, it has not gone through the Agency's publications review process and, therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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