“Does Your Family Tree Include Fish?”
An Argumentative FSA Writing Practice Assignment
Abstract: Students respond to the question in the title using multiple, appropriate sources. The response should be
evidence-based and written in an argumentative style. To assist students, a planner called an “ACE chart” is included, as
well as suggestions on how to craft a simple 5-paragraph essay. This assignment supports both science and ELA
Intended Audience: Middle and High School Biology; Middle and High School ELA
Activity Duration: 90-140 min. Activity is meant to simulate a writing exam environment while allowing students to show
mastery over the topic of evolution.
NGSSS Science Standards:
• SC.7.L.15 (Evolution in 7th Grade Comprehensive Science)
• SC.912.L.15 (Evolution in High School Biology)
Florida ELA/Writing Standards:
• LAFS.WHST.2.4 (Produce writing appropriate for the task and audience.)
• LAFS.WHST.3.7 (Investigation of a question using multiple sources.)
• LAFS.WHST.3.8 (Usage of multiple, appropriate sources as evidence.)
• LAFS.WHST.3.9 (Draw evidence from informational texts as a support.)
• Copies of the article “Fins to Feet” for student use. I would recommend providing a copy per student so that
they can highlight/underline/make notes.
• Internet access/literature resources to find more articles on the topic.
• ACE Planners, one per student.
• Projection System (Laptop or Document Camera will work just fine.)
1. Students will begin by being asked the question, “Does Your Family Tree Include Fish?” Some fantastic
discussion will likely come from that prompt. Tell students that they will be writing argumentatively, and will
have to take a side on the issue. Remind students that, as proper scientists, we do not come to a conclusion
without examining peer-reviewed evidence first.
2. Share the Florida’s rubric for Argumentative Writing (covers 6th -11th grade; a point to make clear… on the 7th-11th
grade FSA, students will have to also address a possible counter argument to make maximum points.) or use your own state's/district's/classroom's rubric.
3. Introduce students to the ACE Planner.
a. “A” is for answer, of which students will only have one.
b. “C” is for “Cited Evidence”, which will be found in articles during the research portion.
c. “E” is for Explanation”, or the students’ rationale in tying the chosen cited evidence back to their
4. Students read the article “Fins to Feet”, which is attached in the file. This article provides a basis for students to
springboard into other pieces of evidence that they might cite in their essay. In my middle school course I read
“Fins to Feet” with my students, and we discussed the topics along the way.
5. Students research to find more information to solidify their thoughts on which way they want to argue their
points, and work on filling out their ACE planners.
6. Once ACE planners have been completed, use the attached document to explain to students how it can be easily
converted into a 5-paragraph essay. (This may be more of a necessity in middle school than high school; my
experience has been limited to 7th and 8th grade students that typically have very rough writing skills.)
7. Grade the students essays using the discussed rubric.