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Reading and Writing Connections for this selection:

Population Trends:
Patterns and Predictions

Population Studies and Decline in the Porcupine Caribou Herd

Reading Strategies:

  • Identifying Main Idea and Details
  • Exploring Cause and Effect Relationships
  • Asking Questions to Set a Purpose for Reading
  • Connecting to Prior Knowledge/Building Background Knowledge
  • (About Reading Strategies)

    population, trends, decline, mortality, reduction, predator, preying, reliance, human harvest, natural cycle, fluctuate, mean, mode, range, median, average

Background Information
"Population Trends: Patterns and Predictions," is a selection that introduces the topic with short text that invites students to delve into the work of population scientists. The author provides Journaling Questions to invite readers to generate questions based on facts they collect from a graph of data. This first article helps readers set a purpose for reading the second selection, "Population Studies and Decline in Porcupine Caribou Herd." Students will be anxious to find out how a wildlife biologist responds to the same questions they explored in the first selection.


To introduce the selection, assess students’ prior knowledge using the following questions:

  • If you were a population scientist studying caribou, what kinds of information would you collect?
  • How would you collect the data for a population study of caribou?
  • What would you do with the data collected?
  • Who would need this type of data?
  • What is a trend?

Have students work in small groups to read “Population Trends: Patterns and Predictions.” Have students use the Journaling Questions to collect information as they read and reread the text. Have the students create a “scientific presentation” of the data collected from the selection. As a whole class, discuss the article and ask each group to present their findings as scientific researchers.
To help students set a purpose for reading the second article independently, ask students to predict how a wildlife biologist who has worked in the field for decades would answer the same questions.

  • How would data from decades of research be useful to scientists?
  • How do you think his experience affect his responses to the questions?

Have students independently read “Population Studies and Decline in Porcupine Caribou Herd.” Encourage students to write responses and further questions as they read. Encourage students to “mark up the text” as they read: circling unfamiliar words, highlighting key words and phrases, and writing notes in the margins.

Revisit the selection to compare students’ findings and responses with Dr. Steven Arthur’s information. What information was the same or similar? What information was different?
Ask students to share the responses and questions they noted in their journals as they read through Dr. Steven Arthur’s information.
Ask students to share creative ideas for how the findings could be shared with others in visual presentations. Web-0-Facts? Scientific Charts? Cause and Effect Graphic Organizers? Place students back into the small groups they were in for the first article. Have each group create a graphic presentation of information they collected from their readings.

Journaling Questions:

  1. “What questions did the graph give you about population size?
  2. What was the largest and smallest herd sizes over the past 48 years (the range)?
  3. What was their mean?
  4. Do you see a pattern emerge? If so, can you describe it?
  5. Can you predict what the population might be in the next census?
  6. What factors could cause these changes in herd numbers? List as many different factors as you can think of.

Making Connections: Stages of Development
Preparing for the Future: How do you think a person prepares for a career in wildlife research? What level of schooling do wildlife biologists need? What kinds of classes help prepare them for the work they will be doing on the field? What areas of expertise do you think they need? Which subjects do you think are required courses of study at the high school and college level? If an elementary student was interested in this career, what could they do now to prepare for the future?

Evaluation (Examine Author’s Strategies):

  • What strategies did the author use to help readers collect information?
  • When you are writing an expository piece, what strategies will you use to help readers?

Which reading strategies are most helpful to you as a reader?

  • Text organization?
  • Context clues and descriptive details for vocabulary and new concepts?
  • Bold fonts and italicized phrases for key ideas?
  • Visual presentations of data?
  • Questions within the text that help you focus on the key information?

What decisions do authors make when they compose informational texts?

Writer’s Workshop
  • Narrative
    Imagine that you are a wildlife biologist researching a herd of Porcupine Caribou. Write entries in your field log that describe your observations, calculations, sketches, thoughts, feelings, and questions.
  • Expository
    Write a script that a wildlife biologist could use to present population data at a scientific convention.
  • Creative/Persuasive:
    Write a creative plea to caribou. In this persuasive piece, warn caribou about potential dangers and give them strategies to avoid catastrophes.