Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Write: Are E-Cigarettes Safe?

Subject Area



9, 10, 11, 12


Following the During Activity (Research: Are E-Cigarettes Safe?), students will argue whether or not electronic cigarettes are safe for human use. Students will write a claim-evidence-reasoning paragraph to argue their viewpoint, utilizing their gathered research. The gathered research should specifically pertain to the effects of e-cigarettes on the respiratory system.

This learning activity was created as a result of the ALEX - Alabama Virtual Library (AVL) Resource Development Summit.

    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Human Anatomy and Physiology


    Develop and use a model to explain how the organs of the respiratory system function.

    Unpacked Content



    • Lung
    • ventilation
    • lower/ upper respiratory system
    • nose
    • quadrangular cartilage
    • nostrils/ nares
    • nasal cavity
    • paranasal sinuses
    • turbinates
    • pharynx
    • nasopharynx
    • adenoids
    • oropharynx
    • tonsils
    • laryngopharynx
    • glottis
    • larynx
    • vocal cords
    • epiglottis
    • thyroid cartilage
    • laryngeal prominence (adam's apple)
    • cricoid cartilage
    • arytenoid cartilage
    • trachea
    • primary bronchi
    • tracheal cartilage
    • bronchial tree
    • bronchi (secondary and tertiary)
    • bronchioles (terminal, respiratory)
    • brochoconstriction
    • bronchodilation
    • pleura (parietal, visceral), pleuritis
    • lobes, lobule
    • surfactant
    • alveolus
    • diaphragm
    • inspiration/ inhalation
    • expiration/ exhalation
    • phrenic nerve
    • intrapleural pressure
    • partial pressure
    • bronchitis
    • emphysema
    • ARDS
    • atelectasis
    • pneumothorax
    • bronchiectasis
    • COPD
    • sleep apnea
    • lung cancer
    • pneumonia
    • tuberculosis
    • tidal volume
    • vital capacity
    • residual volume
    • lung capacity


    Students know:
    • The respiratory system is composed of the upper respiratory system (nose, nasal cavity, paranasal sinuses, pharynx),and the lower respiratory system (larynx, trachea, bronchial tree and lungs).
    • Breathing is due to the action of the muscles and bones of the thorax and is controled by the antonomic and somatic nervous systems.
    • Inspiration is due to the contraction of the diaphram and expansion of the rib cage.
    • Alveoli expand and fill with air upon inspiration
    • The partial pressure of gases in the air determines the direction of diffusion during breathing.
    • Diseases of the respiratory system are either developmental (due to genetic conditions or lifestyle factors) or infectious (due to microorganisms).
    • Lifestyle plays a significant role in respiratory system aging. Aging can lead to a reduced ability to carry out respiration and reduced diffusion of gases across the alveoli.


    Students are able to:
    • Gather, read, and interpret scientific information about the respiratory system including its structures and their function.
    • Use evidence to develop a model of the respiratory system.
    • Develop a model to predict and show relationships among variables between the respiratory system and its components.
    • Use a model to collect respiratory function data.
    • Gather, read and interpret scientific information about environmental factors that may affect the respiratory system.
    • Gather, read and interpret scientific information about genetic factors that may affect the respiratory system.
    • Use evidence to form an argument about environmental or genetic factors that may cause pathological conditions in the respiratory system.
    • Use evidence to defend an argument about environmental or genetic factors that may cause pathological conditions in the respiratory system.
    • Evaluate counter-claims and revise argument based on evidence.


    Students understand that:
    • The respiratory system is made of several different tissues, and organs that move air in and out of the body.
    • The respiratory system closely interacts with the cardiovascular system performing gas exchange between capillaries and alveoli.
    • Numerous organs organs are structurally designed to play several different roles in the respiratory process.
    • Genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors can contribute to the development of respiratory disorders.
    • Lifestyle choices and various medications can help alleviate respiratory disorders.

    Scientific and Engineering Practices

    Developing and Using Models; Engaging in Argument from Evidence

    Crosscutting Concepts

    Cause and Effect; Structure and Function
    Science (2015) Grade(s): 09-12 - Human Anatomy and Physiology


    Engage in argument from evidence describing how environmental (e.g., cigarette smoke, polluted air) and genetic factors may affect the respiratory system, possibly leading to pathological conditions (e.g., cystic fibrosis).


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will engage in argument from evidence on whether or not e-cigarettes are safe for use by writing a claim-evidence-reasoning paragraph.

    Activity Details

    1. The teacher will explain to students that they will utilize their gathered and organized research to write a claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) paragraph.

    2. The teacher should provide a refresher on how to write CERs and what should be included in a complete CER assignment by reviewing the rubric with students.

    3. Students will write or type a CER paragraph arguing whether or not e-cigarettes are safe for human use. Students will use their note organizer from the During Activity (Research: Are E-Cigarettes Safe?) as their gathered evidence.

    4. Students will turn in their paragraphs along with their notes for teacher evaluation using the rubric. Point values may be added according to teacher preference.

    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Using the Are E-Cigarettes Safe? CER Rubric, the teacher will evaluate student arguments within their CERs.



    Students may wish to complete additional research to create tables or find graphics to support their arguments.



    Students can be provided with sentence starters or a graphic organizer to help guide their thinking in writing a CER.

    Approximate Duration

    Total Duration

    16 to 30 Minutes

    Related Learning Activities

    Learning Activity (Before)

    Learning Activity (During)

    Learning Activity (After)

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation


    • The teacher should review the Are E-Cigarettes Safe? CER Rubric.
    • The teacher should have reviewed student notes from the During Activity (Research: Are E-Cigarettes Safe?) to ensure completion and organization; the teacher should return student notes prior to starting this activity.
    • The teacher should be familiar with the components of claim-evidence-reasoning writing and what information each component should include.


    • Students should have a familiarity with the structures and functions of the respiratory system.
    • Students should be familiar with claim-evidence-reasoning writing.

    Materials and Resources

    Materials and Resources

    • Optional: Digital device with internet access
    • Pen/pencil and paper
    • Notes from During Activity (Research: Are E-Cigarettes Safe?
    • Copies of the Are E-Cigarettes Safe? CER Rubric.


    Digital Tools / Resources