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Students are given a description of a fossil brachiopod, from the literature, along with a one-page handout describing the basic morphology of brachiopods. Students work independently to make a scale drawing of the fossil described (brachial valve, pedicle valve, anterior view, lateral view). They have access to textbooks (Moore, Laliker & Fisher; Clarkson), the Treatise volume, and the internet to get information on morphological terms. This takes about an hour, after which I display all of the diagrams on the wall along with the photographs from the paper from which the description was extracted. We discuss some of the differences and where problems arose in interpreting the description. I emphasize the importance of an accurate drawing or photograph to accompany a description. Students are then given a different brachiopod specimen and asked to produce a written description (pedicle-valve, brachial valve, anterior view, lateral view) of their fossil similar to the one that they readâi.e. using all of the appropriate terms. They are told that other students will be trying to match their description to their specimen. I collect all of the descriptions, edit them (remove portions that use incorrect terminology or inappropriate), and produce a handout of all of the descriptions. At the next class, students are given the descriptions and asked to match descriptions to specimens. They do this independently outside of class. The specimens are made available in the lab room for several days. I add a couple of 'extra' specimens (without description) so that it is not a process of elimination.
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