Systems Prior Knowledge Part 1

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Students will be able to remember past learning about body systems.

Big Idea

Remembering what was lost.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal:  Discover what we already know and remember about the human body systems.

Essential Question: What do you already know about bodies?  List all the parts of the body you can think of.  

Students come in the room, get ready (get their stuff), get set (get settled in their seats), and engage in writing the learning goal and answering the essential question on the board.

As the students are walking in I remind them to get ready by getting their folders and get set by setting up their work station.  When the bell rings, I put three minutes on the timer and say to the students, "Ok kids you should be engaged in our work now."  


5 minutes

This video is an interesting introduction to the human body because it is so well crafted, and distinguishes the different body systems.  I preview this video for the students by asking them to watch for things that are startling to them.  

When the film ends, we have a quick discussion where the students share out some of the things that they recognized (or thought they recognized) and some things that were surprising.  This is a great way to "prime the pump" for the next activity because ideas and words will be flowing and the students will be making connections to their prior knowledge. 


5 minutes

There are two pre-assessments that I tend to do at the beginning of this unit.  I usually choose between them depending on how much time I feel I have that period and which part of the learning I want to stress.  

The first quiz is multiple choice and geared towards finding out what students know about the body parts.  I use the answers from this quiz to determine how much instruction I need to do in the different parts of the class.

One of the other  major purposes of this unit is to help students understand the organization of life.  I find that most students at this age have only the sketchiest ideas of how big atoms are compared to cells.  The other pre-assessment helps me pinpoint students that might be ahead of the curve in this area.  

The assessment is very simple.  I put these five words on the board in a random order and ask the students to organize them from smallest to largest.  I tell the students that if they think they are about the same size they should put them on the same line.

Cell, Tissue, Organism, Atom, Organ, Organelle

When I sort this assessment, I am mainly trying to get a baseline percentage of understanding for the class and to find out which students might already know this information.  If there are students with this information at their fingertips, they will need a more advanced reading. 

Discovery Activity

10 minutes

Students get into groups and trace a body on butcher paper.  Then they collaboratively start to fill in organs and systems, placing them where they think they go.  I ask kids to use different colors of markers for different systems of the body, but I don't define what makes up the systems so that is a discussion they must have in their groups.  

I give kids only 10 minutes to do this because that is enough time for quick thinking. I'm not expecting them to get the entire body drawn.  This is used primarily as a spur to the memory and a pre-assessment.  

Sometimes I have enough time at the end of the unit to have them redo this assignment as a performance assessment.  Other times we get out the old sheets at the end of the unit and simply edit and reflect.  This is a great way to bookend the unit and have the students get a visual reminder of how much they learned during this unit.  


7 minutes

Once the time is up, I ask students to "Come to the circle"  This is a movement transition that I use  so that we leave an activity and sit in chairs in a circle ready to discuss.  I find that generally this helps students transition from creating and collaborating to reflecting and listening.  While they are moving, I tape their body pictures up in front of the room.

In my discussions, I try to take students deeper and deeper in to the content using questions based on Bloom's taxonomy.  I'll start with lower level beginning questions such as:

  • What did you notice about our pictures?
  • How are the pictures similar?
  • How are the pictures different?
  • I quickly move into much harder questions.
  • Why do we have body parts?
  • What’s the point?


The goal of this discussion is to get to the purpose of organs - which body needs are met and how. It is often difficult for students to go beyond the function of the organ to the purpose.  For example, most students will be able to state that the heart pumps blood around the body.  It is harder to get them to explore WHY.  

Eventually, students will get to the answer that the body needs food, but they still often don't know why the body needs food.  At the this point I go to the board and ask the students to make a list of the things the body needs.  We keep this list on an anchor chart for later discussions.  

Vocabulary Introduction

15 minutes

I use a Collaborative Vocabulary Protocol to front load vocabulary for students in small chunks.  I have found this is a powerful practice because it give students access to a new language (science) in a supported environment.  This is especially valuable for ELL, DHH, or IEP students.  

Today's lesson contains vocabulary that students have hopefully heard and used before.  The word that students have the hardest time understanding is tissue.  This is the second time students have used the Collaborative Vocabulary Protocol, so they are more comfortable with their roles, but they are not generally ready to switch roles during the activity.  

Close Reading

10 minutes

Close reading is one of the literacy strategies I use often in my class.  A great description and explanation of Close Reading can be found in the Fisher and Frey book, Rigorous Reading.  My general structure for this strategy is a week-long plan, designed to guide students to go deeper and deeper into a reading without much help from me.  For this reason it is important to choose a text that is accessible but appropriately challenging.  

The reading I chose for this day comes from cK-12.  (see below for more information). This is the first day of reading.  My goal on this day is for the students to annotate the text and get to share with each other some things they noticed in the reading.  For this activity, students are grouped into heterogeneous pairs.  The first thing I do is get out my anchor chart on annotations and show the students how and why I am asking them to mark on the text.  I will often put the reading under the doc camera and model the first paragraph.  

Generally, I am asking students to circle words they don't know, underline the main ideas, put exclamation points by things that are surprising or important and put question marks by places where they have a question.  I give the students about 7-8 minutes to read and annotate the text silently.  Then I ask each person to share some of their annotations with their partner.  

When we are done with this, we put the readings in the folder for the next day.  Since the point of close reading is that students are able to read and understand without the teacher, I do not spend time reviewing what they might have noticed.   

This is what a reading looks like after the first day of close reading. 

A note on cK-12 - A powerful free resource for science teachers that contains ways for teachers to create their own online textbooks for most science topics.  These textbooks include links and videos to enrich the reading experience for students as well as quizzes and other types of activities and assessments.  Teachers can search by a variety of topics and grade levels mixing and matching to create the resource that is just right for students.  In a blended environment students can have their own accounts where teachers share the texts with them.  This allows the students to annotate and take notes directly on the resource.


2 minutes

I close this lesson summing up some of the biggest ideas I saw rise up during the class and ask students to fill in this analogy on a post- it note that goes on our exit board.  

ORGANS are to SYSTEMS as _____________________ is to _____________________.  This very simple assessment lets me see whether students are understanding the nesting organization of bodies as we will use it extensively later on to connect to other organisms.