The purpose of this lesson is for students to use a microscope to get to see the differences between plant, animal, and bacterial cells. At the each table I have some microscopes and slides that students will use to make cell drawings. If students are struggling with this, I might have them focus just on Plant and Animal cells, since that is the more essential learning.
Learning Goal: Use the microscopes to observe plant and animal cells
Opening Question: Based on your learning from yesterday, how do you think that plant and animal cells will look different under the microscope?
As students are coming into the class, I am standing at the door and reminding students to Get Ready (get their folders) Get Set (Find their seat and a pencil) Get Engaged (Write the Learning Goal and answer the opening question)
Today's hook video is an instructional video on using the microscope. This video helps students be able to understand the instructions later on in the lesson. It is important to monitor students while a video is playing. You may need to stop a few times, ask a few questions, to insure accountability. Another strategy would be to create questions prior to introducing the video, and hold students accountable (either as a class discussion, cold call post video, or in writing).
At the end of the video, I ask students to share out the important things they saw the teacher doing while she was using the microscope.
The purpose of this section is to put some parameters around using the microscopes the first time. This is important because this lesson ISN'T about learning how to use the microscope. I want the kids to get to the cells quickly. On this lab, the students will only be focusing the microscopes using one lens.
I used to spend DAYS teaching the students how to use the microscopes. They would complete pictures, do practice slides, finish crossword puzzles and more... but the truth is, they don't need it. It isn't dense learning; it's filler and these days I do so much work with literacy, I don't have time to spend three days exploring the parts of the microscope. However, because of this, I make sure to have a structured activity that will allow the students to have success.
For today's lab, my rules are:
1) Only look at the slides on your table
2) Only use the first lens. Do not switch the lenses.
The reason for these rules is that introducing all the lenses really complicates matters and the slides today show up fine under minimal magnification. This also makes the lab quicker and makes it easier for students to be able to find and observe the cells.
I demonstrate the use of the microscopes for the students stressing the rules that we are following this day.
Now students prepare the title, purpose, hypothesis, procedure, and data sections of the lab. A sample lab is included in the resources.
Students have already written several labs in class. They are aware of the norms around science writing. During this time, I pull a group of students that have shown that they do not understand lab report writing and I will work with those students in a small group. Everyone else is ready to prepare their lab reports on their own.
This is one of the great benefits to Independent work, not only does it stress releasing responsibility to students but it also allows me to work in a scaffolded discussion with a few struggling students.
However, it is VITAL to do a formative assessment before assigning this type of independent work. You have to ensure that most of the students in the class will be success with the task on their own. When I did this lesson, I had one class that was ready to be independent and one that wasn't. For my first class, I pulled a small group and worked through the lab write-up with them. This gave those students the small group atmosphere they needed while pushing the rigor level for the other students. In the class that wasn't ready, we made the lab write-up together, and I used question and answer as well as think alouds to help guide the students through the process with the support they needed.
The purpose of this section is to give students collaborative time to do the lab. The students have microscopes on their tables with the three types of slides. Their job is to switch the slides, focus on the image, and draw the type of cell. While students are doing the lab, I walk around the room to help with magnification and to remind students that they need to do the drawings and the observations. I find that the biggest problems are usually all about focusing.
My room is set up like a horseshoe.
This allows me to easily walk around and help while keeping a discrete eye on all the other students. It also allows me to keep my radar open for other groups. Every time I stop at one group to help, I'm listening to the other groups and can hear if they are struggling or off task. My students think I have eyes in the back of my head, but really I am just practicing what Marzano calls "with-it-ness". If you have a class struggling with behavior and in need of a tight structure, make sure that you turn so that your back is to the wall and your front is to the students. Ignoring other groups while focusing on one set of students is a common mistake I see beginning teachers make. Just because you are helping a student does not take away your responsibility of monitoring everyone else. Save the intense 1:1 for another time.
As I'm walking around in this lab, most of the questions have to do with focusing on the slides. Once you show one person at each group they are able to be an assistant teacher and help other students. This is a great way to reinforce the idea of community in class!
The purpose of this section is to deconstruct the lab together as a class. I do this through a series of questions. I give the students the chance to think- pair- share on each question and then pull a stick from my name-sticks. This insures all students think and talk and puts some randomness on who is going to be called on, thus raising engagement. If students are only able to answer the question partially or with a guess, I reward them with a ROCK STAR TICKET and then ask a follow-up question to a different student. I might ask two or three follow up questions, but in the end I return to the original student and ask them to summarize what they heard. This pushes positive accountability in the classroom by setting listening and thinking as a classroom norm. You can't tune out after answering a question!
1. What did you see on slide 1?
2. What type of cells do you think are on this slide and why?
3. What did you see on slide 2?
4. What type of cells do you think are on this slide and why?
After we have talked about the lab, I get the conclusion anchor chart out and ask students to remember how we write conclusions.
I remind students to use the sentence starters, pointing out especially that they need to give specific data in the second sentence. If there is time, I show student work on conclusions from the last lab. Students then have time to write their conclusions. They turn the labs in at the end of the period.
I am giving my students a project to complete at home during this unit. At the end of the unit we will display our projects in a cell museum. You can find the rubric and assignment here.
I like to check in with the students just briefly during class to remind them about the assignment and see where they are in it.
1) Students chose to do a model or a poster. I give students the option of a poster to support my free and reduced lunch students. They can still make a fabulous poster that looks the same or better than anybody else's with no financial outlay. Models can be made out of any material.
2) Students fill in the structure/function/picture/thinking chart. This is where students actually show understanding of the structure and function of cell organelles. Advanced students are encouraged to use metaphors as opposed to make a pure model, as this allows them to display more thinking. For example, one might say, I chose a whiffle ball for the nucleus because it has holes in it and could hold things inside.
As the cell models come in, I display them like a museum. Students are allowed to look at everyone elses and are encouraged to have discussions and give feedback using the rubric. Depending on time, students can vote on their favorites.
For closure today, I ask students to read their conclusions to their partner. When they are done, I wrap up this learning by summarizing the differences between the major types of cells.