This two day lesson series gives students the opportunity to create their own analogies to help them understand and recall the names and functions of the main organelles in the cell.
During Day 1, students brainstorm potential ideas for their analogy writing and visual project.
On Day 2 students share their collaborative work with their classmates for further review and deeper understanding of the organelles and how they work together.
Students come into biology having first been exposed to cell structure in function in junior high school. However, the level of understanding and recall varies greatly from student to student and between their previous school sites. This activity is one that can be scaffolded up or down to meet students where they are and progress them forward in their overall understanding. All students benefit from the collaborative experience and appreciate getting to choose a partner and a topic unique and interesting to them personally; they enjoy working together with teacher support within the classroom setting and are proud to share their work with their classmates. Finally, allowing the students to reflect upon their challenges and growth in problem solving though our whole class discussion on Day 2 gives students the opportunity to think about their metacognition and recognize their strengths as a learner.
Our school is currently implementing the CCSS and are beginning to transition to the NGSS. These new standards emphasize collaborative settings, content area reading and writing, and opportunities to translate information from words to numbers to graphics. This project is something I will continue to tweak to enhance all three areas already present so that I can better support my students. I look forward to hear how you have shaped this activity to fit the needs of your students!
1. Use the popcorn strategy or any other large group discussion protocol for students to brainstorm and share answers to the following prompt:
What do you know about analogies?
3. Once you have written out the students' brainstorm list of things they know about analogies, announce that today they will work with a partner to choose something to compare a cell to and describe each organelle in reference to their analogy choice.
5. Give students 5-10 minutes to discuss with their chosen partner any analogy ideas they might have. Tell students you will take ideas (one analogy per class) after that time.
1. Once students have chosen partners and signed up with you to approve their analogy idea, it is time to get to work!
2. It is best if students work together on their initial outline of organelle structure/functions in relation to their analogy. Allow students quiet space and time to collaborate. Remind them that they can use any resource they have to assist them, including their textbook, online sources, and classroom materials such as our powerpoint presentation or our cell organelle board drawing.
3. As student groups work together, observe their interactions and progress and intervene when appropriate.
Note: I try to keep my initial support as minimal as possible so that students can attempt to work out their issues together as a team. I find that the real stumper questions come later in the class period and if students aren't seeking me out to talk about the connections between the ribosome and golgi body or the nucleus and chromosomes, I seek them out to check in. I will ask questions like
4. To give you an idea of the creativity you will see in the student projects, here is a quick story: I had shown a student a website of the artist Theo Jansen who creates these huge moving art installations he calls strandbeests. The student and his partner created a strandbeest cell analogy project and brought in a motor device so they could demonstrate its movement and how each part relates to the cell structure and function.
5. The kind of written work you can expect is evident in this student work sample for a pair of students who chose to compare the parts of a cell to Disneyland. The writing makes explicit connections between the cell organelle and the Disneyland attraction with a clear rationale for their choices. I do not ask students to include an official definition for each cell organelle. In the past, this has led to academic honesty issues as students simply cut and past definitions from an online source and results in vague explanations as if somehow the definition takes the place of a discussion of each analogy chosen for their topic. Eliminating that piece has allowed students to describe their choices more clearly in ways that show me that they understand the function of the individual organelles.
5. Announce the due date for this activity before the class period ends. Indicate if you will give more class time for analogy brainstorming, written work, or the visual product.
Now on to Day 2!