This is a three day lesson series exploring current cancer treatments. One student last year told me with pride in his eyes, "This project was IT for me." Time and time again, students tell me that this project connected for them. When I ask them why, they tell me the topic is one that matters to them and that they felt they were learning things that were directly related to their lives. Some students told me they recognized the names of medications their grandparents have used and that although the vocabulary was challenging, that they understood just enough to motivate them to go further in their research or through check ins with their teammate or me. When the topic is relevant, students will go so far! I also build in time to do the research in the classroom so that I can provide additional support.
Over the past few years, I have been focused on and committed to connecting each of our topics to student priorities and this particular project is a great example of the success of this approach in engaging kids and pushing them to pursue their level of science understanding.
During Day 1, students explore their options on the CancerQuest website. Standard(s): W.9-10.1e, W.9-10.2b, W.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.1c, SL.9-10.3, SL.9-10.4, RST.9-10.1, RST.9-10.2, RST.9-10.4, RST.9-10.5, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, XC-CE-HS-1, XC-CE-HS-2, XC-SF-HS-1
On Day 2, students work to create their projects. Standard(s): W.9-10.1e, W.9-10.2b, W.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.1c, SL.9-10.3, SL.9-10.4, RST.9-10.1, RST.9-10.2, RST.9-10.4, RST.9-10.5, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, XC-CE-HS-1, XC-CE-HS-2, XC-SF-HS-1
On Day 3, students create a public display of their findings so that others can benefit from their work. Standard(s): W.9-10.1e, W.9-10.2b, W.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.1c, SL.9-10.3, SL.9-10.4, RST.9-10.1, RST.9-10.2, RST.9-10.4, RST.9-10.5, HS-LS3-1, HS-LS3-2, XC-CE-HS-1, XC-CE-HS-2, XC-SF-HS-1
1. Ask students to review their normal cells vs. cancer cells notes document.
2. Using the spokesperson protocol, ask student groups to discuss the following two prompts:
What cancer treatments do I already know about?
What questions do I have about how doctors treat and try to cure cancer?
3. As you field responses, highlight the primary three treatments they will most likely be familiar with (and are often outlined in biology textbooks): surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. Briefly outline these three traditional approaches:
4. Tell students that today they will begin an exploration of contemporary, innovative cancer treatments that scientists are currently using to treat patients. Tell that that your goal is for them to gain knowledge about something that interests them and to connect what we know about how cancer cells work to the ways we can fight it with medication and other treatments.
1. Tell students that we will now talk about our specific project work and begin the process of researching potential cancer treatments they would each like to learn more about.
3. Go over the assignment with the class. The major points to emphasize include:
4. Take questions from the group and pass out the CancerQuest Research checklist for additional planning support.
5. Emphasize to students that you are here to help them work through any background information they feel they might need or to decipher challenging terminology.
Note: I added additional requirements this year:
1. Tell students that they will have the rest of the session to begin exploring the CancerQuest website resources about various cancer treatments.
2. Remind students that they need to first check in with you to share who their work partner will be. At that point, they can find computer stations next to each other, sit together, and begin to explore.
3. Before shifting to individual/pair work, remind students that you do not expect them to have chosen a topic by the end of the session and that is in fact the rarity in your experience. Keep repeating and emphasizing the concept of "going slow to go fast," meaning that the more time students spend carefully evaluating options and choosing a topic, the less time it will take them to create their finished project.
Because the topic is interesting, the website resources both engaging and challenging, and session short, you will not see many/any off task behaviors. If you are concerned about this, set a seating arrangement so that your students who need focusing support are closest to you. Alternatively, you can use laptops in the classroom space where you control the seating more directly rather than the computer lab. I try to change up the space we are using to signify this switch in my expectations for individual choice and independent learning within this set of project guidelines.
3. Announce that you will take project ideas the last ten minutes of the class for students that are ready to share them with you. Continue to emphasize the benefits of a slow exploration process for better project results.
4. Check out this Cancerquest student work sample to see a high quality example of what you can expect student pairs to turn in at the end of this lesson series. This student group reported out to me that the checklist of expectations for turn in was helpful for them as they planned and organized their work.
And now on to Day 2!