When the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: If you were a cell organelle, which would you be and why?
As the students work on their journals, I circulate through the room looking at their responses. This journal allows the students to be creative, and it gives me a better understanding of how well they comprehend the functions of the various organelles. If students have difficulty beginning their journal, I provide additional support through suggesting the sentence stem "If I were an organelle, I would be a _______, because ________."
I ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class. After a student shares his/her journal, I ask the rest of the class if any of them selected the same organelle. I then ask those students to add any additional information that may have been omitted by the previous student. By doing this, the students are building off of other students answers while sharing their own information.
For this particular journal, most of the students chose to be the nucleus or the mitochondria. A few of them also selected the cell membrane. For the most part, the students were able to accurately describe the function of the organelle and relate the function to an element of their lives. For instance, one student described the manner in which she was protective of her friends, so she would be like a cell membrane.
Each student then receives a note card. Each note card bears the name of a cell organelle, a picture of the organelle, or a description of the function of the organelle. The students are given time to look at their cards and determine the information that goes with it. For instance, if a student has a card containing the word mitochondria, the student should think of the function of mitochondria and what it looks like.
After providing the students with a few minutes to think about the missing information, I ask them to find the other members of their group. Providing them the time to think about the information pertinent to finding their partners facilitates the partner finding process while developing accountability as the students are expected to know the information to look for to find their partners.
Once the students have all found their partners, they sit with their group and I review the Cell Organelle Activity instructions with them. The students access their instructions via classroom.google.com on their Chromebooks.
Prior to beginning the creation of their project, I ask the students to complete the brief questions at the bottom of their instruction page. Answering these questions helps the students to focus in on the information they need to include in their project and gets them started on the right track. As the students are working, I preview this student work and am able to help redirect the students who may not have the answers quite right.
Once the students have answered their questions, they are able to begin the creative portion of the activity. I have a collection of recycled materials that students can use to build models. As part of the brainstorming process, I encourage everyone (even those who aren't planning to make models) to look through the materials. The materials can spark thinking. Some of the students choose to build models while others begin working on newscasts, songs, poems, and stories.
As the students work, I continue to circulate through the room checking in with them about their ideas and ensuring that they are working collaboratively. This is also when I ask more probing questions about the students' projects. For instance, I ask them to explain how their chosen project meets the required guidelines, as listed on their worksheet, and to explain how it serves as a model of structure and function (NGSS SP2, MS-LS1-2).
I conclude the lesson by asking the students to revisit the guidelines to check that the project they are working on meets the requirements and I ask for volunteers to share their ideas with the class. At this point in the project, some of the students are eager to share what they are working on while others choose to be more secretive. Asking the students to share their ideas with the class provides them with the opportunity to receive feedback from their peers as well as gives the other students in the class ideas for how to modify or improve their projects.