Cell Organelle Children's Book Project

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SWBAT create a children's book comparing cell organelle to a familiar system and create 3-D models of the cell and the system they are comparing it to.

Big Idea

Students receive a letter asking them to submit a manuscript for a new children's book about cell organelle. Using analogies, students will compare the cell to a system using analogies, original art work and 3-D models.

The Need for this Lesson

Project-based learning enables students to be active learners. Students play an important role in guiding the project. In this lesson, students are presented with a letter from a fictitious publishing company looking for writers of children's books about cells. After reading the letter students have a list of requirements. Next, students create a Need-To-Know list. They are planning the subsequent instruction by listing what support they need from the facilitator of the project in order to be successful. They take ownership of their learning.

Lesson Preparation & Summary

5 minutes

Students will create a children's book using analogies to describe the structure and function of major organelle in the cell. (MS-LS1- 2 Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to the function.)

Students are engaged in research to determine the structure and function of each of the cell's organelle. (SP1 - Asking questions and defining problems)

When students write analogies they are creating models to demonstrate their understanding of the cell and cell system by comparing the cell to a familiar system. (SP2 - Developing and Using Models)

When creating the cell analogy books students are investigating the cell as a system through research and comparison to a familiar system. (SP3 - Planning and carrying out investigations)

When presented with the entry document, students must determine the learning outcomes of the project and their specific need-to-knows in order to complete the project. (SP4 - Analyzing and interpreting data)

This standard supports the NGSS cross-cutting concept of Structure and function - complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the relationships among its parts, therefore complex natural structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function. By incorporating the use of analogies, comparing the cell to a familiar system, to describe the cell organelle students will see the cell as a complex system.

Students will also use their close reading skills as they evaluate the entry document for details about the project. (Rl.7.1 Cite several pieces of textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.)

The supplies for this lesson are simple. The students need the letter from Cell-abration Books, this is their entry document to the project and describes what students will be creating. Students will also need markers and large sheets of paper to record their Know and Need-to-Know lists collaboratively.

A complete materials list is in the resources section.

Entry Document & What We Know

20 minutes

Day 1

Students are given a copy of a fictitious letter from Cell-abration Books. 

In this video, I introduce the letter and the set the expectations for the students. Project based learning is still new for my 7th graders so I want to be certain that they understand each step of the process. I reference a volcano project we had completed earlier in the year. I created a fictitious letter from the USGS (United States Geological Society) asking students to contribute research about volcanoes. Exploring the Environment was my inspiration for the volcano PBL. Referring to a previous project puts the students at ease knowing that they already have some experience with the process so they can concentrate on the new content. The entry document is an authentic scenario designed to engage the students in the project. Middle school students are engage in their learning when they have a real life context.


How do I teach my students to plan an investigation?

In this next video clip, we read the first few lines of the letter together as a class.Cell-ebration Publishing is accepting manuscripts for their exciting new series of children’s books about cells! You may have heard talk about how important STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is to our future. We at Cell-ebration Publishing believe that we need to educate our youth about basic cell biology beginning in elementary school. Our target audience is elementary students in grades 3 to 5.

What do we know about the project from this portion of the letter? Students contribute answers. Cell-abration Publishing is accepting manuscripts; our target audience is elementary students in grades 3 to 5.

Great! You should read through the letter, highlighted what you know about the project. Then with your partner, you will create a list of all the things you know about the project. This is your Know list.

I monitor student progress as they create their Know lists. After about 15-20 minutes, it looks like the class is complete. 

How do I mobilize my students to be active problem-solvers?

In the Better Lesson video clips you will see the strategy identified and students actively engaged using the strategy. I explain why I selected the strategy and how I evaluated the success of the strategy.

What We Need to Know

20 minutes

Day 1 Continued

I ask students to share-out a few of their Know list items to spot check for details and general student understanding of the project and its requirements.

In this video, I tell the students that they will use a fresh piece of paper to write their Need-to-Know list. This list should include anything they need to learn to be successful in completing the project. For instance, I share if you cannot tell me about the structure and function of the mitochondria, then you need to write - "what is a mitochondria?" on you Need-to-Know list.

Students immediately begin creating the Need-to-Know lists. I am a bit surprised about what makes the list. Students need to know about all the organelle with the exception of the nucleus and are asking what is an analogy among other things. After students complete the list, they have the option to use resources or participate in mini-workshops to answer their Need-to-Know questions. The instruction is student driven this point forward.

Again, I monitor student progress as they create the Need-to-Know lists. It takes about 10-15 minutes for students to complete this list.


How do I teach my students to plan an investigation?

In the Better Lesson video clips you will see the strategy identified and students actively engaged using the strategy. I explain why I selected the strategy and how I evaluated the success of the strategy.

Making A Rubric

10 minutes

Day 1 Continued

In this video clip, I ask students to help create a rubric for this project. How do you think the project should be graded, what criteria should be used? I model one of my concerns, suggesting that they decide on a way to divide the work. This time students are working with a larger group, not just their partners. The classroom is setup with three lab tables together so students brainstorm ideas for the rubric with this larger group. My next step is to compile a rubric with the student suggestions.

When we finish, students will refer to their Know, Need-to-Know and Rubric throughout the project. The Know list helps guide students to complete the elements of the project. The Need-to-Know lists guides their learning and research. The Rubric provides students with a target for their deliverable.


How do I ensure that group work is engaging and productive?

In the Better Lesson video clips you will see the strategy identified and students actively engaged using the strategy. I explain why I selected the strategy and how I evaluated the success of the strategy.

Students in Action - Creating the Cell Organelle Children's Book

350 minutes

Students in Action

After student have created their Know & Need to Know lists the project work begins. In this unit students research the cell organelle and learn to write analogies in preparation for their final deliverable - a children's book about cells.

Day 2

Students will begin complete the mini lesson- Writing Cell Analogies - and research the cell organelle before they begin writing their children's book.

Days 3 - 7

Cell analogy book, animal cell and analogy model of hospital

Throughout the research and writing process, I will conference with student groups to make sure their analogies make sense and they continue to progress through the writing process.

Materials are made available for student construct of 3-D cell models. Students begin the construction of the cell models as they create their cell analogy books. There is a buzz of activity in the classroom for the next several days.

The resource section contains a complete set of videos referenced throughout this lesson.

Connecting the Learning

5 minutes

Students are reminded that they are responsible for their own learning to successfully complete this project.

I am the facilitator. I review their Need-to-Know lists to provide the appropriate resources and mini-lessons to support their learning.

If students have additional Need-to-Knows, they should add them to their lists. If they cannot resolve the item themselves, they should ask for resources or mini-lesson to help resolve the item.

Conversation continued the next day about the rubric. In addition to the usual criteria; neatness, organization, spelling and grammar, we discussed equitable distribution of tasks. There were many different suggestions by student groups. In the end we decided that each group would submit their own agreement about how they would distribute the task. The Cell Analogy Project - Student Work Assignments document in the resources section shows a few samples of how the student groups divided the work for this project.