The Endocrine System

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SWBAT identify various endocrine glands and the hormones they produce.

Big Idea

This two day lesson provides students with an overview of the endocrine system and utilizes interactive activities to help students retain information.

Engage - Day 1

5 minutes

I typically begin class by having students write in journals, but for this lesson I post a question  on the board and ask students to think about it until the tardy bell rings.  

What is the endocrine system?

Once the bell rings, I ask the students to discuss their thoughts with the other members of the small group in which they are seated.

The students have had no prior exposure to the endocrine system in school, so I do not expect them to know much about the endocrine system. This is why I have the students think about and then discuss the information. While the students discuss in their small groups, I circulate through the room to listen to their thoughts. After a couple of minutes, I ask for volunteers to share their responses with the class. As the students share, I ask them to expand upon their ideas and share examples or evidence, if possible.

Explain - Day 1

30 minutes

After discussing their initial thoughts, I ask the students to take out paper so we can review notes about the endocrine system. I lead the students through the Endocrine System Notes Presentation slide by slide, specifically directing the students' attention to the structure and the function of the glands we review.  

I also make sure to point out to the students that these are not the only glands in the endocrine system, because I want them to be aware that other glands are a part of the body's normal function. The glands that we focus on for this set of notes include the pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenal, ovaries, and testes. We discuss the location of the glands in relationship to other organs in the body. We also discuss some of the specific hormones produced by the gland and the role those hormones have within the body system. Reviewing the manner in which the endocrine system impacts and interacts with the rest of the body helps prepare students to address NGSS MS-LS1-3 - Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells. Discussing the endocrine system as a part of the whole body also helps students understand NGSS Crosscutting Concept Systems and System Models - Systems interact with other systems and may be a part of larger complex systems.

One of the items that we discuss, which is not in the presentation, is negative feedback. I open the Biology in Motion website and walk through the steps with the students to help explain the process of negative feedback. I also have the students refer to a page in their textbook that compares the negative feedback process in the endocrine system with the process of a thermostat. This can be a difficult topic for the students to understand, so I review the examples as many times as necessary using drawings and the online animation and reviewing step by step. I also have the students describe the process, to ensure understanding.

The students are expected to write their notes as we discuss them and they are to use the Cornell notes format.

Wrap Up - Day 1

5 minutes

Once we have reviewed the notes, I hand out the Endocrine System Notes Review and the students spend the rest of class answering the questions. The students turn in the questions before they leave class, so I have an opportunity to review them and return them during the next class period. This is an example of proficient student work.

Engage - Day 2

5 minutes

As the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt:

How are the nervous system and endocrine system connected?

This journal prompt requires the students to connect the information they learned in the previous lesson to information they learned in a prior unit. They need to remember the components of the nervous system and the glands of the endocrine system in order to effectively answer the question.  While the students work on their journals, I circulate through the room to review their responses and to ask them questions about what they have written. After the students have had a chance to write down their thoughts, I ask for volunteers to share their journals with the class. The goals of this discussion are for students to understand how the pituitary functions in the body and how the endocrine system connects to other body systems.

This is a proficient example of a student journal.

Reviewing the manner in which the endocrine system impacts and interacts with the rest of the body helps prepare students to address NGSS MS-LS1-3 - Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells. Discussing the endocrine system as a part of the whole body also helps students understand NGSS Crosscutting Concept Systems and System Models - Systems interact with other systems and may be a part of larger complex systems.

Explain - Day 2

5 minutes

The journal review provides students with a chance to review information about the pituitary gland and from there we review the other glands.  

I do this by stating the location of a gland, such as the throat area, and then asking the students which gland I would find there (thyroid/parathyroid). Once the students have answered correctly, I ask what hormones are produced by the gland.  I follow that question up by asking how those hormones impact the body. I also ask the students to describe the process of negative feedback. This review of information is necessary because the students will be completing activities that will require them to know this information.

Explore - Day 2

30 minutes

I divide this portion of the class time into two separate activities, a puzzle activity and a letter writing activity.  I begin with the puzzle activity, because it gets the students up and moving.

Activity 1: Puzzle Pieces

For this activity, I explain the guidelines to the students through another review of the endocrine system. I ask the students to explain what hormones are and what they do. I tell the students that some of them will be receiving a puzzle piece with the letter H on it, representing that those students will be acting as hormones. I then ask the students to explain where hormones need to travel in order for them to be effective and the students respond by stating that there are certain receptor sites for each hormone. I then explain that some students will have an R on their puzzle piece. From there I ask the students what happens when a hormone arrives at a receptor site and I am looking for the students to explain that the hormones cause changes in the body when they arrive at the receptor site. I further explain that the students with the hormone puzzle pieces will move around the room to find the proper receptor site puzzle pieces and that once the students have found their partners, they should complete the action written on the two puzzle pieces. This video provides further explanation of the activity. I usually have the students go through the activity a couple of times in order for them to get a better understanding of what they are doing.


Activity 2: Letters from the Endocrine System

This activity begins with a letter writing analogy on a bulletin board. This bulletin board builds off of an analogy in which we equate the nervous system to sending messages on the internet and the endocrine system to writing a letter and sending it through the postal system.

The Endocrine Bulletin Board contains pictures and the following labels: Letter Writer, Mail Carrier, Message, and Mailbox. I randomly hand students these additional labels: Gland, Blood Stream, Hormone, Receptor Site. I ask the students which of the labels they are holding could be compared to the letter writer. The answer I am looking for is gland. As the students say the correct answers, we place the new labels under the pictures on the bulletin board. I then extend the analogy by telling the students that they will be playing the role of a gland and writing letters to the body. I have the students work in groups of five and I assign each group a gland. I do not have students write from the point of view of testes or ovaries, for obvious reasons. I give each group a handout, Letters from the Endocrine System worksheet, to help guide their letter writing process and ask them to answer the questions prior to writing their letter. Once they have completed the worksheet, I ask them to begin writing a letter. They complete the first draft of their letter on regular lined paper.  

After I have had a chance to preview their letter, students write their final draft on a letter shaped paper - Sample Student Letter. Finished letters are then placed on the bulletin board, so all of the students are able to see what was written. This activity provides students with the opportunity to collaborate and demonstrate creativity while also demonstrating that they understand the role of hormones and glands within the body system.  

These two activities serve as conceptual models for how the endocrine system operates, addressing NGSS SP2 Develop and Use Models.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

At the end of class, I have the students share the letters they have written aloud. This provides them with an opportunity to share their work with others. It also serves as another way to reiterate the information about the unit.