Nervous System Introductory Discussion

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SWBAT explain their prior knowledge of the nervous system and discuss what they would like to learn about the topic.

Big Idea

Using an introductory discussion is a good way to determine students' misconceptions and personal connections to unit information.


5 minutes

When the students enter the classroom, they take out their Chromebooks and open their Nervous System Unit Info Sheet.  The students review the key words on the document and highlight them red, yellow, or green, based on their understanding of the word.  (This Stoplight Words strategy was introduced in a previous lesson.) While the students work on this chart, I circulate through the room asking the students questions about why they selected certain colors for various words.  Doing this helps to ensure that the students are accurately color coding the words.

This student work sample is representative of what I expect from the students at this point in the unit.  The information in this unit is completely new to the students, as they have not reviewed this information in previous years.


5 minutes

Once the students have color coded their charts, I have them place their desks in a circle.  I explain to the students that we will have an introductory discussion about the nervous system to explore what they know about the nervous system and remind them of the discussion procedures that were set in a previous lesson.  Prior to beginning the discussion, I hand out the discussion guide worksheet and review the guiding questions with the students, to ensure they understand the information they are accountable for during and after the discussion.  

In order to help students complete their discussion guide and prepare for the discussion, I pass around models and trade books for the students to look at.  For this portion of the lesson, I use both commercially produced models and student created models that were created by previous classes.  The use of these models provides the students with visual and tactile opportunities to explore.  I have found that the use of models also serves as a trigger for helping students develop questions.  In this video, I provide a brief review of the models that the students examine.


30 minutes

After explaining the various models to the students, I provide them with time to work on the Nervous System Discussion guide.  As they work, I check in with the students and provide guidance as necessary.  I ask students to explain the information they have written on their discussion guide and I answer questions that they have about the models, especially the student created models.  This student work is representative of what I expect to receive from the students.

Once most of the students have completed their discussion guides, we review some sentence stems for productive discussion.  I write the stems on the board and provide students with an oral example for each stem.  For this particular discussion I review the following stems:

“I agree with _____ because _____.”

“I disagree with _____ because _____.”

“What’s your evidence?”

“I think _____.”

“I was thinking about what _____ said, and I was wondering what if _____.”

After reviewing the sentence stems, we begin our discussion by working our way through the discussion guide.  I serve as a facilitator during this discussion, making note of the questions and the comments that students share.  As students share information, I ask the other students if they agree or disagree and why, encouraging them to use the sentence stems we reviewed.  One of the goals is to get the students to begin interacting and discussing more with one another while I become more of an observer.  This discussion addresses NGSS SP1 and CCSS SL.8.1c as the students ask questions and share information.  This discussion helps to build the groundwork toward NGSS MS-LS1-8.

Wrap up

3 minutes

Near the end of class, I direct students to the last question on their discussion guide, a question that requires them to summarize what has been reviewed.  I explain that the summary should be a paragraph in length (for this activity, 4-5 sentences) and should provide an overview of the information discussed in class.  I also explain that this is an opportunity for the students to write down questions that they may have developed in response to our discussion.  Having students write this summary requires them to synthesize and analyze the information we discussed in class.  Once they have had some time to write, I ask for volunteers to share their final thoughts regarding what we have talked about in class; to summarize what we think we know and what we would still like to know about the nervous system.  Listening to and reading their summaries provides me with an understanding of what the students took away from the discussion, provides me with a chance to review their misconceptions, and gives me a starting point for the unit.