As the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt:
Which sense (taste, smell, touch) is most important? Why? Write a Claims Evidence Reasoning statement to explain your answer.
In order to be able to successfully create a CER for this prompt, the students need to know how each sense contributes to the body's function as a whole. After the students begin writing, I explain that I would like them to use their CER to convince me of the sense that they should be able to keep, as the other two senses will be taken away. I circulate through the room asking students to provide more evidence and examples for their choice. In this journal entry, the student explains the choice by describing how the other two senses are not as important. In my discussion with her, I asked her to add additional evidence to support her claim that touch is the most important sense.
Students in my classroom sit in groups of five, so once the students have had an opportunity to complete their CER, I ask them to share their thoughts within their small group. I give them an expectation (that's important) that in their small group they develop consensus on which sense their group would most like to keep. This is a difficult task for the students, as they have very strong opinions about the sense they feel is most important.
After the small groups have come to consensus, I ask each group to share their thoughts with the rest of the class. I remind the students that it is important to provide justification/evidence/examples to support their ideas.
Some groups say they would like to keep taste, because they want to be able to taste their food. Members of other groups remind them that smell relies heavily upon taste and that food would not taste the same without their sense of smell. I have some groups choose smell as the most important, so they could smell dangerous gases. Other groups point out that some deadly gases have no smell and that it might be a benefit to no longer be able to smell offensive odors. Still other groups choose to keep touch as a way to keep themselves from danger and to help determine temperature.
Prior to this class period, students are expected to view this Senses video and take flipped notes. Students are also required to complete the notes review. This is an example of proficient student work. Reviewing the flipped notes addresses NGSS MS-LS1-8 as the students review the manner in which sensory information travels to the brain.
I begin this section of the lesson by briefly reviewing the flipped notes with the students, addressing their questions, if there are any. Once we have reviewed the notes, I begin showing them different websites to further explain and illustrate the information. How I do this is differentiated.
I begin with two websites about taste. The first, How does our sense of taste work? contains a variety of information about taste. For some classes, I have the students read and discuss the information. For other classes, I highlight key sections of the text and read and explain them to the students. On this website I highlight information about the types of taste, the misconception that certain taste buds are located in only certain spots on the tongue, and the structures of taste buds and papillae. I supplement the information from the first website with information from The Skin, which provides a more animated look at how taste buds function.
After reviewing taste, we move on to discuss the sense of smell. This Smell Disorders website details how smell works and also reviews some smell related disorders. Because the sense of smell is something that students tend to take for granted, I review the smell disorders with them as a reminder that not everyone is able to receive all of the types of sensory information. I also review the BBC's FactFile Smell because it includes an animation of how the process of smell occurs. As we review the animation, I ask the students to identify familiar items in the animation, such as neurons. I occasionally use a simpler narrative from Kids Health, Your Nose, with students by having them read the information to answer their own questions about smell.
Finally, I use this A Primer On Touch with the students to review the process of how the sense of touch works. Again, sometimes I have the students read the information and then we discuss it together as a class and sometimes I highlight key information for the students. Sometimes I supplement that website with The Skin to show pictures and information about the receptors found in skin.
I walk you through an overview of each of the websites used in this section of the lesson in this video.
Viewing the images of the various structural parts of sensory neurons addresses the CCC Systems and System Models, specifically "models can be used to represent systems and their interactions" and "systems may interact with others systems, have sub-systems as part of larger complex systems" as students review these online models and explore how the various sub-systems of each of the senses contributes to the nervous system and to the body.
After reviewing the notes and websites, I utilize a concept mapping technique. To do this, I have the students work in their groups of five to create a map/web demonstrating how the senses work together. As a class, we discuss some of the possible ways that this can be accomplished The students suggest that they could draw a picture to represent each sense and place the pictures in different corners or sections of the paper. I suggest that the students draw arrows from each sense to the other senses it it connected to and then write an example on the arrow.
I give each group a sheet of white paper and they begin working on their diagram. Some of the groups choose to write the information in sentence form first and then create their diagrams. This system works well because one student can draw images for each of the senses while the group brainstorms and develops a list of examples. While the students work, I check in with each group.
During these check ins, I ask different members of the group to describe their examples, and challenge them to develop additional examples. I make sure that each student in the group answers a question as a way to hold them accountable for the work that is being done and to make sure they understand the information. This group of students chose to create a senses map, while another group chose to create a senses chart.
Working on drawing these maps to explain the interconnections between the senses addresses SP2 Developing and Using Models, as students develop their own visual models, and the CCC Systems and System Models as students explore how the senses work together and use the map/diagram to model this understanding.
Near the end of class, I ask each group to share their diagram with the rest of the class. Once each group has shared, I draw a diagram on the whiteboard and we create a class diagram by drawing arrows between the senses that the students can provide connecting examples for. For instance, the students say that a line should be drawn between smell and taste because the sense of smell enhances the sense of taste. Writing this information on the board provides students with an additional visual representation of the information and helps to make it more concrete for the students.