Cancer, a mistake in the cell cycle

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Students will practice literacy skills with a listening and reading activity of scientific information for the purpose of providing explanations or descriptions of the causes of cancer.

Big Idea

Scientific literacy is a skill that can be developed through instruction.


5 minutes

Warm-up: Which of the cells depicted in the line graph  below are most likely cancerous

This question serves as a preview of the content that will be shared today.  The question requires students to examine information presented in a graphical format to develop a correct response to the question.  Students must be able to interpret the graph and use any prior knowledge that they may have about cancer to arrive at the correct answer.

Allow students to ponder the question for several seconds before accepting students’ answers to the question.  Giving students ample time to consider a question allows all learners to have adequate time to consider the question and possible responses.  After a short period of thinking time, allow 2-3 students to share their thoughts.  Ask other students whether they agree or not with the answer and require them to explain before affirming that the answer is correct or not.  This practice helps build an expectation that all students are subject to be asked to respond to a question, whether they volunteer to answer or not.

Encourage students to engage in academic discourse for 2-3 minutes using the academic sentence prompts. Look for students to identify that line A is the correct response because line A is the only line that shows increasing cell growth over time, or cancer.

Introduce New Material

20 minutes

Introduce the lesson with a video clip, Genetic, Basis of Cancer to present a few key facts about cancer and its causes. Conduct a search of YouTube or the Discovery education website for other informative and brief videos that can be used, as well.

Introducing the vocabulary associated with the lesson:  environmental factors, tumor, benign, neoplasm, malignant, incidence, mortality, death rate, metastasize, disease

Say each word aloud and ask students to repeat the term after you.  Clap out the syllables for the terms with 3 or more syllables.  This helps students hear the word parts of more complex words so that they can pronounce them correctly. 

Instruct students to add the bolded terms to their vocabulary maps. Remind students that the bolded terms contain prefixes, suffixes, Greek or Latin root words.  Provide explicit instruction of each term when it arises during the course of instruction.

Inform students of the learning target for this lesson:

  • I can translate scientific information expressed visually into words.
  • I can translate scientific information expressed as words into a visual form.
  • I can write explanatory text in response to questions using relevant and facts and concrete details.

After previewing the vocabulary and learning targets, inform students that they will first engage in an Ipod listening activity on Kahn Academy. Display the Cancer listening and reading assignment on a LCD projector as you explain the tasks. 

Instruct students to select the Kahn Academy lesson on Cancer.  Require students to write 10 facts about cancer using information gained from the lesson.  Set the timer for an assigned amount of time (15 minutes) and communicate the expectation that students should finish the task within this time.  Provide a time check mid-way through the listening assignment to help students manage the time and task.

As students work, walk around to ensure that they are on task and are able to access the listening material and take notes

Guided Practice

15 minutes

Inform students that they will engage in an independent close read of an informational text, What is cancer  in order to answer a set of questions. Note: There are many other available resources for articles, including:

Prior to class, decide whether or not some students may need to read the article using the Kurzweil software, a great speech and literacy support tool.  Note: If Kurzweil is used, the article will need to be scanned into the Kurzweil software before class in order to use it during instruction.

Use the LCD projector to display the GIST Template.  Provide hard copies of the GIST template to students, as well.  Explain the GIST template and how to use it as an aid while reading the article:

  • Read the article.
  • Identify the 5 W’s and H.
    • Who:
    • What:
    • Where:
    • When:
    • Why:
    • How
  • Write a 20-word Gist of twenty words (the main idea or ideas).

Model how to perform as close read using the GIST template by reading aloud the first 2 sentences of the article.  As always when modeling, use the “talk aloud” strategy to help students gain a better sense of the thought process and reasoning used to complete the GIST template:

Think Aloud Example Script:

  • Who-
  • What- cancer
  • Where-cells
  • When-abnormal, uncontrolled growth
  • Why-
  • How-metastasize

Explain that students will continue in this fashion until they have identified a GIST of at least 20 words that reflect main ideas.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Explain that students are to complete 3 tasks for this assignment:

  1. completion of a GIST after reading the article.
  2. construction written responses to 11 questions, and
  3. construction a graph of the types of cancer and estimated deaths.  

Display the 11 questions and read them aloud to the class.  

Release students to read the Cancer article( source: NIH) and complete the asisgned tasks. By performing the close read and the GIST activity first, students should be able to write explanatory text in response to the 11 questions using relevant and facts and concrete details.  Students should also be able to express the data from the article graphically.

Walk around the room to monitor students work and ensure that all students are actively engaged in the completion of the task.  Collect the IPod assignment and written responses.  When reviewing the student work, evaluate the quality of the written responses to the questions. The work sample that is included show the student was able to respond to the questions and create a graphic depiction of the facts.


5 minutes

Display the Circle, Triangle, Square strategy to close the lesson.  Ask students to consider what was learned today and respond to the following:

  • Circle- Something that is still going around in your head.
  • Triangle- Something that stood out in your mind.
  • Square- Something that “squared” or agreed with your thinking.

Post-its and a flip chart can be used for this activity or students can share in small groups or as a whole class.  Because most of the work today is been independent work, it might be beneficial to allow them to socialize, talk and share with one another for this activity.