A,B,C's of Biology

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Students will demonstrate their cumulative knowledge of biological concepts using writing and technology skills.

Big Idea

Writing assignments are an effective way to assess student’s understanding of biological concepts.


5 minutes

Warm-Up:  What does the word culminating mean?

Allow students to share their thoughts with a seatmate about the word’s meaning for 1 minute.  After that time, allow students to share their idea with the group. If students are not able to explain the term’s meaning, display the term in a sentence: 

Her years of study and hard work culminated in her earning the highest honors when she graduated from college.

Remind students to utilize the outside/in strategy to help decipher the term’s meaning.   

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Given the students have spent an entire year learning biological concepts; today’s culminating assignment requires students to use the letters of the alphabet to demonstrate their understanding of the body of knowledge of biology.

Display the ABC’S OF Biology instructions and explain that students will use the letters of the alphabet to create a Prezi or Powerpoint that includes 26 slides, each with an original sentence and picture(or video clip) for each letter of the alphabet.  Using technology is beneficial for several reasons:

  • It’s a way to assist students who might get “bogged down” with the illustrations and not spend enough time with the thoughtful consideration of biological terms and concepts.
  • It’s a meaningful way to engage those students who are computer savvy.
  • It allows students to practice technology skills using PowerPoint, Prezi or another presentation software of their choice.

Emphasize that each letter must relate to a word or concept learned from the entire year of Biology instruction.  Once students decide which word they want to use for each letter, the task involves writing an original sentence and adding an image that relates to the word or concept that is used in the sentence.

Explain that the purpose is twofold:

1, Students will be able to review biological concepts in preparation for the final exam or State standardized test.

2. The finished task serves as a summative assessment of students' learning.  

Show students how to complete the task by modeling how to create a sentence for one or more letters of the alphabet.  Think aloud as you think about a word to associate with the letter.  For example:

For the Letter “J”:

When I think of the letter J, the first thing that comes to mind is jellyfish.  How can I associate jellyfish with biology? I know...Jellyfish are animals so my sentence can be:

J – Jellyfish belong to the animal kingdom, or

What words in biology start with the letter J?    I need to think for a moment back across everything I’ve learned.  Let me use my notes to help me remember.  Got it!  When we learned about evolution, there was a guy named John Baptiste DeLemarck.  I can make a sentence with his name in it:

J-  John Baptiste De LeMarck is credited with the “Use it or lose it” theory

Once the sentence is developed, explain that the image association will be easier to establish.

Repeat the modeling for 1-2 more letters for those students are will benefit from more than one round of modeling.  Use one of the letters that may present difficulties for students, like the letters, U and Q : Quickly tell the teacher if you spill a chemical or U- Use of high temperature denatures enzymes.

Display the rubric for the assignment and discuss each aspect of the grading.

  • Presentation length
  • Accuracy of information
  • No errors in spelling or other language convention
  • Quality or work
  • Creativity /Originality

It may be helpful to provide examples and non-examples of each component of the rubric so that students will be clear about what is expected.

Independent Practice

30 minutes

Distribute computers and release students to work on the assignment. Remind students to refer to the rubric for guidance regarding what is expected in the completed task.  

Walk around the room and observe students as they work to offer assistance to students in need. Encourage students to utilize the body of information that they have collected over the year to assist them with the task. Students might be using their notes, study guides, and vocabulary maps as reference materials.  Suggest that students should first identify the words that they want to use, then write original sentences for each and last, conduct an internet search to find and add an image that best reflects the word and sentence.  

Ideally, students will not have to refer to notes for each letter of the alphabet.  If students have retained knowledge from the course of instruction, they should be able to identify words that they are able to correctly use in sentences without referencing notes for every letter of the alphabet.

Expect that students may not complete this assignment in class.  Because it is a computer-based product, instruct students to send it electronically by a designated date.  Edmodo is a great platform for the electronic submission of student work.

Consider the student population and decide if some students may benefit from working in small groups on the assignment. If small groups are assigned, make sure that members of the group have an understanding of who is responsible for what part of the alphabet.

The student work that is included reflect exemplars for both individual and group work. The individual work is an exemplar, given the use of terms correctly in sentences and the visual images used with each sentence. The group work is also an exemplary work product, using some but many of the same terms as the individual students.  

When reviewing the work, be sure to look for students' use of terms that reflect content that has been taught, and not what has been merely cut and pasted from a scientific text.

This summative assessment is a great way for students to assess how much they have learned over the course of the year.  If students have experienced any success with the content acquisition over the year, they will find this to be an enjoyable task that allows them to celebrate their learning.


5 minutes

Display the three L's ticket out the door.  Give students 1 minute to reflect and respond to the three L's.  Ask students to share with the class:

  • What I Liked about the assignment.....
  • What I Learned from the assignment....
  • What I would Leave out of the assignment.....

Listen to students’ feedback and consider modifications to the assignment based on their comments.  Students typically like using the computer for this assignment and searching the internet for ideas.  Many will share that learned that they know about more biology than they thought they did because they did not have to refer to their notes as often as they thought they would.  Some students will indicate that they feel that having the use the alphabet is too many letters to have to use in biology related words and sentences.

Overall, this is an engaging activity that offers students a chance to use creativity and their conceptual knowledge to create a work product.