Diving Deeper into the Human Body Systems (Day 1 of 4)

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SWBAT discuss each body system in depth through the creation of and interaction with student created presentations

Big Idea

Allow your students to be the teachers during this engaging lesson series of student created human body system presentations!

Notes for the Teacher

I have been using a version of this 4 day lesson series for the past few years and it has been a great way to end the year with students in charge of their learning at every level of the project, both as creators and as audience members. Our school has a wildly popular upper level Anatomy and Physiology course and in general, our general biology course doesn't include a significant amount of time in our curriculum framework to dig into the human body.  This series of lessons is my way to honor our school and district norms for the introductory biology course focus while giving kids a taste of what they are going to be exploring in their next life science course.  

On Day 1, we introduce the basic vocabulary of the human body systems and brainstorm student group project ideas.  We also go through the basics of good oral and visual presentations using an informal rubric and past project examples for improvement analysis.

Standards:  SL.9-10.1RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP1SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2XC-SC-HS-1

Day 2 gives student groups the opportunity to work together to plan and create their projects about one of the body systems

Standards: W.9-10.2W.9-10.2aW.9-10.2bSL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aSL.9-10.4SL.9-10.5RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP1SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2XC-SC-HS-1

During Day 3, students explore each other's projects and summarize their learning about the basic concepts and terminology important to each body system.

Standards: W.9-10.2SL.9-10.1SL.9-10.4SL.9-10.5RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP1SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2XC-SC-HS-1

And on Day 4, students participate in a whole group discussion of their overall learning and experiences with the project and complete a written formative assessment.

Standards: W.9-10.2W.9-10.2aW.9-10.2bSL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aSL.9-10.4SL.9-10.5RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP1SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2XC-SC-HS-1

When we have had additional time in previous school year schedules, I have experimented with having each group present to the entire class but have since abandoned that model for my current gallery walk format.  The individual presentations take a very long time at a timeframe during the school year where kids are pretty worn out.  Additionally, without a significant amount of scaffolding and practice, student presentations can be pretty grueling for audience members simply because they aren't teachers or experts in their subject area yet.  By adding in a whole class discussion and written formative assessment given after the initial project viewing session, I am able to bring in direct instruction in conjunction with the student driven projects.  I can't wait to hear about your versions of this approach to introducing the human body systems!

The Classroom Flow: Introducing the Activity

20 minutes

1.  Ask students to take out their human body systems key information document and the body systems overview summary overview document.  Give them time to look over their responses and add any additional information they learned through the unit so far since they first filled it out during the first day of the unit.  You may also share the key information master document as well.  

2. Tell students that this lesson series will give them the experience and information they need to fill out their document completely.  Pass out the human body systems project guidelines rubric. After giving students a few minutes to read over the directions, go through them with the class.  

3.  Pass out the oral and written presentation guidelines document which contain a more detailed version of the basic presentation board notes students have worked with before. Tell them that presenting information effectively is a key part of being a successful communicator in high school and beyond.

4.  Take out projects from previous years making sure the student names are not visible. Alternatively, use the photos of some of my projects from past years.  

Things to focus on:

Use of background color (white vs. color)

Organization/placement and spacing of text

Use of 'frames' around headings and other ways to differentiate between sections and prioritize

Specific spaces/diagrams/texts over other.

Appropriate use of hand lettered and typed text and the way color and size impacts both text and graphics

  • Note:  Students love this exercise!  I start by asking students to popcorn out one good thing they notice about a demonstration board they notice from their seat (I am not focusing on science content here, just the visual presentation) and then one thing they think could be improved.  From there, I can expand upon whatever factor I am wanting to emphasize.  After 2-3 rounds, I simply ask students for improvements and they go for it!  Ever since I began using this system, student projects have improved immensely.  This exercise is definitely worth class time to go through together as a team. 
  • A word of caution:  After this initial exercise, I put the boards away.  Students will repeatedly ask to see them as a short cut for content information and that is not my learning goal for them.  
  • Check out a sample of student work for one way students chose to artistically interpret their visual presentation.  Here, students combined both painting and clay work to make a functioning version of a heart with tubing filled with colored water and an attached pump for arteries and veins. Many other posters showed various levels of creative interest.  What they all had in common was a clear visual component, great use of color and space, and organized information in their own words.  

The Classroom Flow: Student Group Brainstorming Session

25 minutes

1.  Tell students that they will be signing up for their specific human body system with their team now.  Once they have signed up with you using the sign up sheet document, they may move to a lab table and begin to brainstorm their project and assign responsibilities.

2.  Once all students groups have signed up and you have helped individual students who may not have been able to find a group on their own to be part of a group that is comfortable for them, observe the groups carefully before beginning to circulate to answer questions.  This gives them time to begin the process of managing their project independently and this practice is something that will benefit them personally throughout their school careers and beyond

3.  Circulate to each group to listen in on student ideas and to offer any suggestions for resources or specific section examples that might fit well for their system.  Remind them that they can also access our complete human body systems powerpoint slide presentation for additional system information support.

  • Note:  Students may need help with the comparative anatomy section.  I suggest that they attempt to compare their system in humans with two very different systems--a reptile and insect, an amphibian and a bird, etc.  Otherwise, you wind up getting a chimpanzee and an orangutang (both mammals) and students miss the chance to see how different/similar vastly different organisms can be.

4.  As you check in with each group, notice how close they are to completing the following objectives:  

  • What jobs need to be completed in order to create a successful project?
  • Who will be responsible for each aspect of the project listed above?
  • What do our individual schedules look like during this project process?
  • What specific tasks to be completed before the next work session and who will do them?

5. Some groups may need your help with this list and others will not, partly related to the growing maturity and familiarity of the students across the school year when it comes to positive student skills and your class norms.  

  • Note: I do not need every group to be finished with every aspect of this short checklist in order for this to be a successful class session; each student group will approach they project and their partnership differently.  I like to check in with each group just so that I can be a more effective coach throughout the project process and support students in a more intentional, differentiated way.  

The Classroom Flow: Wrapping Up

5 minutes

1.  Announce to students that tomorrow will be a studio session where they can work on their project.  Tell them they can use whatever materials are in the classroom and they can also bring in their own.  

2.  Remind students that you are available for support and consultation throughout the studio session and beyond.   

And now on to Day 2!