Cell Membranes: Reading Strategy

6 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will determine the central ideas of a complex text analyzing the complex system of the cell and understand how cells are part of an even larger hierarchy within multicellular organisms.

Big Idea

Reading for understanding can be difficult but with the proper tool(s) and method of delivery, students can become better and better!

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

With regard to this particular lesson...

  1. Students will be able to explain that systems of specialized cells within organisms help them perform the essential functions of life. (HS-LS1-1)
  2. Students will be able to describe the hierarchical structural organization that multicellular organisms have; any one system is made up of numerous parts and is itself a component of the next level. (HS-LS1-2)
  3. Students will be able to determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; provide an accurate summary of the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.9-10.2)

 I hope you get some value from my work!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

5 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I help my students identify conclusions in scientific reading?

Scientific reading is challenging for many students due to the combined layers of decoding text in addition to the technical nature of scientific writing, as well as the presence of terms that are either completely foreign, poorly understood, or wrongly encoded to begin with. To this end, I want my students to link the basic content of cell structure (i.e. organelles) with a more complex bit of text that challenges them to see the connection between fine details of the membrane's structure (honing in on a very essential organelle) and the various functions permitted by it. The lesson leads into the concepts of diffusion, osmosis, and active transport. The key differences among these forms of cell transport are all rooted in the way a portion of the membrane might be constructed.

As a way of recalling various organelles on a very basic level, I want students to be able to show what they know.

Parking Lot Prompt: “Having studied the structure and function of the eukaryotic cell (i.e. organelles), please jot down the basic structure of the cell membrane (how it is made) and its function (what it does).” This response will be written on a Post-It note and attached to my Parking Lot poster (featured prominently in class for all to see). This becomes a simple but prominent way to display the diversity of responses generated from any given prompts. These will then be read to the class. I typically do a random sample of three to five Post-Its to share what the "typical" kid thinks.

Instructional Input/Student Activities

45 minutes

Jana Echevarria, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah Short write: "Teachers face many challenges related to the literacy development of their English learners. The task of teaching ELs to read is made difficult in part due to the complexity of learning to read and write in a language one does not understand." They later write that "Research suggests that English learners need systematic, high-quality literacy instruction from the start." (Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: The SIOP Model, p. 188)

It is the primary focus of this book to equip and educate teachers in the area of ELL reading, vocabulary, and writing development. My viewpoint is that a good strategy can positively affect a wide variety of students whose needs may differ greatly in certain respects; even those who may struggle the most. That being said, I use a reading comprehension strategy that I have found to be helpful for all of my students.

The Text Organization Template is a generic strategy that focuses on breaking down complex text into manageable section summaries. In general, the process requires students to read through a given passage they are prompted to identify and record several difficult terms that may impede the understanding of the passage. These are to be defined (mostly informally) and then the student summarizes the main idea(s) of the passage.

I have adapted a companion technique titled "I-We-You" that I learned from Doug Lemov's book titled Teach Like a Champion (pp. 71-74). It works like this...

“I” (Teacher): The teacher reads, then summarizes first paragraph of the chosen text passage. In this case, I will have already completed the reading and section summaries on my own in order to produce the exemplar that will guide students during class; this is something that should not be done with students for the first time. Class time is when students ought to be doing the heavy "cognitive lifting" however the instructor should be doing the heavy lifting outside class.

Students then copy down or mimic teacher actions; in this case silently read along as a class with the teacher leading by reading well and copying down what has been summarized. In this case I show them how I wrote the summary of the first section. The emphasis here is on direct instruction.

“We” (Teacher and class): On a random basis, students are chosen one at a time to read subsequent sections/paragraphs aloud. The class reads along as the student reads, then summarizes. Teacher assists by soliciting responses from a variety of students that could be cobbled together to form the main idea and supporting evidences from the reading. The class writes down the combined summary drawn from these students. The emphasis here is on collaboration.

At this point I like to check for understanding: Using 5-3-1 feedback system, students indicate their level of understanding: 5 = very strong, 3 = proficient, 1= needs help

“You” (Students on their own): Students proceed on their own and complete the remainder of the reading independently. The emphasis here is on independence.

***This, then, becomes a way to gradually release responsibility to the student while (I hope) not sacrificing the transfer of knowledge and skill from teacher to student.***

For a sample of student work that successfully met standard (Student A) please click here. For a sample of student work that was very close to meeting standard, click here (Student B). (The required length of summary was short of the minimum 5 sentences but otherwise did very well.)


Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Exit Task: In order to assess what students understood from the reading, I randomly call on three to four students to fill in the blanks based on their reading during class; this allows students to condense their learning down to a few memorable concepts that can be moved from short-term to long-term memory before they leave for the day.

I choose students at random in order to keep them all on their toes. No one knows who will be called therefore any and all students must be ready to answer.

“Cell membranes help the cell to (verb) __________ with the use of (noun/structure) _________.”

(Note: This prompt is written on the SMART board at front for students to see in addition to me reading it.)


Lesson Extension & Follow-Up Activities

Complete any of the reading assignment not yet completed for class tomorrow.