All posts by jeff

5 Helpful Tips for Teaching Genetics

5 Helpful Hints for Teaching Genetics

Here is #2 for my “5 Helpful Tips” series. If you missed the first one, check out 5 Helpful Tips for Teaching Photosynthesis.

Genetics is one of my favorite things to teach *cue sparkly harp music*. I really look forward to teaching genetics! And one thing that makes it so fun for me is discussing human genetics. Human genetics can be a bit mystifying, so I usually do not bring it up until we’ve discussed polygenic inheritance among other complex patterns, such as incomplete dominance. That is because most human traits are not Mendelian! For example, I have three children. Each one of my children has different colored eyes (hazel, brown, and blue).  Students love discussing this stuff and bringing up their own families, too!

Here is a complete list of human genetic myths that you can read for your consideration. But, that doesn’t stop us from making babies in biology class.  Besides, I firmly believe we still do not know everything there is to know, and we are making new discoveries every day. I tell my students that we are going to pretend that traits are Mendelian for a day so that we can do our fun Making Babies Heredity Simulation. I really feel that you need to find a happy medium here- I don’t want to teach students that human traits such as eye color and earwax are Mendelian, but I also want them to connect and have fun. So we do a pretend day each year. Besides, it gives them Punnett square practice and I honestly could not imagine teaching genetics without it! The kids have too much fun!

Visual learning is a lot of fun – I’m a visual learner and I use a lot of visuals when I teach. This website from Wiley’s Global Resources provides visual animations to help support Mendel’s ideas and laws.

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I have found this web site invaluable for those who need extra practice or need an little extra oomph for grasping concepts in class.

Busting Student Misconceptions:

  • Students tend to struggle with some terminology- it can be really difficult for students to differentiate between terms such as DNA, gene, and allele.  Be sure to remind the students that there is in fact a difference, or maybe even ask them to compare them as a do-now, warm up, or bellringer. 
  • Are popular traits more dominant? No. You know this. Your colleagues know this. But sometimes we forget to mention this to our students. Check out my Exploring Human Traits Lab, in which students are asked to analyze this using your classroom as an example.
  • Epigenetics- students should know that environment can play a role in the characteristics of organisms. Epigenetics studies changes in heritable traits that are outside the human genome. Here is a quick video you can show your students about how epigenetic tags can be passed on:
  • Lastly, be sure to mention a few times along the way that mutations are not always harmful- and in fact some can be a good thing! The two examples I like to use are blue eyes (a neutral mutation) or even a turtle’s shell, which would be considered a positive mutation of its ancestor’s ribcage!

Veteran teachers, do you have any tips or advice when teaching genetics? I’d love for you to share them in the comments! 

Stay Science Classy,

Vanessa

 

Cell-fie: The Interactive Model

After so many biology classes, I had begun to realize that it seemed as though I spent a lot of time and energy teaching my kids all about cells, only to have them forget at least half of what they learned by the time we approached cell division, photosynthesis, cellular respiration, etc.

It was one year during the last class of the day, my beloved “G” period. There were 10 students in that class (long, crazy story there– maybe I’ll write about it and get a link in there so you can read it!), and it was a glorious class. It ended up being my favorite class because it was so easy to differentiate. It was so easy for kids to help others out. It was so easy to teach. (Is that an oxymoron?) Relatively speaking, that is, it was easier to teach than classes of 30. And it was more rewarding, because the kids really understood and tended to do better on their tests than the other classes. And there we were, talking about cellular respiration when one student, a bright student, chimed in and asked
“Ms. J., what is a mitochondrion?”

No big deal, I thought. And I answered him. It’s a singular form of mitochondria. He nodded, his pencil at his lips, looking down at his graphic organizer we were doing at the time.

Me: “A-and it’s where cellular respiration occurs.”

Student: “OK, so it’s in the cell.”

Me: “Yes? Yes.”

Other student: “What’s a mitochondria?”

Everyone laughs. But this year, I wasn’t laughing. This was something that I could see happening in many of my classes, even if students didn’t speak up. These big words were coming back to them and they had already been learned- and lost. So, I popped my lap top into the in-focus and brought up my Cell PowerPoint. Remember this? They did… vaguely.
That’s when I had an idea… if only I could have a cell in the classroom always. And not just a poster, but an interactive cell that could grow and change.

Start with the basics:

Basic Cellfie

Add as you go:

Cell Phone

Cellfie

Cellular Respiration

Finished Animal Cell

Ion Channel

Plant Cell 1

Plant Cell 2

Protein SynthesisReceptor Protein
Cell Division Example

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can download the template here:Interactive Cell Model by Biology Roots or click on the image below. 

Cellife- the interactive cell model. This is a great addition to your cell lessons and cell activities and provides optimal scaffolding for your cell unit!

 

 

 

Finally Filing!

In the spirit of back to school (and perhaps a healthy dose of OCD), I’m putting my filing cabinets to good use! I’ve seen so many snazzy filing cabinets on Pinterest (dressed up with decorative duct tape or pretty paper), and if you’ve a tremendous tower or two in your classroom, you might want to use them in a way that benefits your Classroom Organization.

filing cabinetHere is a basic Filing System for a 4 tier Filing Cabinet:
Top Drawer Files (Health and Safety)
IEPs and 504s
State Health Reports and Emergency Guidelines
Lists of Students with allergies/specialized diet

Middle Drawer 1 Files (Future Reference)
Textbook Numbers/Book Fines
Disciplinary Action (Parent logs, Detention/Cut Slips, etc.)
-1 folder per each class (not student)
Department and Faculty Meeting Paperwork
-File all handouts from meetings no matter how meaningless or unimportant they may seen. You will probably need to refer to that information at a later date.
Ideas
-Tangible pieces of paper. For everything else, use Pinterest.

Middle Drawer 2 Files (All About You)
Teacher Evaluations
Mentor/Mentee paperwork (if applicable)
School District Contract

Lower Drawer Files
Assessments
-Tests and quizzes that you want to be kept secret
Examples of Student Work
-Examples from previous years that you might want to use in the future
Last Year’s Lesson Plans/Unit Planner to Compare
If you have less than 4 drawers, feel free to combine!


 

Here’s what not to put in a filing cabinet:
LanyardsProcedures
Those should be cleanly displayed in the room. Extra syllabi should be located where students can easily access them. A clear exit strategy should be displayed for fire alarms. Laminated class rosters on lanyards would also be appropriate for evacuations as seen at left.

Handouts
Okay, well, this is a very humble opinion at best. I’m not sure that I would defend this statement wholeheartedly. I personally like to have the handouts separate from my filing cabinets. I feel like there’s _teaching_ (handouts and activities) and then there’s…. the stuff that no one tells you about teaching (like the aforementioned suggestions for the filing cabinet drawers). I like to keep in separate. I keep my handouts, etc. in lovely hanging folder bins or binders.

Memos, flyers, messages, brochures, invitations, etc.
File them? Heck no! You’ll never see them again. I have a bulletin board method that I share in my Classroom Organization for Secondary Teachers Guide and Corresponding Materials.

Feel Goods (student artwork and cards that they’ve made just for you).
Do. Not. File.
Display.
Feel the love _every_ day!

Stay Science Classy,
Vanessa

Super Secondary Science Back to School Giveaway

givewaway blog post-01Biology Roots has joined up with some other amazing science sellers on TpT to produce the Super Secondary Science Giveaway just in time for back to school. Science teachers, please spread the word and share this amazing opportunity to win these great assets for your science classroom.

I am giving away three super secondary science prizes:

The first random winner chosen will receive my best selling Secondary Science Sub Plans: Volume I. This includes FIVE emergency sub plans that are interesting for kids and keep them sharp!

The second random choice will receive the Beginning of the Year Bundle for Life Science, which includes lab safety, the scientific method, graphing, and a PowerPoint and activities on the things that define biology.

The third and final random choice will receive Biology Unit Binder Covers, which are designed for binders to keep you organized!

First Prize Winner: Secondary Science Sub Plans Volume I

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Second Prize Winner: Beginning of the Year Science Bundle for Life Science

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Third Prize Winner: Biology Binder Covers
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Please use the rafflecopter link below to enter all three prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway