#ModBio Workshop Day 5

The Agenda for the Day:

  1. Teacher Talk – Parking Lot
  2. Discuss Homework
  3. Venn diagram Whiteboards
  4. Readings: What is a Species? & History of Classification
  5. Building a Dichotomous Key of Shoes
  6. Salamander Dichotomous Key Practice
  7. Classification Model Summary Board
  8. Homework Assignments

During teacher talk we branched out into a discussion about ways to help the advanced students in class, especially those in the group who teach Biology to juniors in a Physics-Chemistry-Biology sequence.  Those students will already have a firm understanding of the modeling process and may be prepared to deal with more complicated subject matter.  We briefly discussed a flipped classroom approach to provide enrichment outside of classroom time.  We discussed ways to help students build their own understanding of these complex topics.  It was suggested to use the story board cartoons from one of our resource texts, Exploring the Way Life Works: The Science of Biology.  These story boards might be a good way to allow the students to construct their own understanding of complicated biochemical processes such as photosynthesis, cellular respiration, DNA replication, and protein synthesis.  The story boards have cartoon sequences with captions that could be used to build a conceptual framework for understanding the processes.  It was also suggested that Molecular Workbench could also be used to allow the students to explore the concepts before discussing them as a group.  Finally those of us staying on campus exchanged room and phone numbers for some potential socializing this weekend.

First up was to discuss the three Venn diagrams from last night.  We discussed our Venn diagrams with our partners and made revisions.  Angela circled around chatting briefly with each group and then assigned each group one Venn diagram to whiteboard.  Our whiteboard meeting was led by two students who were able to use good questioning techniques to draw out of us the important differences between all the different groupings.

Next up were two readings; What is a Species? and History of Classification.  After the readings we discussed with our partners.  The ensuing discussion was led by a new set of partners.  As a class we built a model for classifying living organisms.  We began with a discussion of Aristotle’s ideas.  This model was based on plant vs. animals, blood vs. bloodless animals, and then how the animals moved (flying, swimming, walking).  But they did not hold true for several different types of animals.  Next we discussed  Carolus Linnaeus’ ideas, with a grouping for plants and another for animals.  The animals were then placed into genera and further divided into species.  The classification of the animals was based on physical appearance.  This model did not work for a comparison of fish and dolphins, two organisms that look similar but are not be closely related.  Finally we discussed how the contributions of Charles Darwin helped to refine the tree of life.  We had some prior experience with classification because we had discussed the 6-Kingdom system yesterday.  We wrapped up by talking about modern advances to classification including using DNA comparisons.  I like the approach of discussing why the previous classification system did not work instead of just presenting it from a historical perspective.

Next we constructed a classification system for our shoes.  Each member of class donated their right shoe to the pile in the middle of the classroom.  We then took turns dividing the pile(s) into smaller groups by dividing an existing pile in half.  Finally we named each shoe with a scientific name.  I’ve done this activity with my classes before.  After students get over the initial “ickiness” of using shoes, it goes fairly quick and straight forward manner.  I’m think of using a selection from a fictitious group of organisms called Caminacules.  Students can classify these organisms based on their physical appearance.

After learning about constructing a method for determining which species an organism belongs to, we practiced our skills by completing an activity for classifying Salamanders.  I’ve also used this activity in past and students generally are able to effectively classify the salamanders.

Lastly we worked in pairs to construct our Classification Model Summary Board. After 5-10 minutes of working we got into groups of five and constructed one board.  The Summary Boards did a good job of depicting the important ideas and concepts in the model.

Our first homework for the weekend is to read two articles; Never Say Anything a Kid Can Say! and Analyzing Classroom Discourse to Advance Teaching and Learning.  The second assignment was to take the Classification Model Test.

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