Day 87 – Exit Slip

Science 9 – Trying hard not to get mired in smaller details of reproduction, students did some practice with small concept maps of sexual reproduction and slide show overview of asexual vs sexual reproduction. The class ended with my asking for an Exit Slip. As many teachers know, this is a great formative assessment tool.

Day 85 – Meiosis

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Science 9 – The above picture is a snapshot of my reproduction unit plan.  As the science 9 classes worked their way through reproduction, I sort of got bogged down in details again.  I managed to avoid the small bits of meirosis and focused on how it results in genetic diversity. However, I don’t think the students had enough meaningful tasks by which they could really assimilate these new ideas. What I should have done is got them started on a transfer task or some intermediate project that focuses on the Understandings and Essential Questions.  Passively reading through some material isn’t much of a learning experience for them.  Next year?….?

Day 69 – DNA Molecule


Science 9 – My science 9 classes built a paper model of DNA, with the phosphate, sugar and base pairs coloured in holiday colours. One of the parts of reproduction I’ve emphasized so far is the idea that DNA makes up chromosomes, sections of chromosomes make up genes, and genes code for proteins. As part of this process, RNA are small pieces of code that exit the nucleus.  I jokingly turned our cutting of the DNA model (which has a copper wire structure) into an analogy of making RNA, where the RNA exits the nucleur pore (the classroom door).  Each student had to cut a piece of DNA and carry it out to the garbage bin outside the classroom.  Happy Holidays Everyone!

Day 47 – Reproduction


Science 9 – Classes started on a new unit today about reproduction. I’ve rejigged this unit this year, to add more focus on the big ideas and less focus on the smaller details in mitosis and meiosis.  I don’t yet know if my lessons will change significantly, but the general approach should be easier for students to understand. I went through an Understanding By Design (UbD) design cycle for this unit.

Day 87: Assisted Reproductive Technologies


Science 9 – Today was the start of some research and writing on assisted reproductive technologies.  Specifically, I asked the students to produce a persuasive essay.  The handout I gave outlined 8 questions or ethical dilemmas around assisted reproduction.  Each student has to decide on a question that they will take a stance on, and write an essay on their reasoning.

I framed the persuasive essay as an assessment tool that tells me about their scientific understanding of the topic, along with getting them to use critical thinking.  The students were very engaged in this activity.  We went to the library to use iPads and the wireless internet for their research, and most students managed to stay on task (a bit of an accomplishment in grade 9 I think).  I’ve asked the students to tell me about the technology, pretending I don’t know anything about reproduction, and then to persuade me that their stance on the issue is the correct one.  Several students weren’t sure how they could use research to justify their position. I suggested that something like a Wikipedia article may not support an argument one way or the other.  However, they can research newspapers or other media for opinion letters and use this for reference material.

Day 69: Yeast Budding Lab

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Science 9 – Today the students used some active yeast to observe asexual reproduction. The lab itself is quite straight forward and the students get a chance to practice laboratory skills: zeroing a scale and measuring mass, using a graduated cylinder, making a wet mount slide and using a microscope.

There are several hurdles for a large class.  First, there is little room and not enough equipment to keep all students involved and practicing the skills mentioned above.  Secondly, the budding is hard to identify at first.  A person needs to spend a while looking through the microscope before they will recognize the subtle differences in shape of the yeast as it is budding.  Lastly, students need considerable assistance in focusing on their slides.  To do properly, I feel that this lab requires one hour.  Some groups would finish it a lot sooner though.

Day 67: Asexual Reproduction


Science 9 – After covering many smaller details of cellular reproduction, today we finally hit some of the Big Ideas.  The above is one of them.  No, I didn’t give them notes!  The students were asked to answer some questions for themselves, and this was sort of an answer key I had ready for them to check their work. It can be very difficult to have group discussions in one of my science 9 classes, so I have to rely on students doing their work and checking in on their understanding.

Another Big Idea:


Day 47: KWL Chart on Reproduction


Science 9 – Today was one of those really productive and useful lessons, almost insidious in fact.  Instead of doing an individual KWL sheet, I put students into random groups and had them whiteboard their work. It was a significant improvement over any other KWL activity I have done.  Not only were students able to summarize a fair bit of detail of previous knowledge, the real winner was in the great questions they wondered about and asked about.

I started off this unit with one primary Essential Question: “Why are both meiosis and mitosis required?”  A more thorough inquiry is based on the idea of finding out what meiosis and mitosis are, and what roles organelles, DNA, genes and proteins play.  I’m don’t think I’ve been transparent enough with them about these underlying questions (and they don’t ask), but next day I’ll try to get them to tie these ideas together.

Some of the questions the KWL generated include:

  • What are all the organelles?
  • What do genes do?
  • Why am I different from my parents?

There were many others but I forgot to take pictures of the whiteboard!