April 17, 2011
Events of the Past Week
Monday - On Monday we had an institute day where we were charged with writing a cumulative district assessment for all freshmen throughout the district to take some time in May. The topics that will be tested include the scientific method, biochemistry, cells, DNA, genetics, and evolution. All of the biology teachers throughout the district were divided up into 6 groups, and each group was assigned the task of writing between 8 and 12 questions related to one of the 6 topics on the assessment. The test was to be written for a Biology 137 (regular level) student; therefore, I believe that our students here, especially in the accelerated classes, will generally do well on the test. The date in May that the test will be given is still to be determined.
Tuesday - The students finished taking notes on convergent evolution, divergent evolution, and coevolution. I also passed back the amino acid sequence comparison lab and we discussed some common misconceptions amongst many students from that lab. I then collected the lab the students had done the previous week comparing vertebrate skeletons and we discussed adaptations that the students had written about from the Life video we had watched on Friday about reptiles and amphibians. After all of this was done, we finished watching the rest of the reptile and amphibian video.
Wednesday - On Wednesday, we reviewed for our test using a software program with remote controls where the students were given 32 multiple choice and true/false questions similar to questions on the test. This helped give the students a sense of what they needed to study, I hope!
Thursday - We took our evolution test on Thursday, although I was at jury duty sitting next to a 30-something year old gamer playing some sort of role-playing game on his iPad in the waiting room. From all reports, the test was a little too long. The last section was a fill-in-the-blank section, so what I'm going to do is count that section as extra credit for anyone who received an A or a B on it. That way those who ran out of time are not penalized for running out of time, while those who did not run out of time see the benefit from having done well on that section. In the end, I want the grade to reflect what the students knew, rather than how quickly they can answer questions on the test. I think this is a fair solution to that.
Friday - The students got the multiple choice portion of their evolution test back and went over it. Afterwards, we began our taxonomy unit with an activity called "Why Classify?" The assignment was to be completed over the weekend for homework.
Monday - I will be collecting the "Why Classify?" assignment first. Then the students will be taking notes from a lecture on the history of classifying organisms. After we finish taking notes, the students will be doing an activity where they will be using a dichotomous key to classify bacteria. If it is not finished in class, then they will have to complete it for homework.
Tuesday - We will do a couple of quick activities. One is called "Fun With Fictitious Animals," in which the students use the descriptions in a dichotomous key to try to determine the characteristics of various fictitious organisms. The idea is to demonstrate the importance of strong descriptors when classifying organisms. This will be followed up by an activity in which the students have to do some critical thinking to fill in missing information in a table used to classify various members of the primate order. Finally, the students will be trying their hands at classifying the organisms found at this site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/classifying-life.html
Wednesday - The students will finish taking notes on classifying organisms based on their evolutionary history, a branch of taxonomy referred to as phylogenetics. Afterwards, the students will be constructing a cladogram (a branching diagram that is used to classify organisms based on their presumed evolutionary histories). For those of you who might be interested, here is a pretty good explanation of how a cladogram is made: http://www.eeescience.utoledo.edu/faculty/dwyer/biodiversity/constructingcladograms.htm. The table at the bottom of the site is actually the one the students will be using to make their cladogram.
Thursday - We will review for our quest (smaller than a test, bigger than a quiz) on taxonomy.
Friday - The kids will be off due to a non-attendance day, so the quest will be on Monday!
Graba Geek of the Week
This week's Geek of the Week is Ben Norys. Ben has been working incredibly hard lately, coming in to meet with me on an almost daily basis, and it paid off for him on our last test! I was really proud of him for the hard work he put in to prepare himself.
Have a good week!