October 30, 2011

October 30, 2011

October 30, 2011

Happy Halloween, everyone!  We had a really busy week in class this week.  The campaign projects turned out great!  There are some really creative students in my classes this year!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - Monday was our first day of presentations.  The first 10-15 minutes of class were spent passing out flyers and campaign extras to try and earn people's votes!  Then we began presentations on each organelle.  We made it through about six presentations in each class.  Obviously, I underestimated how long the presentations would take, so plans had to be adjusted for the rest of the week.  Most of the presentations were very strong both factually and creatively.  The groups did an outstanding job learning the functions of their individual organelles.

Tuesday - Tuesday the last 7-8 groups gave their presentations.  This took the full class period in most classes.  For those that it didn't take all period, the students were able to move around the room and look at everyone's campaign flyers and smear campaigns.  There were some excellent smears against organelles such as the nucleus (i.e. "Do you really want a control freak telling you what to do?" and "Just another in a long line of dictators").

Wednesday - On Wednesday I was at the administrative building working with a group of Fremd teachers looking at ACT data and enrollment in accelerated and AP class data.  As a result, the students were given a lot of review material to work through.  There was a matching review sheet, a crossword puzzle, a short answer and multiple choice review sheet, cell diagrams to label, and Venn diagrams to complete comparing plant and animal cells as well as prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.  My student intern in fifth hour ran a flyswatter review game.  If you have a child in my 5th hour class, you can ask them to explain how the review worked.  Most of the kids really liked it!

Thursday - We began class by voting on the most important organelle in the cell.  There was a poll on my website for each class to use to vote.  The students were allowed two votes.  One was a vote for their own organelle, and the other was a vote for somebody else's organelle.  The winners were:

1st Hour - The Ribosome - Matt Cheng and Nathan Cornwell
2nd Hour - The Vacuole - Gina Pfister and Reilly Siepka
3rd Hour - The Mitochondria - Will Lefevre and John Thiel
5th Hour - The Lysosome - Elizabeth Chick and Dan Pinderski

Particularly impressive from that list of winners were the vacuole and the lysosome.  The vacuole simply stores water and nutrients, so to convince people to vote for them, Gina and Reilly did an outstanding job on their project.  Also, the lysosome was smeared by almost every group because it destroys worn out organelles.  It can also rupture and destroy the entire cell.  This, of course, made it an easy target, but Elizabeth and Dan did a great job of convincing people to vote for them. 

After voting was completed, we took time to look at each review activity the students had completed the day before, and I answered any questions that they had about the review activities or organelles in general.

Friday - This was quiz day.  I was anxious to see how the students would do after the project.  Since this was the first time doing the project, I wasn't sure whether or not it was going to be an effective way for them to learn the material until there was actually some proof.  I had the sense that they had learned the organelle functions well, and they seemed to enjoy the project, but the proof would be in the pudding.  The class averages on the quiz were:

1st Hour - 23.4 out of 25
2nd Hour - 22.8 out of 25
3rd Hour - 23.1 out of 25
5th Hour - 23 out of 25

The quiz itself was 50 multiple choice and matching questions about the cell organelles, plant and animal cells, and prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.  Each question was worth half of a point.  The results show that most students only missed around four questions out of fifty, which I consider to be outstanding.  As a result, this is a project that will probably be continued in the future.

After everyone was finished with the quiz, we began one of several lab experiments we will be doing to investigate how materials move into and out of cells.  The lab we began will be completed over several days.  Day one involved measuring 150 mL of vinegar, taking the mass of an egg, placing the egg in a plastic cup, and pouring the vinegar over the egg.  The eggs will sit in the plastic cup over the weekend, and we will come back to look at them on Monday.  Does anyone know what will happen to the egg while it sits in the vinegar? 

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will take our eggs out of their cups and take their mass.  We will also measure the amount of vinegar remaining in the cup, then rinse the cups, put the eggs back into the cups, and add 150 mL of deionized water to them.  When this is completed (it should take about 10-15 minutes), we will begin our next activity.

One activity we did not get to before the quiz that I would still like to have the students do is look at plant and animal cells underneath the microscope.  They will look at cheek cells, onion skin cells, and elodea (a green aquatic plant sold as Anachris in pet stores).  They should be able to observe plasma membranes, nuclei, nucleoli, cell walls, chloroplasts, and central vacuoles in this lab.  This will be what we do after the egg lab at the beginning of class.

Tuesday - We will again begin class by taking the mass of our eggs and measuring the amount of deionized water left in the cups.  Then we will put the eggs back in the cups and add 150 mL of corn syrup to the cups.

After setting this portion of the lab up, we will first finish looking at the onion and elodea.  Then I will begin lecturing to the students about the structure of the plasma membrane, diffusion, osmosis, and facilitated diffusion.  If there is time, I will do a demonstration with ammonium hydroxide, water, and phenolphthalein (an indicator that turns pink in the presence of a base). 

Wednesday - The final day of our egg lab will involve carefully drying the outside of the egg, taking its mass, and measuring the amount of corn syrup in the plastic cup.  Students will complete the questions in the lab for homework.

Once this is complete, I will finish lecturing on passive transport and active transport. 
Then the students will be looking at red onion cells under the microscope, first in deionized water, then with salt water added to them.  The idea will be to look to see what happens to the central vacuole when the salt water is added.  Students should notice it shrinks as the cell loses water.

Thursday - We will be doing a lab activity with a selectively permeable plastic bag that allows some materials to pass through it but not others.  Small particles can pass through microscopic pores in the bag, while larger particles cannot.  The students will be putting a solution of egg white, starch, and glucose into the bags.  The bags will then be put in a beaker containing deionized water and let sit for about 15-20 minutes. 
After 15-20 minutes of the bags sitting in the water, the students will test the contents of the solution in the beaker to see which nutrients were able to pass out of the bag, and which were not.  They will run a benedict's test, a biuret test, and an iodine test on the contents of the beaker.  It is always interesting to see who retains the information learned about these indicator tests during our biochemistry unit.  Students should note that the glucose was able to pass out of the bag (because it is small enough), while the protein and starch were not able to pass out of the bag (because they are too big).  They should also see that iodine enters the bag and causes the solution in the bag to turn purple as it reacts with the starch still in the bag.

Students will complete the questions in the lab experiments with the selectively permeable bags and the red onions.  They will also observe two sets of vegetables that will have been soaked overnight.  One will have been soaking in salt water, and the other in deionized water.  The salt water vegetables should be very flimsy, while the deionized water vegetables will be extremely crisp.  Your children should be able to explain why that is the case when they come home from school.  I will then lecture on the topic of active transport.  When that is completed, the students will be given a review packet on the topics of passive and active transport.

Friday - Students will be given a short, 10 question quiz on the topics of the structure of the cell membrane, passive transport, and active transport.  After completing this activity, we will review everything we learned during our cell unit. 

There will be long pieces of butcher paper on each lab table.  Each piece of paper will have a different heading on it.  The headings will be Cell Theory, Prokarytic Cells, Eukaryotic Cells, Plant Cells, Animal Cells, Passive Transport, and Active Transport.  At each station will be colored pencils, and the students will be given 1 minute at each lab station to write down anything that they can think of about the topic on the paper.  They will then move from table to table doing the same thing on each piece of paper.  As they move, they can correct any mistakes they think they notice and add new material that they think is missing.  Finally, students will be given 1-2 minutes at each station to go back around and look at each sheet again and see what was added after they left the station.  We will then talk about what they observed and I will answer any questions that they have.  Right now, the test on this unit is planned for Monday, November 7th.

Graba Geek of the Week

The Geek of the Week goes to the students whom I thought had the most creative and factually accurate smear campaigns.  Ryan Moran and Matt Nicholson did an outstanding job with their smears, and for that, they have earned the Graba Geek of the Week.  Congratulations, guys, and congratulations to all of my students who did an outstanding job with their projects.  I was really impressed with the work that was done by these kids.  The t-shirts, stickers, buttons, posters, websites, facebook pages, twitter accounts, food, and many other things that were created were really well done!

October 23, 2011

October 23, 2011

October 23, 2011

Happy Mole Day!  The mole is an important number to chemists, and it is equal to 6.02 x 10^23; hence, October 23 is Mole Day.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - Monday was a day to finish measuring objects under the microscope.  I added to objects for the students to measure in order to give them more practice.  Afterwards, we spent a great deal of time reviewing for the test we took on Tuesday and Wednesday.  This included reviewing the many things we had learned about the microscope. 

Tuesday - We only had 37 minute periods on Tuesday, so I split up the test over two days to make sure that everyone had enough time to take both parts (the written and the multiple choice) of the test.  We took the written portion on Tuesday because the class periods were longer on Tuesday than they were on Wednesday.  Most students finished early.  When everyone was done, the students were given the remaining time to work on their cell organelle campaigns.

Wednesday - Due to College Night we had only 28 minutes in each class period.  Most students completed the multiple choice part of the test early.  Students were given a reading on the cell theory, with 6 questions to answer at the end of it. Many completed the assignment in class, but a few had to finish for homework.

Thursday - The students began Thursday by taking notes on the similarities and differences between plant and animal cells, as well as prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.  Feel free to use their notes to quiz them on the similarities and differences between the different types of cells!  That took about 15 minutes, and once I was done lecturing to them they had the rest of the time to work on their campaigns.

Friday - We began class by looking at the results of the test the students took on Tuesday and Wednesday on graphing, the metric system, scientific notation, and the microscope.  I answered any questions the students had about anything they got wrong, and then the students had time to work on their campaigns.  A lot of campaigning began on on Friday, as stickers and business cards were handed out, and posters were hung all over the room!  It is quite a colorful place right now!

Upcoming Events

Monday - Monday is the big day for students to present their campaigns to the class!  Each time will have 3 minutes to try to convince the class to vote for their organelle as the most important organelle.  I've seen some really clever slogans, posters, and smear campaigns.  I can't wait to see what they are able to come up with for their presentations!  The students posters will be hung in the hallway outside of the classroom after school.

Tuesday - If we have to finish any presentations, we will do that first on Tuesday.  Then, we will be looking at various plant and animal cells under the microscope.  We will look at a water plant called Elodea, the skin of a yellow onion, and cheek cells which the students will obtain from the inside of their own mouths.  Don't worry, nobody will be hurt in this endeavour!

Wednesday - We will finish our plant and animal cell labs if need be.  Then, we will review for our quiz on cell organelles, prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, plant and animal cells, and the cell theory, which will be on Friday.

Thursday - Class will begin with voting for the most important organelle in the class.  I wanted to give the students time to check out people's campaign materials, whether it be a brochure, flyer, sticker, webpage, facebook page, twitter account, video, or anything else that was produced.  There will be a little extra credit for the organelle that wins the election, but I don't want to make the vote worth actual points toward the final grade.  The reason is that sometimes these can become popularity contests, and I don't want a student's grade to be impacted if they are not the most popular person in class.

When the voting is completed there will be a review sheet for the students to complete in order to help prepare for the Friday quiz.

Friday - This is the final day of first quarter!  It's hard to believe how quickly the school year is going.  There will be a 50 question, 25 point matching and multiple choice test on everything from our cell unit so far.  This will probably not take the full period.  Once everyone is done with the quiz we will probably be taking a look at our first quarter grades.

Graba Geek of the Week

We have co-geeks of the week this week, as one lab team from my first period and one from my second period class went above and beyond with their campaign project.  Michael Pautler and Katie Zara came in before school on Friday with their completed poster and multiple copies of their flyers to post on the board to surprise people when they came into class.  The posters were very clever, colorful, and definitely got a reaction from the class.  Here is one of them:

In my second period class, Evan Wieczorek and Aditya Deshpande were bringing in campaign materials as early as Thursday to hand out to the class.  They had made up stickers and very colorful flyers for the lysosome.  Many people were wearing their campaign stickers and their flyers were all over the classroom.  The work done by these two groups so far has been impressive, as has the work I have seen from many other groups.  I'm very excited to see what comes to class tomorrow!

October 16, 2011

October 16, 2011

October 16, 2011

Events of the Past Week


Tuesday - We learned how to properly use the microscope through a peer teaching lab.  Included in the lab was the proper way to calculate total magnification, the parts of the microscope, how to focus on an object, how to prepare a wet mount, and how to put the microscope away.

Wednesday - Due to testing, this day was shortend significantly.  We began to look at objects under the microscope, including Drosophila melanogaster, Paramecium, human blood, frog blood, and blood with sickle-cell anemia.

Thursday - We finished looking for objects under the microscope.  The students found Euglena as well as potato cells underneath the microscope.

Friday - We looked at money underneath the microscope.  The students found it very interesting to find many different details on the five dollar bill that they had not noticed before.  We also began measuring objects underneath the microscope in this lab.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will finish measuring objects under the microscope, and then review for our test on graphing, metrics, scientific notation, and the microscope.  This will include looking at the review sheet students were given on Friday.

Tuesday - Students will take the short answer portion of our test.  This day is shortened due to a late start. 

Wednesday - We will take the multiple choice portion of the test.  This day is also shortened due to college night.

Thursday - Students will be given a day to work on their cell organelle campaign project.  They should bring anything they need to work on this day.  Homework will be to complete an assignment comparing and contrasting the difference between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.

Friday - We will be looking at the difference between plant and animal cells under the microscope. 

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Nathan Cornwell.  Nathan earned a perfect score on our biochemistry test, and also brought in a microchip to look at under the stereoscope.  It was very interesting to see the details of his chip underneath the microscope.  Congratulations, Nathan!

October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011

Happy Columbus Day, everyone!  Enjoy the beautiful Indian Summer we're having right now, because it sounds like Chicago is supposed to have a rough winter.

Events of the Past Week

Monday -  We started the week by learning how to use Microsoft Excel to create graphs.  This was new for several students, as was e-mailing the partially completed assignment to themselves.  Most students have a pretty good graphing foundation, so it was good to be able to teach them how to use technology to create those same graphs for them.  We also learned how to use the slope of a line in a graph to make predictions and draw conclusions about the data that has been gathered.  It was fun to see the light bulb go off in students' brains as they finally saw a point to all the slope calculating they have been doing in their math classes!

Tuesday - The graphs the students created were collected on Tuesday.  One issue we had was that several students came up to me at the beginning of class to tell me they couldn't use Excel at home, or their printer wasn't working, or that they had other problems with the technology at home.  I understand that those problems do happen, but I need to be made aware of the problem before class starts, either via e-mail (if the computer is working but Excel is not), or by stopping in to the science office before school starts.  Otherwise, I do not know that a student isn't just trying to cover up the fact that they simply did not do their homework.  I let the students know this, as well.

After collecting the graphs, the students were introduced to metric prefixes they will use in class or that they will see in their lives outside of class.  The students are expected to know:  tera, giga, mega, kilo, hecto, deka, deci, centi, milli, micro, and nano.  After a brief review of the metric system, we began a lab where the students measured the length, volume, and mass of various objects using the metric system.  They then converted their measurements to other units in the metric system and answered a few questions about the metric system when they finished.  Most students did not finish all of their measurements in class due to shortened class periods because it was a late start day.

Wednesday - On Wednesday, students worked on two different metric conversion worksheets.  After completing each worksheet, they checked their answers to the sheets with answer keys that were provided for them.

Thursday - On Thursday, we completed the metric system lab.  Afterwards, the students were given an activity that reviewed using scientific notation with them.  They were asked to convert standard notation to scientific notation, and scientific notation to standard notation.  They were also asked to multiply and divide in scientific notation, convert from one metric unit to another in scientific notation, and then given some problems that had them apply what they learned about multiplying and dividing in scientific notation.  Homework was to complete any problems in the activity that they did not finish in class.

Friday - Class began by checking the homework from the previous night, and then I answered any questions the students had about the homework.  There were not too many questions that had to be answered.

After checking our homework, everyone got to work on an online activity that had the students learning about the history of the microscope.  There is a link to the document on my website, www.mrgraba.net, which the students can access if they forgot their worksheet at school.  The worksheet is located under the Accelerated Biology --> Worksheets and Presentations link on the website.

Upcoming Events

Monday - Monday will begin with the students being given a cooperative group project.  Each student at the lab table will be responsible for teaching the other people at the table about one important technique for the proper use of a microscope.  One person will be responsible for teaching how to calculate total magnification and the parts of the microscope.  One person will be responsible for teaching how to find objects under the microscope.  A third person will teach the other members of the group how to create a wet mount properly.  The final person will be responsible for teaching how to properly clean the lenses on the microscope and how to properly put the microscope away.  Each individual will be given instructions for how to do the things they are responsible for teaching, as well as a little bit of time to practice before they teach.

Tuesday - We will finish teaching each other about the proper use of the microscope.  Afterwards, we will look at various prepared slides and wet mounts under the microscope for a little bit of practice using the microscope.

Wednesday - This is a late start day due to testing.  On this shortened day, we will be finishing looking at the materials we began looking at on Tuesday.  Afterwards, I have a new lab to try where we will be looking at money under the microscope.  It will hopefully really catch the interest of the students in class!

Thursday - We will finish looking at money under the microscope, then begin learning how to measure the size of objects under the microscope with our fourth and final introduction to the microscope lab. 

Friday - We will finish measuring with the microscope, and then the students will be given a review sheet on graphing, the metric system, scientific notation, and the microscope.  The answer key to the review sheet is posted on my website.  This way, after they complete the review sheet, the students can check their work over the weekend.  The test on this unit will be on Monday.

October 2, 2011

October 2, 2011

October 2, 2011

It's hard to believe October is already here!  I hope all of the kids had a safe and fun Homecoming weekend.

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We reviewed for our test on biochemistry on Wednesday.  First, the students were given an opportunity to ask questions regarding the lab experiment we did on Thursday and Friday of the previous week.  Then they completed a graphic organizer that helped them go through their notes and put think about all of the information they had learned about carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.  Finally, they were given a graphic organizer for each different type of biomolecule (carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids) that we learned about.  Homework was to complete those graphic organizers.  This again was a way to get them thinking about the information they had in their notes on that information.

Tuesday - I handed back to the students their labs that they had turned in on Monday, and we discussed some of the topics that were commonly misunderstood.  Students were then given the opportunity to ask questions if they had them about the lab.

After going over the lab, we played a review game with remote control clickers.  There were several multiple choice questions that were timed and similar in difficulty level to the questions that would be on the test.

I made the students aware that all of the topics from our quiz, as well as the topics of carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids would be covered on the exam in 60 multiple choice questions.

Wednesday - Students took the biochemistry test.  There was no homework, as I felt that they had worked extremely hard over the past few days to prepare for their test.

Thursday - On Thursday, I was home with a sick kid, so the students watched a movie in class called "Deep Forest: Monsters of the Jungle".  This showed how science is working even now to make new discoveries in a way that really catches the kids' interest!

Friday - We began class by finishing the movie.  I don't always do that, but with this video, it was definitely worth the extra 7 minutes of class time to finish.  When the movie was over, we reviewed the results from the exam.  I was very impressed by how well most students did on the test!

Upcoming Events

Monday - Monday we are going to review some of the rules of graphing, and learn how to use Excel to create graphs.  There will be 4 graphs that need to be completed, along with questions to answer using the completed graphs.  Any graphs that are not finished will have to be finished for homework.

Tuesday - We are going to be doing a lab on the metric system after I collect and review the graphing homework.  I will do a very quick review of the units of the metric system and how to convert from one unit to another before we get started on the lab.

Wednesday - Wednesday will be spent practicing metric conversions and possibly beginning a review of scientific notation.

Thursday - On Thursday, I will review quickly with the students how to write numbers in scientific notation, and we will practice converting numbers into scientific notation.

Friday - We will begin reviewing how to use the microscope with a peer teaching lab.  The students will be in groups of 4, and each student will have a different job related to the proper use and care of the microscope that they will practice, and then be responsible for teaching to their classmate.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Soumyaa Mazumder.  Soumyaa earned a perfect score on the biochemistry test this week.  That means she got 60 questions correct on the topics of chemistry and biochemistry, which is really impressive!  In addition, Soumyaa was informed this last week that she was accepted into the medical internship program through Northwest Memorial Hospital.  Way to go, Soumyaa!