February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012

Hello everyone!  I wonder who else has a sore back after dealing with that wet, heavy snow Friday morning.  This is being written a a little bit late because today was my son's 9th birthday, so I didn't really have time to write it until after he went to bed!

Events of the Past Week


Tuesday - While I was at a Genetics Update Conference with my AP students learning about the way that genes control the development of the embryo and the development of cancer, your children were taking our first genetics quiz.  There were 15 multiple choice questions and one written question.  If you have checked your child's grades online, you will notice that the two parts of the quiz were entered as two separate grades.  It was simply a faster way for me to enter the grades, but will not change the way in which your child's grade is determined.  This is because grades are determined based on the total points earned divided by the total points possible. 

Homework on Tuesday was to read about the explorations of Alexander von Humboldt.

Wednesday - The students had their first day of counting and classifying their Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies).  This was a busy day for everyone, as I was moving around quickly from table to table putting out fires (not literally) and helping students with their classification of males and females.

Homework on Wednesday was to write approximately one page about a place that you like to explore, and what you look for when you explore there.  Some students interpreted this as a place they would like to explore, rather than a place that they do like to explore, which was fine.  It was a way for me to learn a little bit about each student on a personal level, and also to get the students doing some writing, which never hurts!

Thursday - We began class by learning about how blood type is inherited.  This was used to introduce two concepts:  multiple alleles (meaning there are more than two versions of a gene in the human population), and codominance (not to be confused with incomplete dominance).  If you want to help your child a little bit, you might ask them if they can explain the difference between incomplete dominance and codominance.  This will help them to review their notes a little bit as we approach the end of our unit. 

When we finished learning about multiple alleles and codominance, the students were given time to count their fruit flies again.

Homework on Thursday was to complete questions 1-7 on Problem Set 4.

Friday - Students were introduced to polygenic inheritance.  In this type of inheritance, one trait is determined by multiple pairs of genes.  Classic examples of traits that show this type of inheritance are skin color and eye color.  After we finished this, the students were given time to count and classify their flies. 

Homework was to complete problems 9 and 10 in Problem Set 4 (we are skipping number 8).  Anyone who finished counting their flies early on Friday got the opportunity to start their homework in class.  It was unbelievable how much better the students were doing at identifying flies by Friday.  Some of them have already gotten to the point that they can tell the difference between a male and female fruit fly without even looking at them underneath the dissecting microscope!

Marty works hard at classifying his fruit flies.

Nathan and Carson show what teamwork is supposed to look like!

Konstantin transfers some of his fruit flies to a baby food jar to be knocked out.

Walt and Emily work together to separate males from females.

Jennie and Katie show that working with fruit flies can be fun!

Michael and Amy transfer fruit flies to their counting tray.

Working hard to get the fruit flies separated before they start to wake up again!

Prerana, Jenna, Jimmy, and Justin all work together to get their flies knocked out.

Ellen and Christina have almost completed separating the flies from one of their vials.

Tomas is focused on the task at hand.

Sunny and Alex seen from the point of view of one of our lab tables!

Upcoming Events

Monday - Monday will be spent counting flies.  We will have plenty to count after a weekend away from them, so I anticipate this taking most of the class period.  There will be some time to work on some practice problems and answer any questions students may have about any of the problems we have done so far.  Homework will be to start reviewing for the second quiz we will have on genetics during this week.

Tuesday - The students will be introduced to the concept of epistasis.  We will look at coat color in labrador retrievers and in mice as our example for this type of inheritance.  The students will be learning, for example, why there are three different coat colors in labs.  After being introduced to this concept, the students will have time to count their flies.  Homework will be practice problems related to epistasis.

Wednesday - We will review the different types of inheritance we have learned since the last quiz in preparation for our quiz on Thursday.  With any time that is left, there will be time to count our first generation of fruit flies one last time.  After Wednesday, we will be getting rid of our first generation of flies.  The second generation should be ready next week!

Thursday - On Thursday, we will take our second genetics quiz.  There will be a reading assignment that follows the quiz.  Homework will be to finish the reading assignment.

Friday - Finally, on Friday, we will be looking at the inheritance of genes which are located on the same chromosome, which we call "linked genes."  This is probably the most difficult topic in our current unit, so please encourage your students to ask me questions if they have any after they are introduced to it.  Homework will be some practice problems related to linked genes.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's geek of the week is Will Helgren.  Will has been working extra hard during this unit, and it has paid off for him.  He earned one of the few perfect scores on our first quiz.  Way to go, Will!

Have a great week everyone!

February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012

Happy President's Day everyone.  This post is one day late.  Since we had a day off on Monday this week, I took the time I usually spend writing the blog on Sundays and spent it with my family instead.  Now that everyone is in bed on Monday night, let me share with you what happened last week and what is going to be happening next week!

Events of the Past Week

Monday - We started the week off with an unannounced lockdown drill which set my plans back 10 minutes first hour.  Since I didn't want all of my classes to be at different spots in the unit, all of them ended up getting pushed back by 10 minutes.  After the lockdown drill, we celebrated Darwin Day.  Charles Darwin was born on February 9, on the same day and in the same year as Abraham Lincoln.  The kids answered some Charles Darwin related trivia questions for some Blue Footed Booby prizes.  They were mostly lab safety pins or pens or pencils that I had laying around from hosting the regional science bowl competition at Fremd a few years ago. 

When we were done with our trivia, I collected Problem Sets 1 and 2, and took any questions the students had.  Afterwards, the students were introduced to traits being carried on the X chromosome, called sex-linked traits or X-linked traits, and assigned problems 1 and 2 in Problem Set 3.  Your children should be able to name 3 X-linked recessive traits, identify which gender is more likely to get an X-linked recessive trait, and tell you from whom a male inherits an X-linked recessive trait.

Tuesday - The students were given the opportunity to ask about questions 1 and 2 from Problem Set 3, and then were introduced to doing dihybrid crosses where one of the two traits being used is an X-linked recessive one. 

Once we did a couple of practice problems, the students were introduced to pedigrees, which are family trees using symbols.  One fun thing that we did with pedigrees was to take a look at Queen Victoria's family tree, and trace the fact that Queen Victoria was a carrier for hemophilia to the downfall of the Russian Royal Family and the rise of communism.  It all relates back to biology! 

For homework, the students were assigned to finish Problem Set 3.

Wednesday - My guess would be that you may have heard a little bit about what we did in class on Wednesday!  The students were taught how to identify a male and female fruit fly, as well as how to knock fruit flies out.  Then, they were assigned into lab groups, and each group had to knock out the flies I put into their vials for them.  They compared those flies to what are called wild type (normal) fruit flies, and determined what was different from normal about their flies.  Every group was able to tell me what was different about their flies, and correctly distinguish between male and female fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) by the end of the period.

Thursday - We were supposed to have a quiz on Thursday.  However, after grading Problem Sets 1 and 2, I did not feel that all of the students were prepared for the quiz.  Therefore, we did some reinforcement activities (extra problems) working in our fruit fly groups.  The idea was for those students who were absolutely getting it to help those who were struggling.  In addition, students had the opportunity to talk to me if they needed help, and I had the opportunity to talk to those students whom I was particularly concerned for about coming in for some extra help.  Homework was to finish the problems from the review packet that I had assigned as review for the quiz.

Friday - Due to the half period on Friday, the students did not take the quiz, as they would not have had time to complete it.  Instead, they did some review pedigree problems, which will also be on their quiz.  Homework was to study for their quiz that will be given on Tuesday.

Upcoming Events


Tuesday - The students will be taking their genetics quiz on Tuesday.  For some students, this will take the full class period.  For many, it will not, and there will be a reading for them to do when they are done with their quiz.  Homework will be to finish the reading.  I will be gone from class on Tuesday with a field trip with my AP Biology students.

Wednesday - We will spend the day on Wednesday with our flies.  This will be the first day of counting and classifying offspring based on gender and mutations for the students.  This data will be used by them to start to determine how their flies' mutations are inherited.  There will not be any homework on Wednesday night.

Thursday - Thursday will either be another day of counting or a day where the students are introduced to another type of inheritance referred to as codominance.  The example for codominance will be human blood types.  Homework will be to complete Problem Set 4 if the students are introduced to codominance.  If they are given a day for counting, then they will be introduced to codominance on Friday and Problem Set 4 will be homework over the weekend.

Friday - We will either be counting or learning about codominance on Friday.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week is awarded to Perry Christodolopolous, whose knowledge of history was on display as he helped to tell the story of Queen Victoria's family tree.  Thanks, Perry!  Have a great week everyone.

February 12, 2012

February 12, 2012

February 12, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! 

Events of the Past Week

Monday - I collected the students' labs on meiosis.  Afterwards, we learned about the differences between spermatogenesis (the formation of sperm) and oogenesis (the formation of eggs).  Following that, we took a look at what happens if mistakes are made during meiosis (called nondisjunction).  Homework was to study for our meiosis quiz.

Tuesday - Students took their meiosis quiz.  Afterwards, they were given a genetics vocabulary sheet, a genetics fact or fiction sheet, and a reading from Scienfitic American.  Homework was to complete the vocabulary sheet.  The fact or fiction sheet was completed in class, and the reading, titled "Go Ahead, Kiss Your Cousin" was for those who were interested in reading it.

Wednesday - My son was sick Tuesday night, so I stayed home with him on Wednesday.  The students watched a movie called "Ghost in Your Genes."  The movie was about the effect that the environment has on your genes, and many of the students found it quite interesting!

Thursday - We spent time going over our meiosis quiz.  Afterwards, I went over how to perform a monohybrid cross (those crosses involving just one trait) and a test cross.  This took some time, as I made sure to incorporate all of our vocabulary into the lesson to see who had studied the words and who had not. 

Following that, Problem Set 1 was handed out, and the assignment was to complete questions 1-7 for homework.

Friday - First, I introduced the students to incomplete dominance, where one trait is not dominant over the other.  Then, I showed the students how to complete dihybrid crosses, where they look at two traits being inherited at once, rather than just one. 

The students were then given a worksheet that reviewed chromosome numbers , since many of them struggled with that particular area of the quiz.  There was an opportunity to earn points back on the quiz tied to that assignment.  Afterwards, they were able to finish Problem Set 1, and get started on Problem Set 2.  Both problem sets are due on Monday.

Upcoming Events

Monday - We will be learning about sex-linked inheritance on Monday.  With this, we will be learning about traits that are carried on the X-chromosome such as red-green color blindness, hemophilia, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  It might be interesting for your kids to look into their family history and see which of their relatives (if any) are red-green color blind.  If there are any, they should notice a pattern about the gender of the people in their family who were or are color blind.

After learning about sex-linked traits, the students will be given time to work on Problem Set 3, which will be completed up through number 7 for homework.

Tuesday - The students will be introduced to pedigrees (family trees).  They will then complete a brief activity called "The Case of the Hooded Murderer"  We'll also take a look at Queen Victoria's pedigree and see how the fact that she was a carrier for hemophilia led to the Russian Revolution, the rise of Communism, and the Cold War!  The students usually think I'm a little geeky for drawing all of these connections, but it's also usually pretty fun for them and for me.  Afterwards, they will complete Problem Set 3 and begin an assignment called Human Pedigree Genetics.  The Human Pedigree Genetics worksheet will need to be completed for homework.

Wednesday - We will have our first genetics quiz on Wednesday.  The quiz will cover monohybrid and dihybrid crosses, incomplete dominance, test crosses, and sex-linked traits.  This will probably take most of the class period.

Thursday - My guess is that on Thursday the students will start identifying the mutations in their fruit flies and remove the parent flies from their vials.  If the flies aren't ready for us to do this yet, then we will listen to a song called "I'm My Own Grandpa" by Ray Stevens.  The students will then try to draw a pedigree based on the information in the song.  After that, I will introduce the students to a type of inheritance referred to as Multiple Alleles, as well as another type of inheritance called codominance.  They will then have time to begin working on Problem Set 4.

Friday - If the flies weren't ready on Thursday, then we will work with them on Friday.  If they were ready on Thursday, then we will listen to the song and do the other things I listed on Thursday.

Graba Geek of the Week

This week's Geek of the Week goes to Konstantin Schroeter, who has been volunteering consistently all year long, and also asked some very good questions that led to some great discussions during the first week of our genetics unit.  I look forward to answering a lot of questions during this unit, and hope that they keep coming! 

Have a great week, everyone!

February 5, 2012

February 5, 2012

February 5, 2012

What a Super Bowl game that was today!  The commercials were a little bit underwhelming, but it was an enjoyable experience for our family.  I hope everyone else enjoyed their day as well, whether or not you watched the Super Bowl.

Events of the Past Week

In an effort to save your time and mine, the events of the past week went almost exactly as planned.  The only deviation from the plan was that we had to finish our pop bead meiosis simulation on Friday, and the quiz on meiosis was pushed back until this Tuesday.  Many of the students told me that the simulation we did with playing cards on Friday really helped them in their understanding of meiosis.  The concepts of haploid, diploid, and homologous chromosomes were throwing several students for a loop, but many of them said that after the playing card activity they felt much better.  It is always great to get that kind of feedback (especially when it was unsolicited) from my students!

Upcoming Events

Monday - The students will be learning about spermatogenesis (the way in which sperm are formed) and oogenesis (the way in which eggs are formed) at the beginning of class.  When we finish that, we will take a look at some of the consequences that mistakes made during meiosis can have.  These consequences include children with Down's Syndrome and, like Rick Santorum's 3 year old daughter, trisomy 18.  I will not be discussing anything related to politics with the students other than to relate trisomy 18 to someone that many of them may be familiar with right now because he is running in the Republican primaries.  Homework will be to study for our quiz on meiosis on Tuesday.

Tuesday - We will begin class with a quiz on the topic of meiosis.  When the students complete the quiz, they will be given a vocabulary list of terms that will be important during our genetics unit.  They should bring their textbooks with them to class on Tuesday.  It is really important that they learn these terms quickly, as we will start using them right away during our unit.  Homework will be to complete the vocabulary worksheet.

Wednesday - The students will be introduced to monohybrid crosses, Punnett squares, test crosses, and incomplete dominance.  Homework will be to complete Genetics Problem Set 1, which has 10 problems related to those topics.  I will pick 5 of those 10 problems to grade at 2 points each.  One point will be for showing work, and the other for the answer.  No credit will be given for problems that have an answer with no work shown.

Thursday - I will collect Genetics Problem Set 1, and then introduce the students to dihybrid crosses (problems involving two traits).  They will then be given Genetics Problem Set 2, which will be due on Friday.

Friday - The students will be introduced to sex-linked inheritance and pedigrees (family trees).  We will try to pay close attention to patterns of inheritance with sex-linked traits.  The students will then be given problem set 3 for homework, which will be due on Monday. 

Graba Geek of the Week

This last week's geek of the week award goes to Hui Tian, who earned a perfect score on our biotechnology quiz.  This was Hui's best showing of the year so far and I was very proud of him.  Way to go, Hui!