So the AS exam is over and now it’s back to work. In OCR the first topic in the new unit is all about Biological Molecules, one of the trickiest topics to do at AS as most students are now that into chemistry and all they want to do is study squishy stuff and not worry about the actual concepts that make biology tick. I honestly think that A Level Biology is a bit of a misnomer and really it’s an A Level in Biochemistry after all Biology is just applied chemistry (with slightly more colouring in).
As it was the Friday of the first week back and there were still some exams going on, I knew that I wasn’t going to have a full class but I wasn’t going to just cancel the lesson or let them sit around ‘revising’ for their next exam, so I decided to do a lesson recapping what they should know about biological molecules from GCSE and make sure they have their basic chemistry terminology down.
I used two ideas I got from the ASE Conference 2013 on an excellent session on promoting peer-to-peer talk, something that I am trying to develop more of in my lessons and since I wouldn’t have a full class it was a good way to trial new ideas.
Here is the PowerPoint I used
Slide 1 Some Pictures:
I asked the students what they thought all these pictures were about, most of them are pretty obvious and the saliva one got some interesting comments. It was interesting that most students knew that it was DNA in the picture but couldn’t remember Watson & Crick, so that was a nice opportunity to given them a quick précis of the discovery of the structure of DNA, which in April will have it’s 60th anniversary this is quite good to remind students that a lot of what we study in science is old stuff, DNA is still a (relatively) new thing.
Slide 2 Learning Objectives:
Just to tell them what the point of the lesson is (always a good idea)
Slide 3 Back to Back Task:
So this is idea number one from the ASEConf. The student get into pairs and one is given a list of key chemistry words. They have to get their partner to guess the work through their description of it using scientific terminology (no “It rhymes with bolecule”). One they’ve guessed all of them the guesser becomes the guessee with another set of words.
When they’ve all finished they write down their definitions of the key words. I chose the basic chemistry terms that I throw around a lot when teaching biological molecules so thought it would be a good idea for them to make sure they did know what I was going to be talking about. They need to be confident in their chemistry in order to do well.
Slide 5 Biological Molecules Task:
Working in pairs the students are given a fact sheet about one of the biological molecules, after reading it they need to summarise the information on an A3 sheet. They can only use four words but they can use as many symbols/pictures/abbreviations as they want. If your have some felt tips/coloured pencils around that might help as the food tests show colour change. I gave the students about 25mins to complete this task, some took to it very well, others found it tough. One student said it was impossible but once she started got into it and produced an excellent sheet on glucose which she was proud of. Once the time is up, take away the information sheets and then the students circulate and teach each other about their molecule using the A3 sheet and make notes.
Slide 6 Questions:
Once the students have finished teaching each other, get each group that did the same molecule to sit together and then they have to write 4 questions about their biological molecule. I collected in the questions and used them for the plenary. I rotated around the groups for every question and asked the group who wrote the questions if they were happy with the answer that the other groups gave.
So there you go; use, steal, adapt, ignore as you want. This took place in an hour lesson but really I could have had more time with the students making their A3 sheets.
Here’s some examples of what the classes produced, see if you can guess what they meant.