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Planning Your Introduction To Biology Unit 

tips for plaaning your introduction to biology unit

As summer is winding down It’s that time of the year again when you need to start planning your introduction to biology unit.  Regardless if this is your first year teaching or you are the veteran teacher of your department, chances are you are looking to make this year start off right and set the tone for the rest of the semester.

There are so many variables to consider that it can be a little overwhelming at times.  I know my district has made a few changes of late that definitely come into consideration when planning.  First off, we start our semester on a Wednesday (Monday and Tuesday of the first week are for planning and teacher meetings).  Most weeks we are on an A/B block schedule, but during that first week we get to see all our classes every day.  Do you have minimum days during the first week?  If so, that can also play into how much time you have with your students.

What works best for me is to use my planning book so I can get a sense of both a full month view and also a week-by-week view as I begin to fill in the dates.  From there I start to build out what I have done in the past and make changes based on what new ideas I want to try for the upcoming year.  Here is a quick recap of my introduction to biology unit.  Feel free to use them as a guide as you plan out your first few weeks of the semester.

Day 1 Of Class:

I am a big believer in the expression, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.”  You only get one first day each year so let’s make it count.   My main goal of day 1 is to get my students excited for day 2 and beyond.  So we keep the direct instruction to a minimum.  And while a lot of other teachers are using the first day to cover their syllabus, this isn’t my plan.  After I give a quick introduction about myself and a brief overview of the class I get my students learning about each other with our back to school BINGO activity.  The syllabus can wait a day.  Chances are reviewing your grading policy, discussing class rules, or starting your lectures for your introduction to biology unit isn’t going to get kids excited to come to class tomorrow.  So stand out from your peers, and make the first day of class memorable for your students.

Days 2 and 3 Activities:

As I mentioned above, we start our semester on a Wednesday.  So planning is guided for me by where I want to be heading into the weekend.  I use these next 2 days of class to cover a lot of the nuts and bolts.  We begin diving into our syllabus more in regards to what I will be expecting from my students (and what they can expect from me).  This is also where I share how we will be using our interactive notebooks for our lectures and classwork.  Most of my students have used an INB in a previous class, but every teacher is a little different in how they like to organize them.  This also lets me discuss where we have students items such as glue, colored pencils, and other items that they can access while setting boundaries for where if off limits for students (such as my desk and our lab storage areas).

My syllabus actually doesn’t take that long to cover and so day 2 is also when I introduce lab safety.  It’s not the most exciting topic, but it’s non-negotiable.  If you work in a larger school where you have multiple teachers teaching the same subject, I would recommend working together to design a comprehensive lab safety policy for your site.  This also comes in handy when counselors are moving students to balance classes during the first two weeks of the semester.  Day 2 ends with students taking home both their syllabus and safety contract to be signed by a parent or guardian.

Day 3 in my introduction to biology unit is reserved for students designing our lab safety posters and our lab safety quiz.  It’s a good way to end the week considering I have kept my direct instruction to a minimum and got my students out of their desks and working with their classmates on two of the three days during our week.  Getting my students to turn in their signed papers and completing our safety quiz (I make sure every student scores a 100% on this first assessment) gives me a few assignments to enter into our online gradebook as well. 

Week 2 Activities And Beyond: 

I start the second week of class by reviewing the process of graphing data.  Yes, even in high school, it’s my belief that you need to review this skill.  While students are familiar with graphing many students will need some help with setting up their axes and labeling their graphs.  I use my introduction to graphing worksheet as an in class activity to again get my students working together in small groups.  

I also review the metric system at the start of the second week.  This includes a brief lecture on the metric system, practice problems with my metric system worksheets, and a metric system lab that gives my students plenty of practice with weighing and measuring items that we have in our classroom.  In total, i set aside 3-4 hours of class time to review both graphing and the metric system.

metric system review worksheet

By this time my students have started to get into a routine in my class and we are ready to cover the last topic in our introduction to biology unit: the 5 step scientific method.  Regards  if you teach the scientific method in 5 steps or 7 steps, the process is generally the same.  Like with other lessons, getting your students involved in an active learning process versus just lecturing about the content will make a huge difference in your students’ understanding of the material.  

In my 5 tips for teaching the 5 step scientific method post I stress the importance of students getting to practice using the process. After our Powerpoint notes on the scientific method, I have my students complete a small group activity and chemical reaction lab (as a chance to reinforce the importance of lab safety that we covered just a few days earlier).  

By the end of week 2 or the start of week 3, we are ready to review all the material we have covered and get ready for our first unit exam.  Building confidence and trust early in the school year is important and spending a little extra time helping your students get ready for their first biology test can go a long way.  You may want more than one review activity to check for understanding and reteach any topics that students are still struggling with.

introduction to biology unit activities

Final Thoughts…

My introduction to biology units is one of my smaller units I cover during the semester, but it sets the tone for so much more.  Be sure to plan out your days so that your students are engaged and involved and it will pay dividends for the rest of the school year.

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