Biology EOC STAAR Review

It’s testing season. My husband and I teach tested subjects in Texas and we have both created reviews. The following blogpost is from my husband who is a Biology teacher:

How do you get ready for your state exams? This is not an easy task and do you really want to create all your own material? I asked myself this same question a few years ago. The thing is, I was the only Biology teacher on my campus, so I did not have much of a choice. I knew that I didn’t want to create a massive resource that I couldn’t use, so I decide to break it into the 5 Reporting Categories that the state of Texas uses to organize the material. This seemed much more manageable than thinking about every TEK individually. I looked at the released tests and noticed many questions that kept reappearing and what the readiness standards were. Even when the TEKS slightly changed a few years ago, there were no major changes needed in my review. I’m proud to say, that I’ve used my reviews going on 5 years now and other than a few minor tweaks here and there, it is still a great review and relevant now more than ever. Please take the time to look at each category and see if any of this is something that you can use. All 5 categories are sold in a bundle, but each individual category is sold on it’s own as well. If you are struggling to know what to use to help you students, I think you will find this material very helpful. My advice is that you reflect on your data and decide where you need to spend most of your time. Do you need to do whole class reviews, individual reviews through tutorials? Are you planning a camp? Get a picture of where you should put your efforts, then it’s time to decide the resources you will want to use.

Category 1: This is a Biology review for Category 1: Cell Structure and Function. It is aligned with standards for the Texas EOC, but can be used for any science class as a review for cells and cell processes. The critical thinking worksheet supports critical thinking with 2 versions- one with a word bank, one without. This is a good collaborative piece, partner work or individual assessment. Students enjoy coloring so, why not learn about organelles while doing it? While using manipulatives, students can demonstrate knowledge of similarities/differences of the two cell types (pro- and eukaryotes) by categorizing cell characteristics using cards.

Category 2: Students typically struggle with genetic inheritance and anything DNA. This package focuses on essential vocabulary and working Punnett squares. Get your students proficient with the language of genetics and protein synthesis! Below is is one of the pages of task cards that is available in this review.

Category 3: This item will help students become familiar with the hierarchy of classification. Students critically think about how to color the Kingdom chart based on characteristics. Next, they classify themselves and for this activity, I have them choose one additional organism for each taxon that is shared with humans.  Dear King Phillip Came Over For Good Soup!

Category 4: This set allows students to describe the interactions among systems focusing on regulation, nutrient absorption, reproduction and defense from injury/illness. Maintenance of homeostasis is featured as well as intensive investigation of the relationship between products and reactants of cellular respiration and photosynthesis.

Category 5: Ecology and energy flow review focuses on species interactions with each other and the ecosystem. The War Card Set will take on a life of its own. Most students know how to play war with cards but I noticed some groups would play an adaptation to Uno or they would make up their own game. Definitely make at least 4 sets and watch the creativity bloom!

I’ve added a new resource this year that I am excited to use. This idea came to me from playing a game at my daughter’s house. This activity breaks the monotony of worksheets and is competitive. Again, I broke it down by categories and I sell it as a bundle as well as individual categories. Your students will play a guessing game called “What am I?” Each student will get a chance to read the card where other students are guessing what the mystery word is. There are a total of 64 cards in the bundle. Copy, cut and go! Below, you will see a sample card:

Good luck this year and every year with testing season. It is exhausting, but you will get through it! Please let us hear from you if you have any questions about any of the resources.

STEM Activities in the Secondary Classroom

Teachers know the importance of incorporating science, technology, engineering and math. In today’s world, students need a set of skills for future jobs that we can’t even imagine, so we must give them a variety of experiences. My husband and I have several activities that we believe qualify as STEM activities. Our thought process is that any time you can get students to do math in a real-life situation, you are headed in the right direction. Throw in some collaboration and problem solving and you’ve got yourself an even better experience. Remember, technology does not always have to be digital. Any use of a tool could be technology, such as using tape measures or any measuring device. Technology can be as simple as collecting data. The activities that we have below are excellent and will provide your students with some valuable thinking and exploration.

Vitruvian Man

Vitruvius asserted that every structure must be strong, useful and beautiful. This assertion was one of many in his writings. He also made claims about the proportions of the human body. Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man was an attempt to take what Vitruvius claimed and capture it in a geometric drawing. This measurement lab gives the students a chance to learn some history, collect data, through measurement, set up some mathematical problems, collaborate and analyze. The students go through 6 stations to find the measurements they need, then it’s time to test the ratios to see if they prove or disprove Vitruvius. You’ll love the accountable talk and the thinking that takes place in this very interactive lab.

The Quadratic STEM Activity

This is a self-paced project where students learn how to take information and plug it into an excel sheet then produce a graph of the data. I like to use it as a project grade that will replace the lowest test grade during my quadratic unit, but this does not have to be used in math classes only. This activity has a health aspect and can be used in science, health classes or even a medical class. Students create data tables for male and female blood pressures and then they are asked to take their own blood pressure to see if the data seems accurate. The school nurse will usually take blood pressure if you ask him/her or they can get it done at the machine at their local drug store. The final part of the activity is to write a short report on the findings. Below you will see part of a page that is explaining how to get started in the excel sheet:

My advice to the teacher before assigning this project is to go through the excel sheet yourself first, so that you can answer any questions from the students. As a math teacher, I love showing students how to use excel to create a table. This can come in handy any time they want to take a data table and create a graph. This skill could come in handy when writing future reports in any class such as science or social studies.

Nutrition Label Project

Dr. H developed this project because in the past the Texas Biology EOC would contain an analysis question using a nutrition label. This project is based on information found in nutrition labels but it has the students using many scientific processing skills. They must interpret and compare quantitative data using nutrition labels from cereals that they have chosen to analyze and investigate. Some parts of the assignment requires drawing inferences from the data and constructing comparative graphs to visually communicate information they have gathered.  The final step of the project allows them to analyze and interpret the data into a written article explaining and defending their conclusions. As the students move through the assignments, you will notice the project becomes something they take ownership of and will have discussions with other students about their results. (HELLO CRITICAL THINKING!) They develop an understanding of that label on their food which they had never thought about before. Students will begin bringing you food labels and discussing ingredients or questioning if this food is good for them. The project is broken up into 4 parts that get increasingly complex and it builds confidence for many of your students. Dr. H says, “I assign this in the spring and, every year, I will get surprising work from a few students that kind of underachieved all year.”

Exponential Functions in Google Slides

This is a fun activity where students get to choose an exponential function situation and then work through the process of building a data table, graphing the situation, creating an equation and finally answering a question or two. The cool part is that your whole class is working in a google sheet all at the same time. I created this activity out of necessity one year when I was out of town. The students did the activity while I watched and helped them from my daughters house 2000 miles away. This activity is best for your Algebra 2 students. They need to have an understanding of exponential functions in order to be successful. An extension to this activity would be to allow your students to create their own exponential function activity. You would be amazed at what they can come up with!

I hope you are excited about these STEM activities. They are so much more fun and useful than the standard worksheet. It’s our job as teachers to answer the dreaded question, “When are we ever gonna use this in the real world?” I believe STEM activities are so important and will make you and your students feel satisfied about the work taking place in class.

Biology Supplemental Resources for Busy Science Teachers

Creating resources is a family affair at my house. My husband is a biology teacher and has been creating his own resources for a while now. For the past 7 years, he has been the lone biology teacher at his campus, so out of necessity he has to create most of his curriculum. He has decided to bundle all of his labs, activities and assessments into one bundle. So far this supplemental bundle contains 47 resources! The best part about his resources is that he uses every single one of them, so they are classroom tested. One thing that is amazing about selling resources on Teachers Pay Teachers is the ability to improve and add to your resources and this is a constant practice that both my husband and I believe is important. My husband’s description of this bundle is below:

This bundle contains resources I’ve created out of necessity over the years. It has always been my goal to make things fun/interesting but still contain the necessary learning objectives. When I create a resource, I ask myself “If I were a student, would I want to do this?”  I also enjoy watching my students doing the assignments. Actually, they have helped in the development of each resource by finding mistakes, letting me know if something is unclear or confusing and, just if they enjoyed doing it. There have been many times an English or Math teacher has come to me and said “When your kids come to my class they are still talking about what they did in Biology!”  Me: Yesss!

The 47 resources in this bundle can be broken in 4 categories. Out beside each one, I’ve listed how many of those types of resources are in the bundle.

  • Labs (8)
  • Assessments (9)
  • Units (2)
  • Lesson/Activities (28)

Lab Spotlight

The biomolecules analysis lab probably has been through the most research and development in my classroom. It was given the name “Goop Lab” by students at some point. While it requires considerable prep and materials, the students get a real understanding of which foods contain which nutrients. It clears up misconceptions about food and creates a lot of discussion opportunities—especially when students compare their predictions to the actual results. If you are only interested in labs, I do have a lab bundle that contains my 8 lab resources or you can buy each individual lab in my store.

Assessments

These tests have all been written to follow the activities and labs included in this bundle. One of the most difficult concepts year after year is cell processes. Many students struggle learning things they cannot see. I’m thinking about the Cell Processes test over DNA, Mitosis and Protein Synthesis. I chose images for that test similar to what students will likely see on a state assessment. For a better understanding of cell processes, it is important they can tie the vocabulary to the image.

I’m not big on giving long tests or quizzes. Tests take up time and I like them to be concise and to the point. It is important to me to make sure they cover the objectives, but I never go overboard on giving long tests. Most of mine are 20 questions or less except for the semester exams. If you are only interested in a test bundle, see below (and all my tests are sold individually as well).

Units

I chose two topics to offer as an entire unit: Enzymes and Energy Transfer (cellular respiration + photosynthesis.) These objectives are heavily emphasized on state assessments and, of course, among the most difficult concepts for students to master. Again it is “cell processes” which is something a student cannot see but must understand. I have had good success in my urban-setting classes with each of these.

This unit contains presentations over photosynthesis and cellular respiration with presentation notes for the teacher. Students will be able to take notes from these presentations in their interactive notebooks. There are worksheets over both photosynthesis and cellular respiration. Matching cards are available for an extra activity to help clarify the information. This unit also contains a yeast lab and a 20-question assessment. Answer keys for all worksheets, matching cards and tests are included.

Activities/Lessons

Twenty-eight items is (conveniently) about the number of weeks you have in school that you are not interrupted by testing/field trips/other, etc… Kidding aside, these are all learning-objective-driven and have been developed over several years with much student input. Many of these are matching card activities that have been particularly successful. I keep matching cards out all year and I will routinely use them to fill the last 15-20 minutes of a class. The students will say “we’ve already done these!” Then I say “Okay, prove to me that you learned it!” Repetition is important to achieving mastery!

If you are a Texas teacher, the one thing not included in this supplemental bundle is all of my EOC review resources. These resources are very popular in my store. The most popular item is the bundle that contains reviews for all 5 categories plus has some bonus material. I’ve recently made a new item for reviewing the EOC’s that could be used in any biology classroom no matter where you teach. It came to me when I was playing a game with my family. I titled this activity, “What am I?” A student reads a clue while other students guess what the answer is. More clues are given until the students eventually get the answer. What a great way to review that’s fun and interactive.

Thanks for taking the time to check out all of this information. Teaching is a time consuming career. My hope is that I can save other teachers time and energy by providing them quality lessons and activities. I’d like to leave you with a freebie from my store as a thank you! Get your FREEBIE HERE: Genetics Practice Problem- Dihybrid Crosses

If you are interested in checking out my supplemental bundle in my store click here: Biology Curriculum Supplement: Bundle

Quadrilateral Unit

Quadrilaterals are a big topic in geometry. There are so many things to know that it tends to get confusing for students. Students have misconceptions from their middle school math classes that are hard to overcome such as that a square is a square and only a square. A square is no way, no how a RECTANGLE! OH My!

I created a quadrilateral unit where I begin with a card sort activity. The cards have different shapes on them and the students are asked to separate them into parallelograms, trapezoids and other major shapes. This year, I decided that they should have a “for sure” pile and also make a “not sure” pile. I love listening to the conversations. Below is a pic of some slides I show:

The next thing that I like to do is discuss the Venn Diagram for Quadrilaterals. For some students, this is a breeze but for others, they are totally confused on why I’m using ovals in a diagram to represent groups of quadrilaterals. It’s best to make sure your students remember what a Venn Diagram is. I like to give an example of a region with math students overlapping a region of biology students to show that the overlap means all students taking both math and biology. Look at the Venn Diagram below. Can you figure out what quadrilaterals go in each region? Can some go in more than one spot?

This unit is the best place to use always, sometimes and never questions and if the students understand the Venn Diagram, then the always, sometimes and never questions are pretty obvious. It’s also a good time to talk about what does opposite and consecutive mean? Many of the definitions and properties use this terminology, so I spend time helping them understand where opposite sides and angles are versus consecutive sides and angles.

I like to get the kite and trapezoid out of the way first, so I can spend most of my time on the parallelograms. Students are not familiar with the kite, so this is usually a brand new topic for them. They think they know what a kite is but usually they are getting a rhombus confused with a kite. Each time I present a new quadrilateral, I give the definition and then we try to find other things that are always true about the shape. This is cool, because you get to talk about the diagonals and how they create congruent triangles. I also try to put proofs into the lesson as much as possible.

During the trapezoid part of the lesson, there is a discussion on isosceles trapezoids, midsegments of triangles and medians of trapezoids. A good reminder at this time is how trapezoids are related to parallel lines cut by a transversal, so that they can understand that there are some same side interiors that will be supplementary. Again, there is so much information, that its hard to know when to stop. Trapezoids could be a two week lesson if you let it, but I keep it to two pages. After the trapezoid lesson and the kite lesson, I give the students some practice on finding various parts of the shapes.

The rest of this unit is spent on parallelograms. Each time that I get to a new shape, I call it a “Parallelogram Study” or “Rectangle Study” etc. I let the students work through the definitions, properties and proofs. The other aspect of this lesson is discussing the coverses of the definitions and properties. This helps the students realize that if you see a shape and you are not sure what it is, then what is the least information you need to decide it is a rectangle for example.

The lesson concludes with practice on the parallelograms. There is a page of work where some major algebra topics are practiced. For instance, there is a rectangle problem where the students have to set up and solve a system. There is a rhombus problem where the students have to solve a quadratic. There is a square where the students find the length of the diagonal using the variable “s” for a side. This problem is a lead up to 45-45-90 triangles. I usually have to help the students with this whole page, but I don’t mind. Since I’m an Algebra II teacher as well, I like my geometry students to see as much algebra as time allows.

There is a set of task cards that act as a review for the Quadrilateral Test at the end of the unit. The test is only two pages long, but it is pretty involved. There is a major problem where the students have to find quite a few things. The picture of the problem is seen below:

Finally, there is another quick assessment that I use as a retest. All answer keys are included. It usually takes me about two weeks to get through all the work plus a couple of extra days to review and take the test. I love this unit. The information is extensive and I love how it hits on previous geometry and algebra topics. If you are interested, please check it out in my store. Click the pic below to go see the Quadrilateral Unit. If you would like to read more about my geometry curriculum, I have a blog post that you can read here: Geometry Curriculum for the Year.