What should you teach in the first couple of weeks of Biology?
I’ve started off the school year just about every way you can imagine. I even admitted in an earlier post that I’m guilty of having the students take turns reading through the syllabus on the first day of school. Ugh.
But, after several years of trial and error, I finally settled on a format that worked for me. I hope it works for you, too!
THe First Day
When school starts, I CANNOT wait to get to Biology content – I mean, it is the BEST SUBJECT EVER. So, on the first day I usually facilitate a short brainstorming session on living things and characteristics of life. Then, I like to up the “wow factor” by showing the 3-minute, un-narrated version of “The Inner Life of the Cell”. My students always love this video! And, I wrap up day one with an interactive ice breaker game.
For more details on my “First Day” plan, see this post: “The First Day of Biology Class: A Step-by-Step Guide”
The Next 2 Weeks
The lessons and activities I choose for the next several days are short and sweet. I only spend about a day or two on each one. This keeps class moving quickly, is less threatening to students since it’s mostly review, and allows plenty of time for you to learn names, establish relationships, and perform formative assessments that will help you with planning later.
Okay, here they are . . . the SIX TOPICS to cover in the first two weeks of Biology:
I start with the names and basic functions of common lab equipment because working in the lab is the hands-down favorite part of Biology for most students. I don’t get into details about lab procedures at this point. I like to cover those as they come up throughout the year.
It is always a good idea to do a quick overview of all the safety guidelines, maybe a quiz, and get signed safety contracts on file BEFORE any lab work is done. Flinn Scientific has time-saving quizzes and contracts available for FREE.
However, after that quick overview, I focus on just a few essential safety rules. For one thing, students can get overwhelmed with TMI. For another, if they follow what I call the “8 Essential Lab Rules”, 90% of problems that might arise in the Biology lab will be avoided. I prefer to save most of the detailed safety precautions for later, as they come up in the lab.
Yes, they should already know this. But, they don’t. Here in the U.S. we end up reteaching this every year because our students only use it in science class. Ugh. And here’s my two cents: If you aren’t using the metric system in YOUR daily life – in the kitchen, DIY projects, crafts, etc. – then this is a good time to start. You don’t want to be in the position of re-learning this yourself each year (been there).
If you’d like a FREE set of Metric System Review Qubes to really engage your students in your SI review, just click the orange button at the top of this post.
Again, high school students should be pretty familiar with this, but a quick review of the basic format and terminology, writing lab reports, formulating hypotheses, etc. is well worth the time. I always start with something simple like the classic plant/fertilizer experiment just to get them thinking about the process.
The biggest source of apprehension in Biology has got to be the HUGE new words. A little practice with a fun activity will really help alleviate macrologophobia or “big word fear”. See how I did that? 🙂
I have had SO much fun over the years letting students make up crazy words using science roots, prefixes and suffixes. They’re so creative and hilarious!
In my experience, graphing is the math skill that presents the biggest challenge to Biology students. Spend some time teaching your students how to create titles that are clear and detailed, labeling axes, setting scales, and all the other important graphing skills.
Back-to-School Review Goals
In my opinion, teaching these (mostly review) topics in the first two weeks of Biology will accomplish two important goals:
- Review content and skills your students will need to be successful in Biology
- Give you time to really get to know your students and assess their prior knowledge
I put together a Back-to-School Review Bundle for Biology & Life Science that I hope will make your teacher-life just a little easier! Just click on the image to take a look!
I hope you have a fantastic year in Biology. What do you teach in the first two weeks? I’d love to hear your ideas.