From dressing up as famous cell biologists to baking organismacally-correct cakes, high school science teacher Evan Cantu-Hertzler shares the multi-faceted way (and why) he teaches:

TeachJello_Cellers are by nature multitasking experts. They are required to be masterful at the delivery and buildup of content, while accommodating multiple personalities. Behind the scenes, many teachers are now pressured to produce high-test scores from their student or suffer a penalty. While the expectation for all students to achieve at a high level my not be realistic, teachers can provide opportunities for students to progress in their levels of understanding. A method that many teachers are now implementing relates to the idea of using and sequencing multiple teaching modes.

Robert Hook, discoverer of the cell, graced the classroom

Robert Hook, discoverer of the cell, graced the classroom one day.

During the first quarter, students in grades 7 and 8 learned about cell anatomy and cell theory. With a range of academic and age abilities, I sought to implement multiple modes of instruction to reach the range present in my class. To do this I made sure to include levels of gaining personal experience through observation and exploration, direct instruction and kinesthetic and creative projects.

In creating personal experience I had students observe and listen to “famous” guest speakers (in which I would dress up and act out the part), explore cells under microscopes, visualize images of cells, and work in difference sized groups; small, large and even individual. Students were then directly given class notes to copy key ideas and definitions. To sequence this appropriately students then completed creative tasks to practice applying their knowledge using the evidence they were given. Such as, writing a letter, making a small skit, song, dance or even advertisement. Additionally, students were given direct ways to practice such as matching definitions, making flashcards and doing readings.

3-D model of a cell (unfortunately, not one of the edible ones)

3-D model of a cell (unfortunately, not one of the edible ones)

I asked students to imagine the school, Monteverde, their family, or the country were a cell. Then they were asked to determine the organelles that allow these analogies of cells to function. This provided an opportunity for students to internalize the information and make sense of it on a more personal level, as well as to additionally push students away from a concrete understanding towards a more dynamic one.

To assess learning, students were given projects to create a 3D model of a cell and describe its anatomy and a definition of its function, and why they chose to illustrate specific organelles the way they did.

Throughout that first quarter students were given multiple modes of instruction that I believe allowed more of the class to engage with the complex concepts of the cell and that they walked away with a solid foundation for cellular biology because of it.