The Organization of Life - From Organelles to Organism

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SWBAT describe the impact of mitochondrial mutation on the levels of organization (organelle, etc.) in humans.

Big Idea

By investigating the impact of mitochondrial disease on cells, students discover why cells matter.


5 minutes

Prior to this lesson students have studied cell theory and cellular structure and function, including prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.


To measure background knowledge students fill out a bridge map which correlates mitochondria to a furnace, with the relating factor being provides energy.  After students fill out their bridge map they share it with their elbow partner and explain their rationale.


10 minutes

The purpose of this part of lesson is to elicit students' prior knowledge on cell theory, specifically that cells are the basic building block of living things.  

Levels of Organization

To assess prior knowledge I show students the picture above and ask them to write down at least five observations and to come up with a title for the picture.  Students are then instructed to share their five observations and picture title with three people in the room, using the "Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up" collaborative strategy.  

In this strategy:

1) Students walk around the room while I play music

2) Once I stop the music they raise their hand and give a high five to the nearest person.

3) Students proceed to share their responses (depending on maturity of students I might have to "choose" who shares first, for example, "Student with the closest birthday to today goes first."

4) Repeat process two more times until all students have shared with three classmates.

I follow this collaborative group activity by having at least three students share their title/observations and that of the students they paired up. I write these down on the SMARTBoard and guide students to see if their are any patterns or commonalities. Expected observation is that students see that there is hierarchy in the organization from atom to organism.  

I follow this activity by revisiting a video we saw during an earlier lesson. The purpose of the video is for students to see an animation showing these levels of organization. 


10 minutes

The purpose of this section of lesson is for students to have a discussion on how a series of vocabulary cards should be organized into a flow map.  This activity allows me to asses any possible misconceptions students might have on levels of organization.

Flow Map

Students are given an envelope with flow map cards (organelle, cell, tissue, organ, organ system, organism) that students are instructed to arrange.  Students complete this activity in pairs and have a partner discussion until they both agree on the correct placement of cards.  It's important that you walk around to assess any misconceptions and probe students for their thinking related to card placement.  

Students are instructed to leave their flow map intact as we proceed to the explain part of the lesson.


10 minutes

The purpose of this section of the lesson is for students to gain a deeper understanding of levels of organization and to elicit and clarify any student misconceptions.

Student Research

By using the CK-12 Organization of the Human Body website, students are taken on an amazing journey inside a living human body.

They then proceed to read and watch additional videos, on the same website, about levels of organization. The site covers specific topics, such as cells/issues, organs, and organ systems which are needed to develop an understanding of the levels of organization.

To check for understanding students answer the following questions:  

1. What are the levels of organization of the human body?

2. Which type of tissue covers the surface of the body?

3. What are the functions of the skeletal system?

4. Which organ system supports the body and allows it to move?

5. Explain how form and function are related in human cells. Include examples.

6. Compare and contrast epithelial and muscle tissues.


Formative Assessment

To finish this part of lesson I have students revisit their flow map and ask them to see if they need to make any changes to it based on what they have learned from their research. 


10 minutes

In this section of lesson students develop a deeper and broader understanding of levels of organization using close reading to analyze an article, told from the first person perspective, that also connects to the levels of organization.

Close Reading

In this section students complete a close reading of The Invisible Disease That's Killing Our Son, an article that discusses the cause and effect of mitochondrial disease through the eyes of a young boy and his family.  Through this article students are able to see a real life application of what they're learning in this lesson, a story of cells and the organelles that constitute the body systems of the human body. (MS-LS1-2)

Students are instructed to circle any key terms (science vocabulary, names of people, dates) and underline any claims.  After close reading students complete text dependent questions to gain deeper understanding of text and prepare for class discussion.


10 minutes

Purpose of this section of lesson is to assess student understanding of content and assess writing through the use of claims and evidence. 

Mitochondrial Disease Letter

In this section of lessons students are required to write a letter (Mitochondrial Disease Writing Task) to potential donors on behalf of United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation and mitoAction.  The letter has to be an informative/persuasive letter where student explains what mitochondrial disease is, including the science behind it.  Students are required to use vocabulary words effectively, accurate explanation of the science behind disease, and use of evidence directly from "The Invisible Disease that's Killing Our Son."  

In terms of scaffolding I provide students with two sources: Letter LayoutFlow Map.

1)  Letter Layout provides the organization of the letter, for those students who need guidance. It includes a reminder of the vocabulary words that need to be used in the letter.

2)  The purpose of the flow-map document is for students to create a final flow-map, which by now should show the levels of organization (organelle, cell, tissue, organ, organ system, organism).  The  text boxes are where students can write down the paragraph numbers where each word (i.e. cell) is discussed in the text.  This tool helps students fulfill the requirement of citing evidence directly from article.

I have attached a rubric for the grading of the letter, and in addition there are .pdf versions of the documents. I have attached the .doc version so that a user can modify.