School of Life Sciences | Ask A Biologist

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow upshow/hide menu

Why is Rudolp's nose red?
biology bits header

For Teachers

by Lisa Wyatt

What Are Biology Bits?

Bioloogy Bits Artwork

Biology Bits stories take large concepts and break them down into pieces that are very tiny – bite-sized – so students can digest a little at a time. Teachers will appreciate the smaller approach to big concepts: use Biology Bits as an introduction to a textbook chapter, or implement them as your primary text. Biology Bits are a great way to focus on Biology reading comprehension. We further that comprehension by pairing the text with engaging illustrations. These provide visual models for many of the ideas presented. You can use the whole set of cards or just a few – it’s up to you!

What Topics Are Available?

The topics for Biology Bits are in the life sciences – hence, the “Biology” part of the name. Right now, the following topics are ready to use, and there will be more coming in the next few months (including Bones, Biomes, Molecules, and more). These cards can be used for many grade levels, but we've provided some guidance for the different sets in the table below. The card format also allows teachers to preselect cards to include or exclude depending on student reading and comprehension level.

Topic

Concept(s)

Science Standards Alignment

Reading Level/
Common Core*

Ants

Ant types, roles, and life cycle

Grade 3

Grade 5

Biomes

Biomes of the world

Grades 1, HS

Grade 5

Bones

Bone structure, growth, and healing

Grade 5

Grade 5

Cells: The Building Blocks of Life

Introduction to cells

Grade 6

Grade 5

Cell Parts

Cell organelles and functions

Grade 6

Grade 6

Feathers

Feather structure and function

Grade 4

Grade 6

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis stages

Grade 2

Grade 5

Nervous Journey: The Nervous System

Introduction to the nervous system

Grade 5

Grade 6

Photosynthesis: Snacking on Sunlight

Photosynthesis steps and important molecules

Grade HS

Grade 8

Seeing Color: Color Vision

Introduction to color vision

Grades 3, HS

Grade 6

Why Should I Use Biology Bits?

Biology Bits stories support concepts in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Although Arizona has not yet adopted NGSS, the Arizona Department of Education encourages teachers to “…begin to shift your instruction to align to the vision of the Framework for K-12 Science Education.” This includes embedding the AZCCRS Literacy Standards in Reading and Writing “…to develop a deeper content understanding and support the practices of constructing explanations, developing and using models, engaging in arguments from evidence, and obtaining, evaluating and communicating information in science.”

Biology Bits - Ideas

How Can I Use Biology Bits?

You can use the Bits in many different ways. Here are a few ideas to get you started…if you have other ideas, please share them with us using our feedback form.


Core Concepts Cards
Materials:

3x5 index cards (one per student); color Biology Bits card (1); document camera

Time Required:

~15 minutes per card

Directions:

Give one blank 3x5 index card to each student. Show a Biology Bits card on the doc cam and read aloud. On the front of the card, ask students to write the topic name (decided together as a whole class, or in small groups) and then draw one of the pictures shown on the card. Next, set reading purpose by asking students to listen for important ideas in the card; read card aloud again. Ask students to share two important ideas with a partner, and then share as a class. Encourage students to paraphrase (use their own words). Write down paraphrased statements on the board (or index card with doc cam). Students copy main idea sentences onto their index cards.

Extension:

As students become proficient using this structure, teacher may ask students to complete the activity independently and then share sentences as a class.


True/False Statements
Materials:

3x5 index cards (10 per student); full set of color Biology Bits cards per student pair, cut out (and laminated, if desired)

Time Required:

Varied; can be completed over several days

Structure:

Independent work station – student pairs

Directions:

Students preview cards and read together. On index cards, students then independently write one true or one false statement for each Biology Bits card. (Each student records an answer key on a separate sheet of paper.) After both students finish, they swap true/false statements and choose ‘true’ or ‘false’ for each index card. Students resolve any disagreement by returning to the text for proof of that idea.


Teaching Standards

Our Biology Bits are mostly written at about a 5th or 6th grade level, but they can easily be used across many grades. Below, we’ve picked out the Common Core and Arizona Science Standards with which we think each set of Bits best aligns. For Common Core, we list the grades at which the bits will help with biology-related reading comprehension. Check at the bottom of the page for more info on the standards.

 

Ants

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 2

Strand 4 | Concept 2: Life cycles

PO 1. Describe the life cycles of various insects.

Grade 4

Strand 4 | Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior

PO 2. Give examples of adaptations that allow plants and animals to survive.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Complexity: Grade 5

 

Biomes

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 1

Strand 4 | Concept 3: Organisms and Environments

PO 2. Compare the habitats in which plants and animals live.

Grade HS

Strand 4 | Concept 3: Organisms and Environments

Identify the relationships among organisms within populations, communities, ecosystems, and biomes.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 5

 

Bones

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 5

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Structure and Function in Living Systems

PO 1. Identify the functions of the skeletal system.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 5

 

Cells: The Building Blocks of Life

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 6

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Structure and Function in Living Systems Understand the relationships between structures and functions of organisms.

PO 2. Describe the basic structure of a cell, including:

  • cell wall
  • cell membrane
  • nucleus

PO 3. Describe the function of each of the following cell parts:

  • cell wall
  • cell membrane
  • nucleus

PO 4. Differentiate between plant and animal cells.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 5

 

Cell Parts

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 6

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Structure and Function in Living Systems Understand the relationships between structures and functions of organisms.

PO 2. Describe the basic structure of a cell, including:

  • cell wall
  • cell membrane
  • nucleus

PO 3. Describe the function of each of the following cell parts:

  • cell wall
  • cell membrane
  • nucleus

PO 4. Differentiate between plant and animal cells.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 6

 

Feathers

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 4

Strand 4 | Concept 4: Diversity, Adaptation and Behavior.

PO 2. Give examples of adaptations that allow plants and animals to survive.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 6

 

Metamorphosis

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 2

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Characteristics of organisms

PO1. Identify animal structures that serve different functions

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Life Cycles

PO1. Describe the life cycles of various insects

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 5

 

Nervous Journey: The Nervous System

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 5

Strand 4 | Concept 1: Structure and Function in Living Systems Understand the relationships between structures and functions of organisms.

PO 3. Identify the functions and parts of the nervous system:

  • control center – brain
  • relay mechanism – spinal cord
  • transport messages – nerves

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 6

 

Photosynthesis: Snacking on Sunlight

Arizona Science Standards

High School

Strand 4 | Concept 5: Matter, Energy, and Organization in Living Systems

P.O. 1. Compare the processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in terms of energy flow, reactants, and products.

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 8

 

Seeing Color: Color Vision

Arizona Science Standards

Grade 3

Strand 5 | Concept 3: Energy and Magnetism

PO 1. Demonstrate that light can be: reflected, refracted, absorbed

Grade HS

Strand 5 | Concept 5: Interactions of Energy and Matter

PO 2. Describe the following characteristics of waves: wavelength

 

Common Core Standards

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: Grade 6

* To gauge Common Core alignment, we measured the complexity of the text using a variety of readability indicators which are used together to create an overall grade level score on read-able.com. This is to help teachers figure out which Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity each set of bits fits under.

While these help with basic biology reading comprehension, it can go a step further as well. If students complete the associated activities (listed above), it will also contribute to meeting requirements for Craft and Structure standards at that grade level.

Though we've listed specific grades, we realize that some older students may benefit from continued practice of lower level text complexity, so do not be discouraged from using these for higher grades. Depending on each individual student, this may be appropriate for younger or older learners.

Some bits align with multiple grades for Arizona Science Standards. In these cases, the Bits would likely be a good place to start as a refresher on the subject for the students at higher learning levels. For grades or learning levels below the reading complexity level, it would be best for teachers to help students get through the texts.


Lisa Wyatt received her Master of Education degree from UCLA. She served in the Peace Corps and then taught in high school and community college for fifteen years. She now teaches grades 4-7 at Montessori Day School in Chandler, Arizona.

Biology Bits Stamp

Biology Bits blend language arts and science content into bit-sized pieces.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.

dropdown arrow downdropdown arrow up  Learn More

Biology Bits Stamp

Biology Bits blend language arts and science content into bit-sized pieces.

Share to Google Classroom

Be part of Ask A Biologist

by volunteering, or simply sending us feedback on the site. Scientists, teachers, writers, illustrators, and translators are all important to the program. If you are interested in helping with the website we have a Volunteer page to get the process started.