Engaging A2 Physiology

This guest post was written by Simon Lovatt @SimonLovattPE.

It’s fair to say that my A2 group have found the transition from AS quite challenging, of the original 12 pupils only 6 remain and the first unit of work ‘Energy Systems’ had been a difficult one for them to get their heads around. I decided that a new approach was needed to try and inspire them and actively engage them in the learning process.

The physiology element of the A2 covers a lot of uncharted territory for students; totally new ideas, concepts, terminology and the dispelling of quite a few misconceptions built up through KS3 and GCSE (mainly about Lactic Acid). So after a term and a half of filling their brains with phosphofructokinase, The Electron Transport Chain and Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption I needed a way to simplify the learning of the even trickier Sliding Filament Theory, this is when I came across the idea of using sweets.

I wanted to build on some prior knowledge and so in the previous lesson I allowed 15 minutes at the end to do a short introductory task so that pupils would begin to become aware of the key words and elements of the topic. Pupils were given 2 sheets one with differing pictures of the sliding filament theory and the other with descriptions of the process pupils had to match the picture with the description and then create a cycle of the process. As I expected some simple AfL following the activity showed that the pupils were struggling to understand the process, so their homework was to use their text books to complete the task and make some notes on the stages.

The following lesson I presented a short slide show (less than 10 minutes) explaining the theory through diagrams and discussion, their task was then to create their own sliding filament theory explanation using various sweets including Flumps, Smarties, Strawberry Laces and Jelly Beans, pupils had to create, label and photograph (with mobile phones) each stage. The pupils eyes widened as I revealed the pile of sweets from which they had to work from.



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After putting them into small groups and giving them a handout of instructions with success criteria the pupils began working on their projects, this allowed me to move from group to group questioning their designs and working through misconceptions. It became very apparent that this could be a very powerful learning tool as the pupils could see their errors whilst creating them and put them right (whilst of course eating the odd sweet when they thought I wasn’t looking (extra sweets had been bought for this eventuality).

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It was evident that pupils knowledge had far surpassed that of the start of the lesson, through a series of tailored questions at the end of the lesson it clear the pupils had moved from a shallow to deep level of understanding and when asked to apply this knowledge to a sporting example pupils could do it with ease. They were them set the homework task of displaying this information in whichever way they felt most appropriate, the returned work included a flip book, poster and an instruction manual. This is a great activity to engage and excite pupils as well as giving them a thorough understanding of a difficult and new concept.

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