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A better way to teach cell division

A better way to teach mitosis and meiosis

One comment I frequently hear from biology teachers is “My students keep mixing up mitosis and meiosis.” I had this problem for many years (the first 5 years of teaching to be exact). During my cells unit I would teach both mitosis and meiosis. I would begin by teaching them both separately, and then had worksheets and activities that compared the two. But when I would give the unit test, it was clear the students still confused the two. I needed to do something differently. 

After teaching middle school for 5 years, I switched to a high school near my house. When we got to the cells unit one of my colleagues suggested only teaching mitosis, and waiting to teach meiosis until we got to the genetics unit. Light bulbs kept going off in my head. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made. 

So I tried it. At the end of my cells unit (after teaching organelles, membranes, and cellular energy) I would teach mitosis. When I would test them just on mitosis they would score well, because they didn’t have both processes in their head to get confused. Then, after Christmas break when we got to genetics, I would teach meiosis. It made so much sense because:

  • ​Teaching what gametes are is a great way to introduce genetics.
  • Students will better understand Mendel’s laws of segregation and independent assortment when you pair it with meiosis. 
  • Teaching crossing over with genetics helps students understand alleles and why they look similar to their siblings, but not identical. 
  • Students will better understand chromosomal mutations (such as Downs syndrome) when you pair it with meiosis. 

By the time I quizzed the students on meiosis they were experts on cell division. If your school gives you some freedom with the order of your curriculum, try teaching it this way! You won’t regret it.  

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Cell division bingo freebie from Science Lessons That Rock

BONUS! If you want a fun way to make sure students understand the differences between mitosis and meiosis, try this FREE bingo game in my TpT store! Bingo is a great way to review scientific vocabulary. In this game you will call out the definitions and students will cover up the words on their bingo cards. You can download this product free in my TpT store HERE. Enjoy!

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Hi, I'm Becca!

I help busy science teachers get your prep back by providing you time saving lessons, labs, and resources.

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