Monday, March 24, 2014

THINK- PUZZLE-EXPLORE: Investigating Human Systems

All of us are interested in learning more about our bodies. 5th graders are very interested in their bodies because they are changing at a very rapid rate, therefore, it is easy to get students interested this science unit, Investigating the Human Body Systems. We learned about how specific body systems worked and how exercise and good nutrition contribute to the health of our bodies.  As a culminating activity students presented their understanding and deepened their knowledge through specific cooperative group projects. I decided to use the thinking routine Think-Puzzle-Explore as a reflective tool to help the students determine what they already know, what they still question, and how they will explore what they would like to learn more about. After evaluating their Think-Puzzle-Explore organizer I grouped individuals together to create a product that would teach us more about the body organs and systems.


Once groups were created I shared the following essential questions. I wanted to use these questions to guide them in their research and in the final presentation of their learning. I believe that essential questions help with the inquiry process, they help students organize or focus their research, and they foster creative and critical thinking.

Essential Question:

What can you do to protect your body organs and systems?

What illnesses occur in your body organs or systems?

How does lifestyle impact the body systems and organs?

How does the systems and organs of the human body work together and individually to support life?

How does the health of one of my organ systems impact the health of my other organ systems?

Why is the system you are presenting important to the human body?

Students were allowed to determine how they would present their specific information to their classmates. I didn’t want to put restrains on their thinking. I did require that they make a plan for their presentation and they had to determine who and how they would divide up the necessary research and project. As a group they came to me with their ideas and either they were off to research or we refined their thinking.

Our classroom was abuzz with motivated focused students. They created some fantastic projects and everyone worked together so productively.  Most of the students wanted to create a Google Doc, but each of them added their own twist during or after the Google Doc was presented.


·         Google Docs presentation with text, images, and embedded videos

·         Google Docs presentation with all the above and short skits

·         Google Docs presentation in addition a poster is added

·         Google Docs presentation with an original RAP performed by individuals

·         Television news report

·         Posters


This thinking strategy allowed students to explore what they wanted to learn. It allowed me to group students based on interest not ability. Since students explored what they thought was interesting rather than what I thought was necessary, I believe they reach a little deeper in their thinking and their presentations were interesting and engaging.


  1. What a great lesson to incorporate inquiry, tackling the essential questions, and using technology. Giving students choice is a great way, too, to increase engagement. I think I am going to try this lesson for this first time as I need to get the students ready for the 8th grade CMAS. We need to do a mini unit on weather and have less than a week to do. Throw the essential questions at them and let the magic happen. Thanks Phyllis.

  2. Phyllis,
    I've used this routine as an adult during professional development, but couldn't quite transfer it to my students. Thank you for your post. I feel that I can finally do it! I am planning my social studies unit for U.S. Regions. For two weeks, I will build background knowledge of all the regions, and for six weeks students will research a region of their choice and synthesize. I was contemplating different ways for students to zoom in on their areas of interest. The Think Puzzle Explore is perfect! I love the way you used it for science, and social studies seems like a natural fit, too!