This is a (likely partial) disciplinary text set for a Biology classroom, and a unit (or, mini-unit) on cell division. This text set could potentially be used for my practicum students, as one of the classes I observe is a 10th grade Biology classroom with many ESL students. The collection of texts I have gathered might be used to decidedly supplement a textbook unit on cell division, including meiosis and mitosis. Used in conjunction with textbook materials, these materials would provide additional information and additional practice with reading information that is already somewhat familiar, multiple means of representation by including some videos (including some more ‘culturally relevant’ music videos), and a quick look at a recent news article on Down Syndrome, the result of a cell division error.

Collection of Texts

Print Resources:

  • Shyamala, I. (2014, February 3). Building blocks of life. ASU – Ask a Biologist. Retrieved March 12, 2017 from
    • This text is written around several key questions/concepts associated with cell division, such as ‘how do cells know when to divide?’ or ‘mitosis cell division.’ This text provides some nice summaries of the key concepts of such a cell unit, as well as an example video of cell division and a number of graphics. The article provides a nice introduction and/or review to the topic.
    • Text complexity: One of the quantitative measurement tools puts this text at about a 9th grade level, for students between the ages of 13 and 15. I believe, with the proper support, this text could be accessible to 9th or 10th grade ESL Biology students. I think the measurements given are mostly accurate; I might have placed it at a bit of a lower grade level due to the helpful graphics, but because the target audience includes many ESL students, I think it would work out well. In terms of qualitative complexity, following one of the online measurement rubrics would place this text at about a moderately complex level. This placement would be due to such article features as supplementary graphics that support understanding, the need for some discipline-specific knowledge, a generally sequential order, an explicit purpose, and mainly contemporary vocabulary. Overall, I believe, quantitatively and qualitatively, this text would be well-suited to 9th or 10th grade Biology students (those who are language learners and those who are not).
      • Vocabulary that should be supported before and/or during the reading of this article: trillion, skin (as in, skinning your knee), regulate, replicas, maintenance, chromosomes, genetic diversity, daughter cells
    • I believe this text could easily be used for either an introductory activity to cell division, or a way to review most of what has been learned in a unit on cell division. This task is a bit complex, as the introduction to a topic (as well as a review activity) is very important. Because of this, having a more accessible text may end up working out well in the end. Using this text as an introduction would make it serve as background knowledge, and using it as a review activity would spark background knowledge learned throughout the unit. This is also where my inquiry blog topic comes in: content-area reading strategies. With this in mind, I would work to model reading strategies of purposeful highlighting/underlining and writing summary sentences before having students read on their own.




Additional Print Resources:


Cell Division Graphic

Multimedia Resources:

  • Amoeba Sisters. (2016, April 14, 2016). Mitosis: The amazing cell process that uses division to multiply! Retrieved from
    • This video provides an introduction to the cell division process of mitosis. There’s also a brief mention of cancer being uncontrolled cell growth, and the video contains many helpful graphics. The video discusses the full cell cycle, not just the mitosis process, but it also goes into detail about all the stages of mitosis, including practical visual representations.
    • Text complexity: Due to the video nature of this source, it is rather difficult to comment on the quantitative complexity of this resource. Focusing on the qualitative complexity, though, this text would likely be found somewhere between slightly complex and moderately complex, looking at the online rubric. The order is fairly predictable, most language used is common vocabulary, the graphics are helpful and go along with the spoken words, there are mostly straightforward, simple sentences and concepts, and much background knowledge is not needed, due in part to the introductory nature of this resource. There is also closed captioning available with this video, which could be a great support to ESL students or other students who struggle with solely auditory input.
      • Vocabulary that should be supported before and/or during the viewing of this video: damage, nucleus, chromosomes, duplicate, centromere, acronym, cytoplasm
    • This resources could be used at any number of times in a unit on cell division, but I think it would be especially helpful for students to view this on their own or in a very small group to connect prior learning. Because this text seems to be fairly accessible, especially to 9th and 10th grade Biology students, they should be able to use knowledge learned in the unit so far to fully understand this video, mostly on their own.

Additional Multimedia Resources:


3 Copies of Chromosome 21 – Error in Cell Division

Culturally Relevant Resources:

  • Crosta, P. (2016, July 4). Down Syndrome: Facts, symptoms, and characteristics. Retrieved from
    • This article provides a recent news discussion of Down Syndrome and its symptoms and characteristics. There is an explanation of the causes, as well as a brief discussion of characteristics a person with Down Syndrome will be likely to have. A ‘fast facts’ section toward the beginning provides key concepts for readers to take note of during the rest of the article.
    • Text complexity: One quantitative measurement tool put this article at a 12th grade level for 17- to 18-year-olds (excluding the final section on testing). This is a bit high, but because it would be used toward the end of the unit and would have lots of support, I think it could still be do-able for the target audience. I personally might have ranked this article a little lower than a 12th grade level, due to the number of terms defined inside the article. However, there are a number of unfamiliar words, so I do agree it is complex. In terms of qualitative complexity, according to the rubric, this text could possibly be classified as ‘very complex.’ In terms of text structure, it might only be ‘moderately complex,’ as the organization is very logical and well-laid out. However, much of the vocabulary is academic, even if much of it is defined in the article. The purpose is fairly straightforward, but much background knowledge is required to properly understand this article (it is my hope with having students read this article toward the end of a unit on cell division that they would have that needed background knowledge). Overall, this text is rather complex on both quantitative and qualitative accounts, meaning much support would be necessary for this text to accessible to 9th or 10th grade Biology students.
      • Vocabulary that should be supported before and/or during the reading of this news article: impairments, genetic material, sperm/egg cells, cognitive development, profile, indicative, abnormalities, diagnosis, miscarriage, fetal
    • This article would likely be used toward the end of a unit on cell division, as a kind of culturally relevant connection to what we have been learning in class. This would also serve as a sort of introduction to various abnormalities cell division errors can cause. (Note: I would potentially choose to eliminate the final portion of this article on diagnostic testing/screenings, as there are a number of vocabulary words that would be rather difficult, and this section does not directly pertain to our unit topic of cell division.) I would have students read this text in small groups, and circle any words they didn’t know (outside of the vocabulary words we would have discussed prior to the reading of this article). Students would discuss those words and try to work together to figure out their meanings. The class would discuss all these words after every group has finished reading the article. This activity, along with reminders to write summary sentences and highlight/underline with purpose, connects well with my blog topic of reading strategies. Because the activity with this text is aimed at being well-supported, the greater complexity of the text should end up working out alright.

Additional Culturally Relevant Resources (music videos):


Thank you for reading my blog post, and I hope some of these resources are helpful! 🙂



5 thoughts on “Text Set for Biology

  1. I like a lot of the highly visual resources you have here and I think they would be very helpful for ELLs. I was wondering how you would specifically integrate literacy into a biology class. Are there any more narrative-like books that would be helpful for teaching this topic? I was most fascinated by your resource on Down Syndrome and I like that you labeled this as culturally relevant. Many students may have friends or family members with Down Syndrome so I think this would be a very powerful application of this unit.


  2. I think there are a few ways I could incorporate literacy into this unit. First, I was looking for some example children’s books on cell division and/or Biology that I could use to introduce the topic and provide more visuals for the students. A few examples of such books can be found at this site: I was also thinking it might be fun to have the students write a short story told from the perspective of a cell going through the cell cycle. They could write from the first person point of view and go through all the stages we have learned about in the unit. This activity would provide an opportunity to work on writing skills and would allow for review of the stages of the cell cycle.


  3. I appreciate how specifically focused your text set is. I think that these resources would help any student come to a more comprehensive and deeper understanding of cell division. I think that, as you suggested, having students use a lot of these resources in small groups or independently would be quite beneficial; not only does it allow them to talk to each other about the content, but it allows them to have a bit more control over how/when they learn/review the information.
    Like Rebekah, I really appreciate your use of the Down Syndrome article for your culturally relevant source. I remember last semester in class we watched a video “Just Like You” about students with Down Syndrome and how they would like to be treated. I was wondering, do you think it would be beneficial to include something like this in class as well– more of the personal or social justice side of the issue in addition to the scientific side that you’ve already included? (Here’s the link to the video, by the way:–xOyGUX4)


    1. I do like that video (I have watched at least part of it before), and would like to find a way to include it in this unit. I feel that, because the video itself is slightly less related to the topic of cell division I would definitely connect the video to the article (for the reason of promoting social justice like you suggested) and would perhaps choose to provide some brief instruction on Down Syndrome before the students are exposed to the article or the video. Then the students could have the cell division connection in mind when experiencing these specific sources.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ella, These texts are gathered together here in a way that is helpful for a teacher looking for fresh and powerful ways to engage their students in this content with new and integrated forms of texts. Some of your pieces led me to others- thus the power of using digital and multimodal texts :).


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