Activity 4.2 - Explaining How Cows Move and Function: Cellular Respiration (40 min)

Target Student Performance

Students explain how matter moves and changes and how energy changes during cellular respiration in a cow’s cells (connecting macroscopic observations with atomic-molecular models and using the principles of conservation of matter and energy).

Resources You Provide

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print one copy of the 4.2 Explanations Tool for Cow Cellular Respiration for each student. Return students’ completed versions of the 3.3 Evidence-Based Arguments Tool for Mealworms Eating for review. In this activity, your students will need to use the Three Questions Explanation Checklist on the back of the Three Questions Handout. Be sure to have this available to students, and see the notes in the Modifications at the end of the Activity for ideas about how to use it.


1. Use the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.


During the class, circulate while students are comparing their explanations. Listen to see if they are able to explain cellular respiration at both the macroscopic and atomic-molecular scales. Use 4.2 Grading the Explanations Tool for Cow Cellular Respiration to grade student responses. This worksheet has “grading” in the title (instead of “assessing”) because at this point, students can be held accountable for correct answers. If students are still struggling with these concepts, you may want to revisit parts of the activity they are finding difficult. Use Assessing the Animals Matter Tracing Tool to grade the tracing tool.


  • Make sure students understand that the chemical energy in glucose (not glucose itself) is converted to heat and motion energy.
  • Make sure that students discuss and understand all three columns of the Three Questions 11x17 Poster or Three Questions Handout.They play a central role in all Carbon TIME units.

  • Provide sentence stems for discussion and filling in the Explanations Tool
  • Work through the tool as a class and provide sentence stems for final explanation
  • Hand out and refer to Example Animals Explanation Handout when working on the Explanations Tool
  • Refer to the word wall for questions on Cellular Respiration related vocabulary
  • Refer to the Assessing the Animals Matter Tracing Tool to support students further

The Three Questions Explanation Checklist on the back of the Three Questions Handout can be used to scaffold students’ explanations in many ways.

  • Students refer to the checklist as they are constructing their explanations.
  • Students use the checklist as they are sharing and revising their explanations with a partner.
  • Students use the checklist to critique and revise their final explanations.
  • Students use the checklist to critique the example explanations for each unit.
  • Students use the checklist to create and/or evaluate a whole-class consensus explanation.

We recommend using this checklist with a gradual release. As students improve in their ability to write their own explanations, they may rely on the checklist less.

Extending the Learning

If there are still unanswered questions about cellular respiration, watch this video.
Many traditional biology curricula include more depth about the steps in cellular respiration, mitochondria, and the role of ATP in cellular metabolism. While this level of detail is not included in the Next Generation Science Standards and is not necessary for the storyline in this unit, this would be an appropriate time to add those lessons.