Boxing Biomolecules – A Game for Organics

AP Biology students usually start the year learning about biological macromolecules. I often get students wondering why they are learning chemistry in biology class. I assure them that living things are really just bags of chemicals! If you want to understand how they work, you need to understand the chemicals.

We start by going through each of the four groups: nucleic acids, carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Over the years, I’ve condensed the lecture slides because I don’t have the time to spend weeks on the topic. I also discovered one year that focusing too much on chemistry can really turn kids off on biology, so I’ve adjusted. I tend to add chemistry into other topics as needed now.

You can also use this graphic organizer to help students summarize the content from the lecture slides.

Students do take a deep dive into the specifics of proteins and amino acids, mainly because that is a topic we build upon in later units. Students learn this as a “Guided Learning Activity” where they explore slides and do tasks as they go.

Finally, students practice what they know by playing Boxing Biomolecules in groups. This game is designed to reinforce their understanding of each of the molecules. To do this, they create a set of boxes with details on each side. The lead box has one of the four macromolecules. One student in the group rolls that box, and each member then matches their box to the compound on the lead box. Then, they rotate the boxes and start over again.

The directions for this game and the template for the boxes is included in the Google Doc. I tend to be fairly vague about the rules, and students are encouraged to make their own rules and scoring methods. Some even add a timer to the game or add other elements.

The Amoeba Sisters has a great video on the topic which can also be used as reinforcement. They even have this amazing GIF that illustrates the four macromolecules!