K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • describe the structure of the heart.
  • identify the functions of parts of the circulatory system such as arteries, veins and capillaries.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

90 minutes


  • One beef heart acquired at local butcher or from organ supply company. Before class, cut the heart lengthwise from top to bottom taking care to leave both ventricles and atrium intact.
  • One class set of heart flashcards, cut up into cards before class.
  • One overhead transparency of the labeled heart diagram from the Science Museum of Minnesota website.
  • One copy of the unlabeled Heart Diagram per student. Before class fill in a different part of the heart on each diagram so that when distributed the same answer will appear no more than once or twice.
  • One copy per student pair of Key to My Heart flashcards.

Technology resources

Overhead projector.


  • Have students run around the track for 3–5 minutes or engage in similarly rigorous physical activity in order to increase their pulse rate.
  • Have students make a clenched fist with their right hand and ask the following question, “What organ in your body is the size of your fist?” The heart.
  • Have students hold their fists on their chests next to the left of the sternum and ask, “What is under your fist?” Your heart.
  • Now have the students place two fingers on their neck below their ear to feel the rhythmic flow of blood and ask, “What is this that we are feeling?” A pulse or heart beat.


Activity 1

  1. After students have completed the pre-activity give each student a characteristic or term from the heart flashcards. Each student should find the other student whose card has the same letter in the upper left corner. The characteristics and the terms should match (i.e blood vessels whose walls are one cell thick should match with capillary). Students whose cards match should sit together.
  2. Using a beef heart, highlight the overall stucture of the heart taking care to point out that although beef hearts and human hearts are similar, they aren’t identical.
  3. As you identify each chamber of the heart, make sure to point out defining characteristics such as that the muscle walls of the ventricles are thicker than those of the atrium because of the pumping action that goes on in the ventricles.
  4. While you distinguish each part of the beef heart, have the corresponding student pairs come to the board and write the characteristics and/or functions for that part. ex. right ventricle — pumps blood to the lungs.

Activity 2

  1. Turn off the labels and use the heart diagram from the Science Museum of Minnesota as an overhead transparency projected on a writable surface such as a white board or a large piece of white paper. Ask for volunteers to come up and label the various parts of the heart.
  2. At this point you should either erase the answers on the board or do the following optional activity.
  3. Optional Activity: To assist students in retaining new vocabulary, erase labels one at a time pausing to allow students time to verbally identify each part. Continue erasing until all labels have been erased and students as a group can identify most of the diagram.
  4. Distribute one unlabeled Heart Diagram to each student. Inform students that they are responsible for labeling all fifteen parts numbered on their diagrams. Each student already has one filled-in label. They are to circulate among the other students to find the remaining fourteen labels. They have ten minutes to complete the diagram.


Distribute one set of Key to My Heart flashcards to each student pair. Instruct students to close their notebooks and work together to match the “key” to the “lock.” Tell students that each correctly matched pair is worth ten points for a total of one hundred points. Optional: Give students the opportunity to correct errors for five points per revised answer.

Supplemental information


This 7th grade science lesson can be modified for Novice High English Language Learners by focusing their attention on the presentation of the beef heart. Be sure to repeat loudly and clearly at least 3–4 times the name of each structure as you make your way through the presentation giving students the opportunity to repeat the new terms.

At regular intervals in the demonstration, have Novice High students demonstrate comprehension by responding to yes/no questions such as “Is this an artery, yes or no?” Ask Novice High students either/or questions such as “Is this a vein or an artery? Is this the left ventricle or the right ventricle?”

After Activity 2, you can conduct a Total Physical Response Drill to emphasize the Critical vocabulary with these students, or even the whole class, by calling out the terms and directing students to to touch the structures on their diagrams. i.e. “Touch the left ventricle!” For more information on Total Physical Response see the Web site linked at the bottom of the page.

Alternative assessments

The matching game, “The Key to My Heart” is designed to be played by all students whether they are limited English proficient or not. Make sure that when you pass out the Heart flashcards at beginning of Activity 2 that you give Novice High students cards that have one of the selected Critical Vocabulary terms indicated and not a characteristic. This will reduce the amount of input that they will need to understand in order to participate in the activity. It is also recommended that you pair Novice High students by giving native English speakers cards that have the corresponding characteristics. This will facilitate collaboration between native and non-native English speakers which will provide your English Language Learners with more authentic language practice.

You should also Assess Novice High students by tracking how many times they can correctly answer the yes/no questions you ask during the presentation as well whether or not they are able to correctly label the diagram on the transparency in Activity 2.

Critical vocabulary

  • heart
  • blood
  • pulse
  • vein
  • artery
  • vessels
  • capillaries
  • aorta
  • atrium
  • valve
  • septum


This lesson plan was developed during the English Language Development Standard Course of Study lesson planning institutes hosted by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and LEARN NC, June and July, 2004. It includes specific strategies, instructional modifications, and alternative assessments which make this lesson accessible to Novice High limited English proficient students. Please note that this lesson has been aligned with the goals and objectives of the N.C. English Language Development standards.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Science (2010)
      • Grade 7

        • 7.L.1 Understand the processes, structures and functions of living organisms that enable them to survive, reproduce and carry out the basic functions of life. 7.L.1.1 Compare the structures and life functions of single-celled organisms that carry out all of...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Development (2005)

  • Objective 0.02: Demonstrate basic comprehension of oral presentations and instructions through non-verbal and verbal responses.
  • Objective 0.03: Begin making connections with informational materials on familiar topics with assistance.
  • Objective 0.04: Respond to simple questions on familiar topics using short phrases and yes/no answers.
  • Science (2005)

    Grade 7

    • Goal 4: The learner will conduct investigations, use models, simulations, and appropriate technologies and information systems to build an understanding of the complementary nature of the human body system.
      • Objective 4.01: Analyze how human body systems interact to provide for the needs of the human organism:
        • Musculoskeletal.
        • Cardiovascular.
        • Endocrine and Nervous.
        • Digestive and Circulatory.
        • Excretory.
        • Reproductive.
        • Respiratory.
        • Immune.
        • Nervous system.
      • Objective 4.02: Describe how systems within the human body are defined by the functions it performs.
      • Objective 4.03: Explain how the structure of an organ is adapted to perform specific functions within one or more systems.
        • Liver.
        • Heart.
        • Lung. Brain.
        • Stomach.
        • Kidney.