How She Teaches What is a System?

I really enjoy doing this lesson with my students. We have a lot of great conversations because they have lots of relevant life experiences and they come up with lots of interesting ideas on this topic. It is often one of the first science content lessons that I teach in the year. This lesson is my favorite way to lead into Body Systems. I spiral back to this idea later in the year when we study cells and ecosystems. I would also totally use this in an Earth and Space class, since it relates so well to the solar system and Earth’s systems.

This is also my favorite lesson to teach my students how to do a Vocabulary Log at the beginning of the year. A Vocabulary Log is a classroom system of mine that helps with vocabulary development and organization. It is also an important classroom routine that I use the entire year and helps with classroom management, so this is an important lesson in my class!

Check out:

Students write the definitions and the keywords from the slides I present. Then they use Google Image Search to draw an image.
A system is a group of related parts working together to do a job. In my lesson I use a bicycle as an everyday example to help students make connections and relate to more scientific examples. Image can be found here.


Systems are parts working together to perform a function or job. There are many parts to them, then all together they work. In the lesson I use a bicycle as an everyday example of a system. Students make connections and relate the bicycle to more scientific examples. Just ask students how they got to school this morning? Chances are, they used a system. Car, bike, bus, they are all examples of systems. Walk to school? The sidewalks and roads form a bigger transportation system. More examples of systems:

  • The solar system is a group of planets that go around our sun, and how they relate to each other. 
  • Biology examples would be cells, organs, plants, ecosystems.
  • In science, you will study chemistry. An atom has parts in it. What are the parts in the middle of the atom, with positive and neutral charges? The nucleus, with its protons and neutrons. Another part of the atom is the electrons.
  • Everyday examples: gaming systems, electronics, bicycle.
  • Non-living examples would be a car and a computer system. In the education system and the governmental system, there are different positions and they perform functions that together keep things going. 


Structure is an important term in science, especially in Biology. What does the word construction mean? To build, to put something together. So structure is how something is built or put together. In Biology we ask that question a lot. What is the design? Why do our skin cells look different from our heart cells?


Function means, what does it do? What is its job? When you learn about cells, we sometimes compare them to a factory. The organelles are like different workers in the factory and they all have different jobs to do. For example, the cell wall is like a security guard, letting certain things in and keeping other things out. The nucleus is like to CEO or boss of the factory. The nucleus has the instructions to tell the other parts of the cell what to do.


A component is a more academic way of saying a part.

Systems Organizer

For this assignment, students research a biological system and complete a Graphic Organizer. Biological examples are living things, like a plant, an organ system, an animal. Students use their Chromebooks to research the function of the system, and the various components. Students also draw a picture of the system. Students use Google Image search and add keywords like “science” and “diagram” to find good examples.

This system analysis form makes a great routine assignment and graphic organizer that we can go back at different times in the year. It would work great for cells, plant cells, animal cells, body systems, and ecology. The systems can be biological or non-biological examples.

More biological examples of systems. There are many opportunities to use the system analysis form in high school Biology.

  • Circulatory
  • Immune 
  • Muscular
  • Skeletal
  • Digestive
  • Nervous
  • Respiratory
  • Male Reproductive
  • Female Reproductive
  • Any cell
  • Any Organ
  • The whole body
  • Plants
  • Animals

I hope this lesson on What is a system? is helpful and saves you some time! What are your favorite ways to introduce Body Systems in your class? Let me know by leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you! If you want to read more about me and my classroom, check out the blog posts below!

Published by How She Teaches

I teach Biology and Earth and Space Science in high school and middle school. I want to share my personal experiences and teaching milestones with anyone who wants to learn.

4 thoughts on “How She Teaches What is a System?

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