ALEX Learning Activity


Biological Molecules Mind Map

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Robyn Shelton
System:Jackson County
School:Woodville High School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 2347
Biological Molecules Mind Map
Digital Tool/Resource:
Web Address – URL:

Students will create a "mind map" or a concept map using an online concept mapping software to outline the four main types of biological molecules - carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. The students' mind map will compare and contrast the four main divisions of biological molecules.

This resource is a result of the ALEX Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
1 ) Use models to compare and contrast how the structural characteristics of carbohydrates, nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids define their function in organisms.

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L12.1: Living systems are made of complex molecules (including carbohydrates, fats, proteins, and nucleic acids) that consist mostly of a few elements, especially carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphorous.

NAEP Statement::
L12.2: Cellular processes are carried out by many different types of molecules, mostly proteins. Protein molecules are long, usually folded chains made from combinations of amino-acid molecules. Protein molecules assemble fats and carbohydrates and carry out other cellular functions. The function of each protein molecule depends on its specific sequence of amino acids and the shape of the molecule.

NAEP Statement::
L12.4: Plants have the capability (through photosynthesis) to take energy from light to form higher energy sugar molecules containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen from lower energy molecules. These sugar molecules can be used to make amino acids and other carbon-containing (organic) molecules and assembled into larger molecules with biological activity (including proteins, DNA, carbohydrates, and fats).

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Developing and Using Models
Crosscutting Concepts: Structure and Function
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Describe the particles that compose an atom and relate these particles to types of chemical bonding such as covalent, ionic and hydrogen and describe Van der Waals forces.
  • Identify patterns in the elements that compose each macromolecule and the arrangement of monomer units in carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids .
  • Use standard experimental tests to predict the macromolecular content of a given substance.
  • Use models to differentiate macromolecules based on common characteristics.
  • Build models of each of the four macromolecules (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins and nucleic acids) and describe their role in biological processes.
  • Compare and contrast the structure of each macromolecule and predict the function of each from its structure.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Atom
  • Nucleus
  • Proton
  • Neutron
  • Electron
  • Element
  • Compound
  • Isotope
  • Covalent bond
  • Molecule
  • Ion
  • Ionic bond
  • Van der Waals force
  • Macromolecule
  • Polymer
  • Carbohydrate
  • Monosaccharide
  • Disaccharide
  • Polysaccharide
  • Lipid
  • Saturated fats
  • Unsaturated fats
  • Triglyceride
  • Phospholipid
  • Hydrophobic
  • Steroids
  • Protein
  • Amino acid
  • Peptide bonds
  • Nucleic acid
  • Nucleotide
  • DNA
  • RNA
  • ATP
Students know:
  • An atom is composed of smaller particles, such as protons, neutrons and electrons.
  • Atoms of the same or different elements can form chemical bonds. The type of bond formed, such as covalent, ionic, or hydrogen, depends on the atomic structure of the element. Carbohydrates, Lipids, proteins and nucleic acids are the four macromolecules that compose life.
  • Carbohydrates are composed of a monomer of one carbon, 2 hydrogen and one oxygen atoms (CH2O). The role of carbohydrates in biological processes such as photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
  • The role of lipids in biological processes such as cell membrane function and energy storage.
  • The basic structure of a lipid includes fatty acid tails composed of a chain of carbon atoms bonded to hydrogen and other carbon atoms by single or double bonds.
  • Proteins are made of amino acids, which are small compounds that are made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen hydrogen and sometimes sulfur. The structure of an amino acid consists of a carbon atom in the center which is bonded with a hydrogen, an amino group, a carboxyl group and a variable group—its that variable group that makes each amino acid different.
  • The roles of proteins in biological processes such as enzyme function or structural functionality.
  • Nucleic acids are made of smaller repeating subuntits composed of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and hydrogen atoms, called nucleotides.
  • There are six major nucleotides—all of which have three units—a phosphate, a nitrogenous base, and a ribose sugar. The role of nucleic acids in biological processes such as transmission of hereditary information.
Students are able to:
  • Describe the particles that compose an atom.
  • Relate atomic particles to types of chemical bonding such as covalent, ionic and hydrogen.
  • Describe Van der Waals forces.
  • Identify patterns in the elements that compose each macromolecule.
  • Identify the arrangement of monomer units in carbohydrates, proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids.
  • Differentiate macromolecules based on common characteristics.
  • Construct models of the four major macromolecules.
  • Analyze models of the four major biomolecules to identify the monomer unit that repeats across the macromolecule polymer and relate molecular structure to biological function.
Students understand that:
  • Cells are made of atoms.
  • The four macromolecules that compose life are carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins.
  • Macromolecules contain distinct patterns of monomer subunits that repeat across the macromolecule polymer and that structure affects the biological function of the macromolecule.
AMSTI Resources:
ASIM Module:
Macromolecules: Structure and Function; DNA Model; Enzymes; Designer Enzymes; Macromolecules in Food

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.B.HS.2- Recognize organelles (e.g., mitochondria, ribosomes, chloroplasts) and their functions within plant and animal cells.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science
DLIT (2018)
Grade: 9-12
R6) Produce, review, and revise authentic artifacts that include multimedia using appropriate digital tools.

Unpacked Content
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
Students will:
  • produce a multimedia artifact.
  • review artifacts created by others.
  • revise an artifact based on peer or teacher feedback.
Students know:
  • feedback is important in a design process.
Students are able to:
  • create a multimedia artifact.
  • critique the work of others.
  • revise their work based on feedback received.
Students understand that:
  • much like the writing process, design of a multimedia artifact nets the best results when creators have the opportunity to be given feedback and revise as needed.
Learning Objectives:

The students will create a mind map using an online concept mapping software that will compare and contrast the four main types of biological molecules - carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids.  

The student will use the digital tool,, to complete a mind map, publish it, review it, and revise it.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

Students will create a mind map using the website comparing and contrasting the four main divisions of biological molecules - carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. This mind map will include the structure or composition of the biological molecule, its function, a description of the category of a biological molecule, and an example of a molecule in the division of biological molecules. Students should also include any other important facts about the specific category. If there are subdivisions for the particular division, the student will include the subdivisions, their composition or structure, their function, a description of each subdivision, and an example of each of the subdivisions. Students should be encouraged to include pictures/graphics from the internet. An example mind map demonstrating what is to be included using the division of carbohydrates is shared below. A suggested terminology list is also included below.

Example Mind Map 

Suggested Terminology

The student will use the digital tool,, to complete the mind map, and will then publish the mind map to a common site (Google Classroom, etc.) in order to share it with the class. Each student will review two other mind maps on the published site. The student will give the other student suggestions on improving his or her mind map. After returning the reviewed mind map to the correct student, each student will revise his or her mind map and submit the finished project.

Assessment Strategies:

The students' mind maps can be assessed summatively by the teacher after the student is finished with the assignment. Each student's mind map should include all pertinent information about each division of biological molecules along with any subcategories of that division of biological molecule (example: division - carbohydrate - three subdivisions of carbohydrates - monosaccharides, disaccharides, and polysaccharides. Carbohydrates, in general, need to be described and defined as well as each subdivision). The student will have to share his/her mind map with the teacher and the class in order for an assessment to take place. The teacher can formatively assess the students as they are working on the assignment as he/she is monitoring student progress.  

The technology standard can be assessed by the teacher examining the completed mind map on and through the completed sharing of the mind map with the teacher and the class. If the student completes both of these aspects of the assignment, he or she will have demonstrated the use of a digital tool,, to publish curriculum-related content. Each student will be responsible for critiquing two other students' mind maps. After receiving the student critiques, he or she will make revisions to this mind map and submit those changes and revisions to the appropriate student. Each student will make the revisions to his or her own mind map and then will submit the finished product to the common site used. The teacher can use the following rubric for the assessment of this portion of the assignment.

Technology Rubric

Advanced Preparation:

  • The students will need to be familiar with the four divisions of biological molecules, their composition/structure, their functions, their subdivisions, and examples of all.  
  • Students will have to set up a free account on the website.  
Variation Tips (optional):

  • Students could draw the mind map on regular paper or on butcher paper with markers if computer access is not available.
  • The teacher could use this as an explore/explain activity. The teacher would need to provide the four divisions of biological molecules to the students, and then the students could research each of the divisions to create the mind map.
  • An alternative website for concept maps (Lucidchart, MindMup, Edraw or SmartDraw) could be used.
Notes or Recommendations (optional):

A "classroom" mind map can be created by combining all of the various correct student responses. A copy of this class mind map could be provided to all students for a study guide.

  Keywords and Search Tags  
Keywords and Search Tags: biochemistry, biological molecules, carbohydrates, concept map, lipids, mind map, nucleic acids, proteins