Reflection: Adjustments to Practice Nucleic Acid Structure and Function: Working with Models (Day 5 of 5) - Section 4: The Classroom Flow: Putting it All Together DNA vs RNA


Using models over the course of this five day lesson series has been a great experience for my students and for me.  Not only did we dig deep into broad content area themes in biology and connected with detailed scientific terminology, but we also were able to talk about what models do and what they can show us.  This is a part of our new math and science related standards and frankly, I had not necessarily expected to work with that very broad concept right away.  But using three different types of models allowed us to go there in a very natural way as students were noticing and I was able to point out differences between what the different models were telling us or not telling us about DNA.  Students and I answered questions like:

  • What does this model tell us about DNA that the other ones don't?
  • Which model was most helpful to you in learning about DNA?  Why do think that is?
  • Which model would be best for a student new to DNA to look at first?  Why?  
  • Which of the models most accurately represent what DNA really looks life in real life?  
  • Is it possible for a model to do that?  Why or why not?
  • Why do we use models?  What are they good for?  What aren't they good for?
  • What would your ideal DNA model look like?

For me as a teacher, these informal team and class conversations throughout the lesson series also revealed one very serious misconception about the diagrams and visuals that students reported having ever since they started science classes in grade school; that the diagram they saw exactly replicated the molecule under study in every situation.  Although they knew each of us has different DNA, at the same time students believed that the textbook diagram of DNA with only four bases shown in one order represented what all of our DNA looked like.  Now that I know how deeply embedded this student misconception was and how students were able to continue to believe it despite believing other contradictory statements, I see even more clearly the value of our comparison model work and the inclusion of this theoretical concept within our new standards.  Working repeatedly with the models forced students to think about those two conflicting beliefs at the same time and to confront, challenge, and revise them.

I am very proud of the work my students and I did together throughout this lesson series and the level of deeper understanding and retention my students continued to display throughout the rest of our year together! 

  Exploring the Concept of Modeling
  Adjustments to Practice: Exploring the Concept of Modeling
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Nucleic Acid Structure and Function: Working with Models (Day 5 of 5)

Unit 7: Unit 7: DNA & Protein Synthesis
Lesson 12 of 22

Objective: SWBAT identify the components of DNA and DNA replication using paper, puzzle piece, and 3-D DNA models.

Big Idea: Get your students communicating their knowledge of DNA structure and function through their analysis of a variety of DNA models!

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labeled puzzle piece dna model
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