Genetically Modified Organisms: Are They Really as Bad as We Hear? (Day 2 of 2)

4 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to participate in a close reading discussion of current scientific research and thought about the safety and benefits of genetically modified organisms.

Big Idea

Get your students ready for our upcoming organic chemistry unit food project with this teaser reading about genetically modified organisms!

Notes for the Teacher

This is the second day of a two day close reading activity focused on GMOs.  During Day 1, students read and annotated a Scientific American editorial.  Today, they will be checking for understanding with their lab groups and then discussing ideas with the entire class before moving on to a written response.  

I love this article because it is covering a controversial topic, GMOs and labeling, and is discussed from a science perspective which appears to be very different from the typical treatment we hear in everyday discussion at the grocery store.  Students really dig in as a group to discuss the evidence given in the article, communicate how they feel about the information, and wrestle with the disconnect between what sounds logical in this piece and how it does/doesn't fit with their everyday prior experiences with GMO discussions.  This leads to great conversations about bias, what it is is, how that fits into an expert opinion based upon evidence, and how to differentiate between types of bias and how that should/could impact a student's weighing of the evidence presented.  The article length is also a great draw:  long enough to have some depth for discussion, but short enough to allow for us to get to the heart of the matter pretty quickly without needing days of unpacking before we can talk and write effectively.  I can't wait to hear about your close read and discussion experience about GMO and food labeling!

The Classroom Flow: Checking in with Small Groups

10 minutes

1. Ask students to take out their article and reflection prompts.  

2.  Tell students that they will have time for a quick check in about the reading the answers to the reflection questions within their lab groups before moving on to our large group conversation.

3.  Ask students to move to their lab groups in order to begin their small group check-in focusing on the reading discussion prompts.  

  • Note:  My job is to circulate around and listen in for points of clarification and for any particularly interesting comments that I can bring up later to build upon within the large as needed.  I'm also pumping up the group with my excitement about the topic!  Kids really loved to talk about this last year; it is something that they keep hearing about in passing at home and on the news but really don't know much about.  There is a lot of pride and satisfaction that comes out of feeling like they know as much if not more than the adults in their lives about a topic that matters to their experiences in the world both now and in the future.  

The Classroom Flow: Large Group Discussion

20 minutes

1.  Review with students our speaking norms for whole group sharing.  Ask students to stay seated with their lab groups at their lab stations.  Use the spokesperson protocol to initiate the group conversation focused on our reading prompt:  

Are our concerns surrounding genetically modified foods based upon scientific fact and research?

2.  As much as possible, allow the conversation to be directed by the students.  Interject/respond in order to question them on their evidence and reasoning.  

3.  You will hear many things as students discuss the article's take on GMOs and labeling policies.  Check out my discussion tips document for some of the common themes and ideas I heard in all of my classes.  You can also see  TERC's Talk Moves on p. 11 of their 2012 Talk Science Primer by Sarah Michaels and Cathy O'Connor for ways to help the kids dig deeper with their ideas and explanations.

4.  See our classroom wrap up in this video clip.  I asked students to share out their thoughts about GMO labeling using the following GMO share out prompt:  'I used to think…now I think...'

The Classroom Flow: Time to Write!

20 minutes

1.  Ask students to turn their attention to the large sheet of drawing paper and markers you have put at each lab table.  

2.  Tell each group that you would like them create a collective concept map that shows their ideas and understanding about our topic.  Remind them that their goal is topic generation and that this can be messy!

3.  After about ten minutes, ask students to take out a sheet of paper and begin to create their own planning document for a brief response that they will each write for homework that relates to our reading prompt:

Are our concerns surrounding genetically modified foods based upon scientific fact and research?

4.  You may use a sample template for this planning document, assign an outline or concept map, or allow students to follow whatever protocol works best for you and them.  

  • Note:  For writing assignments in the past, I've had students do outlines and work quietly to organize their ideas and what I have found is that this works just fine for the higher level student but is of very little value to many other students.  All students benefit from the short and casual feeling concept mapping activity that stimulates conversation and collaboration and helps students to summarize and organize things verbally as a group before committing individual ideas to paper, which can feel intimidatingly official if done without these pre-writing steps.

5.  The GMO conclusion student work sample in relation to the conclusion rubric shows a high level of comprehension about the topic based upon our reading.  His planning document outlines for me the way this student was thinking about organizing his thoughts. Looking at the two steps involved in his process can help me scaffold future writing activities to include peer reading and feedback opportunities to encourage enhanced editing and organization skills.