Lesson 2

DNA Discoveries: How Did We Get From Then to Now? (Day 2 of 4)

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SWBAT trace the evolution of scientific thought and research into the structure of DNA.

Big Idea

Use an engaging jigsaw activity and drama strategy to give students the chance to trace the history of DNA!

Notes for the Teacher

This four day lesson series gives students the opportunity to follow the flow of scientific discoveries that led to an understanding of the structure and function of DNA.  I have used a jigsaw method to introduce this material for many years and this year I added an additional day using an effective and engaging drama technique to give students the chance to hear each other's versions of the science discovery stories, check for understanding, and be active listeners and participants in their own metacognitive processes.

During Day 1, students take on the role of an expert for one of four DNA discoveries and research their topic. Standard(s): W.9-10.2dSL.9-10.1RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS3-1XC-SF-HS-2

On Day 2, students meet in their expert groups to compare notes and prepare to present their findings to their lab group. Standard(s): W.9-10.2dSL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aRST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS3-1XC-SF-HS-2

On Day 3, students jigsaw back with their lab groups and take turns sharing out their DNA discovery. Standard(s): W.9-10.2dSL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aRST.9-10.4HS-LS3-1XC-SF-HS-2

And finally, on Day 4, students participate in a drama technique activity to share out individual interpretations of the DNA discoveries while in the roles of the actual scientists and reporters tasked with interviewing them. Standard(s): W.9-10.2dSL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aSL.9-10.1bSL.9-10.4HS-LS3-1XC-SF-HS-2

This last day is what makes this lesson series really shine!  Students enjoy the role playing activity and are able to clearly assess and communicate the learning benefits they saw in both of their researcher and reporter roles.  I can't wait to hear about your experience using this teaching strategy with your students!

The Classroom Flow: Bridging from Yesterday into Today's Work

10 minutes

1.  Ask students to take out their Jigsaw activity directions and DNA discovery chart document from yesterday's activity.

2.  Tell students that today is their time to work with their expert groups in order to unpack their DNA discovery research topic.

3.  Point out the designated areas of the room that are labeled with the letters A, B, C, and D to correspond with our four discoveries listed on the jigsaw activity with those letters.

4.  Tell students to bring their notes and textbooks to their group station.

The Classroom Flow: Working with Expert Groups

35 minutes

1.  Allow student expert groups to organize in their designated areas in the classroom and begin work together. Remind them of the expectations for the day:

  • Each expert group will determine the vocabulary terms they feel are most important to highlight for their lab groups when they present their information tomorrow.
  • Each member of the expert group will have the opportunity to ask a question for the group.
  • Each member of the group will practice/rehearse what they will say to their lab groups about their DNA discovery tomorrow.
  • Each member will get feedback and support/suggestions from their expert group.

2.  As expert groups share out their information with each other for confirmation and to take clarifying questions, observe closely for five minutes.  Remind students to access their resources such as their textbook, notes, our DNA discoveries slide presentation, or any web based sources using their personal devices.  

3.  Begin to circulate around the room to observe group interactions and progress and check in as necessary.  Suggest resources first, offering answers only when you feel students are beginning to feel demoralized or stressed.  In general, the nature of this activity and the number of resources they have available will make this a rare need.  Typically, student groups simply want confirmation that they are on the right track, and they almost always are!.  Bringing in terminology is the area where all groups tend to need a reminder to look up and use within their presentations.  

  • Note: In some cases, I introduce the DNA discovery chart rubric to student groups that are either really prepared and want to mirror exactly what I would say if I were presenting.  I also use it for groups that may be really struggling to determine what information is most important to highlight for student learning.  I use it only as a last resort, however.  Most groups will be able to navigate today's session and come up with a great set of norms for their presentations tomorrow.

4.  As you make a second round across the four groups, that is the time to directly reteach/lead a lecture discussion with the expert group.  

  • Note: In general, I try to be really aware of this flow and not to intervene until I feel the student group is really at a crossroads and that they have exhausted all of their resources for support.  It is essential to allow them time to discuss their content in a meaningful way and my goal is not to circumvent that process by being conscious of how much of each answer I am giving to them directly and when I am choosing to do that.  I like to ask student groups to explain to me their topic and ask them questions based on their informal presentation, suggesting areas to look at again/explore further. 

5.  After five minutes, go to each group to answer any lingering questions.  

  • Note: The group that will need the most support here is the Avery team as they unpack the way in which Avery took Griffith's experiment, added enzymes to break down specific organic compounds, and how that affected the animal subjects.  The Hershey and Chase team may or may not need support with the idea of radioactively labeled molecules.  I substitute that concept with colors and draw it for them and that seems to make things much clearer.

6.  Students will not turn in their note sheets today.  Remind them that at the end of the lesson series, they will each be turning in a completed document with their own summary of each DNA discovery including typed, detailed descriptions in their own words and colored, labeled diagrams.  Check out this final product student work sample to see the quality level of the work almost all students will turn in at the end of the series.  You will see that students will be focused and concentrating on completing their written work both within their expert group discussions and during jigsaw expert group solo work moments.  

The Classroom Flow: Prepping for the Jigsaw!

5 minutes

1. Once you have determined that all of the expert groups are confident about their material through direct questioning or practice presentations with you as the audience, tell students that tomorrow they will be presenting their findings to their lab group.

2.  Remind them to bring their materials to class tomorrow and that they will have a brief final practice with their  expert groups at the beginning of class before moving to their solo presentations for and discussions with their lab groups.

Now on to Day 3!