Lesson 3

DNA Discoveries: How Did We Get From Then to Now? (Day 3 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: Introducing Today's Work

5 minutes

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

2. Tell students they will have 15 minutes in their expert groups to review their DNA discovery one last time before moving to their lab groups.  

3.  Direct students to their expert group areas in the room, labeled by the DNA discovery letters found on their jigsaw activity directions document: A, B, C, and D.

The Classroom Flow: Final Expert Group Check in

15 minutes

1. Tell each expert group that they have 15 minutes to check in together and ensure that each member feels confident about their understanding of their DNA discovery.

2.  Remind students that after this brief check in session that they will be moving into their lab groups and begin to share out their information with each other before creating a group poster of their understanding.

3.  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 slide presentation, or any web based sources using their personal devices. You will also see some students doing solo work; every child has their own way of processing information and I try to allow them that time, checking in later on to ensure they have what they need in order to successfully participate within the expert group setting as well as their lab group discussions.  Here are some photos of my students at work (Disclaimer: they get shy when they are talking when I whip out my camera!  I am working on my sly paparazzi skills so you can see them in discussion mode more often):

Students working #1

Students working #2

Students working #3

4.  After five minutes of close observation and listening in on student conversations within each expert group, go to each group to answer any lingering questions.  

  • Note: If you were able to go to each group yesterday, you may find students do not have any additional questions.  It is still a good idea to ask them about vocabulary/terms that they intend to highlight during their presentation to their individual lab groups.  Students want to be well prepared and appreciate it when I provide additional ways to improve upon their hard work.

5.  Once you have visited each group, announce that it is time to move to student lab groups and begin to share out with their lab teams.

The Classroom Flow: Jigsaw Time!

30 minutes

1.  Tell students to break out of their expert groups into their normal lab group table. 

2.  When students move to their lab groups, tell them that each person will get five minutes to present their information to their team.  Students should listen and take notes as the presenter speaks and ask questions as they finish.  Tell students the two major DON'Ts of this activity:

  • DON'T read your notes.  Talk to your team, make eye contact!
  • DON'T pass around your notes to copy.  Let your team members use their listening and advocacy skills to pay attention and share with you their questions.  

3. As student groups work, you will find that your job is mostly to observe closely and listen for recurring questions or ideas for clarification.  You can address them with the whole group at the end of the class as needed after the students work with their evidence presenters' information on their own for this quick 20 minute session.

4.  When students are done with this activity, their notes document will be entirely filled out and can serve as a rough draft for their final assignment: a typed, detailed description of each DNA discovery in their own words with labeled, color diagrams. This final product SW sample is shows the typical level of quality you can expect from students after our lesson series.

And now on to Day 4!