Genetics - What do you know?

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SWBAT identify their level of understanding of genetics terminology.

Big Idea

This lesson enables the teacher to gauge student understanding of terms and concepts related to basic genetics.


5 minutes

As the students enter the room, they take out their Chromebooks and work on a Socrative quiz. This quiz deals with cell organelles and serves as a way to link the cells unit with the genetics unit.

I explain to the students that their understanding of the structures and functions of cell organelles will help them better understand genetics.  Most importantly, their quiz results provide me with insight into how well they remember the various cell organelles and identify gaps in their knowledge of the functions of the various organelles as they relate to cell division.


5 minutes

I ask the students to explain how they think genetics relates to the cell organelle quiz they took in class.  In order to help the students make this connection, I lead the students in a review of the cell organelles and their functions, paying specific attention to the nucleus.  I then ask the students where the DNA is located in a human cell.  The students are then able to make the connection that DNA is found in the nucleus of the cell and I tell them that this will be a key element in the understanding of genetics. This portion of the class addresses MS-LS1-2 and CCC Structure and Function by reminding students that the various cell organelles have a specific structure and function and then previewing information regarding additional structures (DNA) that have specific functions within those organelles.

I then move into an explanation of the activities for the day.  I have the students open the in-class activities list.  Over the course of the class, the students complete a pre-unit review of vocabulary and objectives using the red, yellow, green system established in previous lessons (Chemistry - What Do You Know?, Putting It All Together). The students use their Genetics unit info to complete this activity. I have posted these video instructions explaining the activity on our class Learning Management System.

I also explain a word sort activity that the students complete in small groups.  For this particular activity, the students work with the other students seated in their pre-established group.  The students review the vocabulary words for the unit, as listed on the unit information sheet, and group the words based on criteria established by the group.


25 minutes

As the students work on their word sorts, I circulate through the room and ask each group questions about the reasoning behind their classifications.  For instance, I ask students to explain why they placed the card in one group instead of another group or what would happen if they moved a specific card to another group.  

Various groups of students choose to group the cards in different ways.  In this video, a student explains that her group chose to group the cards based on the structure of the words themselves (etymology).  At this point, we have not reviewed etymology in class, so it is interesting that the students chose to group the words in this manner.  When students sort based on etymology, I am able to ask them to explain what they know about the prefixes and suffixes and how that knowledge factored into their sorting.

After the students have classified the words into groups, they take a picture of their grouped note cards using their Chromebooks.  Students may also chose to write down the word groups.  I place the students' pictures on a bulletin board, so the groups may look at the categories chosen by the other groups in the class.

Wrap up

5 minutes

At the end of class I lead a whole group discussion about the vocabulary word sorts and the students' predictions regarding the definitions of the words.  Some of the students have begun working ahead on their flipped notes, so they already have a general understanding of the vocabulary terms.  I try to call on students who have not yet begun the notes, so as to have a better understanding of their prior knowledge about the topic.  During this discussion I ask the students to build off of other students' comments and to provide reasoning for why they agree or disagree with a classmate's definition.

For example, the students tend to group heterozygous and homozygous because they contain the same root word and the students are familiar with both prefixes, so I generally start with this grouping.  I ask a volunteer to provide a definition for heterozygous.  While the students are not usually able to identify the meaning of zygous, they do recognize that hetero means different.  Some students recall the term heterotroph from a previous science class. I then ask a volunteer to provide a possible definition for homozygous.  To follow up, I ask another student if they agree or disagree and then explain why.  I also ask the students to come up with other words that begin with homo.  Students make cross-curricular connections by remembering the words homophone, homograph, and homonym.  To keep all of the students involved in the discussion, it is helpful to have students brainstorm the meaning of a word on their own, jot down their thoughts and then discuss their ideas with a neighbor (Think-Pair-Share).  This can help them collect their thoughts and solidify their ideas with a neighbor prior to sharing out in the whole group.