The Monster Mash

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SWBAT apply the concepts of DNA transcription and translation to determine how the structure of DNA will determine the structure of proteins through hands-on student activities.

Big Idea

Don't be afraid of this lesson where monsters come to life as a result of student effort in transcription and translation! Time to turn scary into smart and get your students excited about DNA!

Video Introduction: Making Monsters Meaningful

1 minutes

This video clip will introduce today's lesson as the class reinforces the processes of transcription and translation as part of protein synthesis.

Hook - Terrifying Translations

10 minutes

Students will work independently to create their own message using the developed alphabetical code.  Students are encouraged work backwards from alphabetical letter (amino acid), to mRNA, and then finally DNA. Students' phrases must relate to the biology curriculum or show support for school spirit!!!  

Students will use the universal genetic code from the textbook to "backwards" translate these amino acids into mRNA codons AND then "backwards" transcription to create the resulting DNA codon.

A-glycine               B-alanine                C-valine              D-leucine             E-isoleucine

F-proline               G-phenylalanine      H-tyrosine           I-tryptophan        J-serine

K-theronine           L-cysteine               M-methionine     N-asparagine       O-glutamine

P-lysine                 Q-arginine              R-histidine          S-aspartate         T-glutamate

U-glycine               V-alanine               W-valine             X-leucine             Y-isoleucine


Example to be used for clarification:

  1. G = phenylalanine, backwards translated to UUU, backwards transcribed to AAA
  2. E = isoleucine, backwards translated to AUC, backwards transcribed to TAG
  3. N =asparagine, backwards translated to GAU, backwards transcribed to CTA
  4. E = isoleucine, backwards translated to AUC, backwards transcribedmto TAG

Students may select any of the mRNA codons that correspond to their selected letter/amino acid because most amino acids have multiple mRNA codons.

Samples of Student Work - Decoding Activity - These student work samples demonstrate the level of creativity and fun that was generated through the implementation of this activity. Students were engaged in the activity and it appeared that the "decoding" challenge made many students forget that this was actually "school work".  Have fun with this activity and you can even award prizes/recognition for the most creative efforts!

Direction Instruction - Nerve-Wracking Notes

10 minutes

The teacher will quickly review the Lecture Notes - Protein Synthesis regarding DNA transcription and translation that were covered in-depth in a previous lesson.  The notes go into detail to explain:

  • How the specific structure of the DNA sequence will pass along the genetic information by creating a strand of mRNA through the process of transcription?
  • Then the mRNA chain leaves the nucleus and moves to the ribosome to be decoded through the process of translation which will continue to bond together the individual amino acid molecules to form a long protein chain.  
  • The structure (or specific sequence of amino acids) of the newly created protein will determine the exact function that the protein will carry out in the body.

Students are encouraged to review the lecture notes each day as the class progresses through this fascinating, but complex unit of study.

Guided Practice - Manufacturing Menacing Monsters

30 minutes

Each student will receive a copy of The Monster Mash Handout.  Students will independently work to transcribe the provided DNA codon sequences into mRNA codons which will then be translated into amino acids to determine the physical traits of the monsters.

Students are also provided colored pencils so they can create their one-of -a-kind masterpieces to depict the physical traits of their monsters that resulted from the transcription and translation of the fictitious DNA.

If time allows, the students may enter their monsters into a Biology Beauty Contest!  Student volunteers are encouraged to showcase their monster creations and the class can vote for their favorite which will be crowned Miss Transcription USA.  Votes are tallied using the quantity of applause for each contestant.  Teachers are encouraged to go as far as they want with the beuaty contest . . . a sash, a crown, music, an acceptance speech!

Monster Beauty Contestant #1 - The student activity will lead the students to have the same characteristics so it is interesting, and even more entertaining, to witness your students' imagination come to life through their artwork

Monster Beauty Contestant  #2 - Another great example of student creativity.

Protein Synthesis Student Work Samples - These students practiced the processes of transcription and translation while creating their entries for Miss Transcription USA!



Close - Petrifying Proteins

5 minutes

Students will use their lecture notes, textbook, and experiences from today's lesson to develop a narrative paragraph that describes how the structure of DNA will determine the structure of proteins that carry out specific functions to keep us alive.  Students must cite factual data from their resources as evidence to support their claim.  Students will complete this writing assignment as homework.