Academic Vocabulary: Creating a "Foldable"

Print Lesson


Students will understand, define, and express (visually) the concept of “recombinant DNA”.

Big Idea

Many roads exist to help strengthen and refine student command of science terms; this strategy blends visual and linguistic elements in a creative way.

Learner Goals

Note: I recommend that you first check out this resource in order to get the most out of this lesson!

In high school I took several drafting classes and, for a while, I had hoped to become an architect. With respect to planning instruction and teaching, I feel that I can still live out the detailed approach to building something intricate and complex even though the product is a lesson rather than a certain "built environment".

The lesson-planning document that I uploaded to this section is a comprehensive overview of how I approach lesson planning. This template includes the "Big Three" aspects of the NGSS standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science Practices. Of course, there are many other worthy learning goals, skills, instructional strategies, and assessments that can be integrated into a class session. I don't feel compelled to check every box but, rather, use it as a guide to consider various options and tailor the lesson in light of these.

Generally speaking students will understand that…

1. Genetic material can be transferred from one organism to another by the tools of biotechnology.

2. Only small parts of the DNA molecule need to be transferred to make large (phenotypic) effects.

Specifically, students will…

3. understand, define, and express (visually) the concept of “recombinant DNA”.

I hope you get some value from my work!

Anticipatory Set ("Hook")

10 minutes

Consult the focus for today by way of the Unit Map. Read both EU statements and direct students to self-assess their understanding of the lesson goal (#5.1.5 per the Unit Map).

Enduring Understandings:

1. Genetic material can be transferred from one organism to another by the tools of biotechnology.

2. Only small parts of the DNA molecule need to be transferred to make large (phenotypic) effects.

Lesson Goal:

I understand that, through genetic engineering, foreign DNA can be introduced into a (host) organism.  Furthermore, this foreign gene is then transcribed and translated as part of the host’s genome (DNA code) that can then produce the foreign protein.

In other words, students should be told that, in the end of this process, a recombinant DNA sequence will have been created. This addresses the first part of the Essential Question of this unit:

“Just because genetic engineering can be done, should it be done?”

Instructional Input/Student Activities

40 minutes

Teaching Challenge: How do I support students to persevere and grapple with complex tasks?

To be blunt, my students have historically struggled with the concept of creating a bit of recombinant DNA from two distinct sources (on a micro/molecular scale). Yes, they get the idea of creating a "spider goat" and, while that creeps most of them out, they understand it. I think that, due to the sheer abstract nature of the process and that most of my students are emerging from a concrete/sequential manner of thinking and processing, this topic requires more care and scaffolding to get them to the end goal. That being said, if students can get the essential nature of this technology then the rest flows more easily. So, being a complex task (i.e. explaining the details of the GMO process) we must necessarily break it down. Consider this task to be Step #1.

Teaching Challenge: How can I increase/improve my students' use of appropriate and precise science vocabulary?

To extend the discussion (err... rather monologue since no one is replying to me typing away as I am now), the nature of science is that it is technical. That is just how it goes. With regard to GMOs terms like vector, ligase, plasmid, donor and recipient organisms can be akin to Greek, Latin, or some other really weird language (unless of course you are a Greek or know how to speak to dead Romans). So I chose an artistic way to express the idea that captures both the verbal and non-verbal aspects of "recombinant DNA". For the most part, my students eagerly embrace days where they can put their right cerebral hemisphere to use and I have strong leanings this way too so I tend to teach as an extension of my own learning styles. So there you go!

Vocabulary Foldable (AKA Fold-it):

1. Present the directions and template for the foldable and show an example of how to set up their blank sheet of paper. For the template that I presented to students, I created a two-sided (duplex) copy rather than gluing two pages together as is indicated by the directions. Also, the fold should be squarely in the middle of the page.
2. Direct students to explore the meaning (definition and part of speech) and make sense of the concept (via a written statement related to it and a well-drawn, colored and labeled diagram).

Scoring criteria:

-A diagram or suitable visual depiction of the concept is neatly drawn and labeled (as necessary).

-Definition, statement relating its nature, and part of speech are clearly and correctly included

Here are two examples to compare with the criteria: exterior & interior of foldable

Quality check: assess student performance when they turn it in and provide feedback as necessary because (perhaps this only applies to some of my students) some students prefer to rush through something just to be done with it! Sacre bleu, can it be true? Mais oui!

*For other strategies, check out this academic vocabulary resource!                                  


Closure: What did we learn? Where do we go from here?

5 minutes

Turn and Talk: Direct students to discuss the similarities and differences between their foldable and a table partner. Randomly call on student to share the highlights of their depictions.          

What did they find in common?