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.
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.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1a, RST.9-10.2, RST.9-10.4, HS-LS3-1, XC-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.9-10.2d, SL.9-10.1, SL.9-10.1a, SL.9-10.1b, SL.9-10.4, HS-LS3-1, XC-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!
1. Ask students to assist you in arranging the chairs of your space into two circles facing each other.
2. Tell students to pick a seat and to take out a piece of paper and their DNA discovery chart document and/or notes from our jigsaw activity.
3. Tell students that today they will be playing the roles of their different expert group scientists and reporters. Tell the inside circle that they will be their scientist (Griffith, Avery, Hershey & Chase, or Watson & Crick/Chargaff/Franklin. The outside circle will be reporters. Each time you call switch, the scientists will stay seated while the reporters move over one chair clockwise and then they will repeat the process.
4. Ask students to take a moment and write down either a brief paragraph monologue/summary of their work (scientists) or their name/news organization/general questions they could ask (reporters). Allow for a few minutes of quiet time while students think and write. Tell them they will be leaving this paper with you as they leave just for you to see their thinking. As you can see from the photo above, students will use the brief time you give them to prepare for this new activity. Check out the following two samples of student writing during this preparation step. Both samples show both a short set of questions they can ask in the reporter role and a brief summary of their DNA discovery experiment when they shifted roles mid-way through the activity.
5. Tell students that they do not have to take notes on their discussion unless they will find it helpful as they complete their DNA discovery chart assignment due next week. The primary focus here is on listening and speaking.
1. When students are ready, have them begin. Be sure to tell reporters to introduce themselves! This helps to get them into character.
2. Call switch when you hear conversations winding down. For some classes, this may be only a minute while for others, they will be able to sustain a longer conversation. My goal was to keep the energy and discussion flowing and I adjusted my timeframe to that end.
3. After about 5-8 minutes of switching, ask students to stand up and trade places so that the students who were sitting in the inside circle (scientists) move to the outside circle (reporters) and vice versa.
Check out some pictures of my students at work! As you can see, student scientists are highly engaged in the activity, grabbing nearby models to illustrate their point and gesturing as their reporter partners actively listen for information and to help frame their next question.
4. Explain to students that they will now have the chance to experience the other role (scientist or reporter). Ask them to take a minute to either write down a paragraph of what they might say about their research (scientist) or questions they could ask (reporter).
5. Begin the process again for another 5-8 minutes.
1. Ask students to locate their original lab groups and to move so that each lab group is sitting in the circle next to each other.
2. Once students have rearranged themselves to be in their groups, ask them to discuss two prompts:
What was this process like for you?
What did you learn?
3. Using the spokesperson protocol, have student groups share out their conversations. You can also ask probing questions such as: which role did you like better (reporter or researcher) and why? What are some challenges you faced and how did you deal with them?
Here is a video clip of one student spokesperson responding to our prompts.
1. Ask students to discuss in their groups one essential question that they feel they need to ask for more support, clarification, or specific detailed aspects of the science discoveries we studied this week.
2. Use the spokesperson protocol for sharing out responses. Typical topics you may encounter that could require your input/reteaching:
3. Remind students to leave you their reporter/researcher prep notes and field any additional questions about their written DNA discoveries chart assignment.