Protein Synthesis is actually a fun concept for me to teach. For me, there are 2 barriers you need to cross in order for students to learn protein synthesis:
1. Learning about the steps of transcription and translation (the easier part)
2. Understanding how DNA translates into gene expression (the harder part)
Most of my students do really well with step 1. They can learn the A's, T's, C's, G's, and U's and where the processes are taking place. But at the end of those lessons, if you ask your students how they have brown eyes, can they answer? It can be difficult to understand how genotypes code for phenotypes. I've put together a list of resources to help walk you and your students through the process.
TEACHING TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION (The easier part)
1. USE INTERACTIVES.
Check out this interactive website where you can go through the process of transcription and translation up on the board with your students. This is a fun way to wrap up your lesson, or use as a reinforcement activity to follow up.
2. USE PUZZLES
Once you've taught the process, you need to have students practice, practice, practice before the test. It's not an easy topic, and they need to have multiple opportunities to review the vocabulary. Check out this puzzle in my TpT store that I use as a review activity.
3. USE VIDEOS
Seeing the process of protein synthesis in real time helps students see the bigger picture much better instead of focusing on the nitty gritty details. Check out these videos from biointeractive of transcription and translation occurring in real time.
TEACHING GENE EXPRESSION (The harder part)
4. USE EXAMPLES
Providing your students with many examples of how DNA --> RNA --> PROTEIN work is critical in helping them understand the complete process. Give them examples from their own body (the gene for melanin showing up as a pigment in their skin and eyes). CLICK HERE to see an example (with video) of a protein that makes fireflies glow.
5. USE ANALOGIES
Do your students understand why all your cells have the same DNA, but they all look different and do different jobs? I created this activity to help students understand how cells have certain genes turned on and certain genes turned off. In this activity the genome is likened to the blueprint of a house. Each student is given a job (plumber, electrician, roofer, or framing) and has to transcribe and translate only the genes that pertain to their jobs. It really helps students understand that cells do not use most of the genome, only genes that apply to them. CLICK HERE to check it out.
If you are interested in a bundle where you can find a lesson, puzzles, review worksheets, close readings, quizzes and more, check out this protein synthesis bundle! It literally has everything you need to get through this unit.
Have any other fun videos, websites, or tips for teaching protein synthesis? Share them in the comments!
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One comment I frequently hear from biology teachers is "My students keep mixing up mitosis and meiosis." I had this problem for many years (the first 5 years of teaching to be exact). During my cells unit I would teach both mitosis and meiosis. I would begin by teaching them both separately, and then had worksheets and activities that compared the two. But when I would give the unit test, it was clear the students still confused the two. I needed to do something differently.
After teaching middle school for 5 years, I switched to a high school near my house. When we got to the cells unit one of my colleagues suggested only teaching mitosis, and waiting to teach meiosis until we got to the genetics unit. Light bulbs kept going off in my head. The more I thought about it, the more sense it made.
So I tried it. At the end of my cells unit (after teaching organelles, membranes, and cellular energy) I would teach mitosis. When I would test them just on mitosis they would score well, because they didn't have both processes in their head to get confused. Then, after Christmas break when we got to genetics, I would teach meiosis. It made so much sense because:
By the time I quizzed the students on meiosis they were experts on cell division. If your school gives you some freedom with the order of your curriculum, try teaching it this way! You won't regret it.
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BONUS! If you want a fun way to make sure students understand the differences between mitosis and meiosis, try this FREE bingo game in my TpT store! Bingo is a great way to review scientific vocabulary. In this game you will call out the definitions and students will cover up the words on their bingo cards. You can download this product free in my TpT store HERE. Enjoy!
This is one lab that you don't want to miss! It's easy, the materials are inexpensive (you probably already have them at home), and it ties together multiple concepts. Winner!
In this lab, students will analyze a pedigree of a fictitious family. In the introduction, students read that "Jon and Sue Smith" were in a car accident and need a blood transfusion. The hospital asks family members to donate, but students will need to figure out which family members are able to successfully donate. To complete this lab, students will need to understand blood types, punnett squares, and pedigrees. Its a great end-of-the-unit lab when you are finished with genetics.
One piece of feedback I have gotten from my TpT store is that this lab can take a while to set up. I'm here to give you some tips to save you set up AND clean up time.
This is a great lab! But don't just take my word for it:
"A+ lab, I can't tell you how well this lab is planned out. There are great teacher instructions (for once!) and a great student lab handout/key. Everything that I need to have a successful lab and not take me 30 hours to figure everything out. I would definitely buy labs from Science Rocks." -asuzanneg
"So fun! My students had a blast. Very well organized and easy to follow. Thanks!" -Sarah H.