Lesson Plan

Human genetic manipulation - student discussion

Students learn to discuss pros and cons of interfering with human genes.
Zovig M.
Classroom teacher
Glendale High School
Glendale, CA
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My Grades 9, 10, 11, 12
My Subjects Science

Students will be able to:

- read a text (or several texts) discussing issues regarding human genetic manipulation

- prepare an argument defending one side of the discussion

- engage in a Socratic Seminar on the topic

- prepare a write-up defending their case to their local councilmember

Health & Wellness
Grades 7 - 10
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 The Hook

Activity: Other — Watching a short video at http://www.kqed.org/education and specifically http://blogs.kqed.org/education/category/do-now/

Teacher shows the video on the KQED website regarding manipulating mitochondrial DNA for the purpose of reducing the chances of passing maternal diseases to a child.  This video is used as an introduction to the idea of having a debate around a controversial topic.

2 Direct Instruction

Activity: Reading

Groups of students are given different articles (current news are the best, as well as scientific viewpoints) that discuss the benefits and the possible downfalls of attempting to change human genes.  One source could be http://blogs.kqed.org/education/2015/02/17/should-we-modify-dna-in-human....  This step could also be assigned the day before as homework.  Teacher explains that to have an intelligent discussion students need to have their argument points prepared ahead of time, listen to each other, and be respectful.  Teacher passes out a T-chart with the headings "Arguments FOR...." and "Arguments AGAINST..." to each student in each group.  Students are given time to list the ideas mentioned in their group article and after a discussion decide one person to present the pro argument and one to present the con argument.  A good resource for teachers is https://www.teachingchannel.org/videos/using-socratic-seminars-in-classr...  and https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/SocSem.pdf


3 Guided Practice

Activity: Debating

Students who will be presenting their arguments sit in an inner circle, while those who will be observing sit in an outer circle.  There will be one chair empty in the inner circle and it's called the "hot seat" for anyone from the outside circle who feels the urgency to make a point to the inner circle.  Depending on how much time is provided (and this part could be done on a second day) discussion continues while outer circle members are assigned one person to observe and comment about on their handouts.  You can use the handout at this link (https://www.nwabr.org/sites/default/files/SocSem.pdf) for recording observations.  If time allows, the inner and outer circles switch their spots and their roles and the discussion could continue.  Teacher might throw in a question or a comment if there are lulls in the discussion to initiate a new point or make a reference to one of the texts assigned. 

4 Independent Practice

Activity: Creating

Students use their arguments list as well as the information they heard from the discussion to write a letter to their city councilmember (or another entity that the teacher chooses) discussion the problem, their perspective and argument regarding it, and urging their councilmember to vote in a particular way on an upcoming ballot.

5 Wrap-up

Activity: Other — Reflection

Students are asked to reflect on the Socratic Seminar process they experienced.  Questions the teacher poses might include: What surprised you about the discussion?  What was the biggest asset you brought to the discussion? Having experienced it once, what would you do differently next time?  Reflection might be in pairs, in writing, or as a class.