In this lesson, students will analyze an informational text intended to support reading in the content area. The article explains what happens to certain genes after an organism has died. This lesson also introduces a related video that explains how the fields of Genetics and Biotechnology have affected the field of Forensic Science. By reading the article and viewing the video, students will learn about new discoveries in gene function after death and the impact varying fields of science have upon another. This lesson includes a note-taking guide, text-dependent questions, a writing prompt, answer keys, and a writing rubric.
Subject(s): Science, English Language Arts
Grade Level(s): 11, 12
Document Camera, Internet Connection, LCD Projector
Resource supports reading in content area:Yes
Keywords: genes, forensics, organs, genetic material, cellular energy, forensic science, life, death, text complexity, alive, gene expression, biotechnology, informational text
Lesson Plan Template: General Lesson Plan
Learning Objectives: What should students know and be able to do as a result of this lesson?
- Discuss new discoveries and technologies in forensic medicine, biotechnology, and biology as well as how they have influenced one another and impacted human life
- Cite specific and relevant text evidence to support analysis of text
- Construct a written argument that clearly establishes a main point(s), contains relevant textual evidence to support the main point, utilizes transitions to maintain flow, effectively uses domain-specific vocabulary, and provides an appropriate conclusion
- Integrate multiple sources of information to address a single writing prompt
Prior Knowledge: What prior knowledge should students have for this lesson?
Students will need a basic knowledge of the role of genes in their expression.
- This titled "What is DNA? Basics of DNA" (1:47, uploaded by YouTube user Plethrons) provides a review on genes and basics like dominance vs. recessive.
- Gene expression is covered in this video titled "Gene Expression (2:21, uploaded by YouTube user Genome BC), which offers a review of how a gene does its job.
A basic understanding of forensics would also be helpful.
- This video (4:06, uploaded by YouTube user EducationWithVision) discusses all the branches of forensic science. This lesson will focus on forensic medicine, but students should be aware that is not the only branch of this field of study.
In addition, a basic understanding of biotechnology is also essential.
- This video titled "Introduction to Biotechnology" (3:10, uploaded byYouTube user Kyle Lawson) discusses the basics of biotechnology.
The immune system is discussed within the article so a general understanding is necessary for a complete understanding of the article.
- This CPALMS tutorial titled "The Immune System: Your Body's Private Defense System" (Resource ID 117031) could be used as a homework assignment if a detailed review is needed.
- This video (6:48, uploaded by YouTube user Kurzgesagt - In a Nutshell) also provides a general review of the immune system.
Guiding Questions: What are the guiding questions for this lesson?
- How do you know something is alive?
Student responses may vary depending on their background. They often think of humans first and may say a heartbeat, breathing, if it contains cells, if it can move.
- What are the characteristics of life?
This is an area where students may have misconceptions as to what science defines as the characteristics of life. Characteristics of life:
- Made up of cells
- Based on a universal genetic code
- Obtain and use energy
- Grow and develop
- Adapt to environment
- Maintain Homeostasis
- How do you know when something is no longer living?
Responses might include: when someone stops breathing, when the brain can't function, when the body systems don't work unless plugged in to a machine, when the heart stops beating, when you pluck a flower from the bush, when a tree is chopped down, when you squish it and the insides come out (insects), etc.
Teaching Phase: How will the teacher present the concept or skill to students?
- Begin the lesson by showing the CPALMS Perspectives video (Resource ID 128815). Have students take notes about the connection between Genetics, Biotechnology, and Forensic Science discussed in the video.
- Have a whole class discussion on the notes students took on the video. Include information on what happens to the body once someone dies.
- Address misconceptions that students may still have on characteristics of life and how they apply to death. Students should be reminded that an organism needs to show all the characteristics of life, not just one. Just because an organism is made of cells, doesn't mean it is CURRENTLY alive.
- Ask students: "Is it plausible for someone to become a zombie?"
- Students are likely to bring up many science fiction notions or graphic Hollywood depictions when discussing zombies. During discussion, students should be reminded that they need to think scientifically and include information on biological concepts in their responses.
- A general definition of a zombie would be a reanimated corpse that can move, but does not have rational thought, and is often known to eat flesh.
- Inform students that they will be reading an article about what happens to genes once an organism dies, which may or may not change their minds on "zombies."
Guided Practice: What activities or exercises will the students complete with teacher guidance?
- Provide each student with a copy of the Smithsonian article .
- For class discussions that will follow, it might be helpful to have students number each paragraph of the text.
- Provide each student with a copy of the note-taking guide.
- Before students begin reading, direct them to pay attention to the text features of the article to help them learn and locate information:
- Title: "Some Genes Remain 'Alive' for Days after the Body Dies"
- Subtitle: "Studies in animals show that even when a creature has ceased to live, some genes are still busy doing their thing."
- Have students fill out the note-taking guide as they read the text. This can be done individually, in pairs, or in small groups. The teacher should monitor students as they work and provide support and guidance as needed.
- For academic vocabulary, students will likely be able to use a variety of vocabulary strategies to define the meaning of the words. For domain-specific (in other words, subject-specific) vocabulary, students will typically need to draw on prior knowledge and use a dictionary to define the words.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their completed note-taking guides, checking their work, providing written feedback, or grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers should use the note-taking guide sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
- For discussion of students' answers to the defined vocabulary words, teachers are encouraged to not only ask students to explain the meaning they determined for a word, but the strategy they used to arrive at that meaning. This will allow the teacher to provide alternative suggestions as to how the student could have arrived at the correct meaning of the word.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond:
- When discussing the characteristics of life, students may mention breathing, heartbeat, and movement. Remind students that the term "life" refers to more than just humans. Discuss sedentary organism and plants as examples.
- Students may not understand that the body's death is a gradual process. You may show students the video titled "What Happens When You Die?" (3:11, uploaded by YouTube user AsapSCIENCE). Remind students that the video was published before the article was published and some areas may seem conflicting. Address the fact that science is always changing as new information is learned.
- Possible issue: the topic of death can be a sensitive subject. Be mindful of possible emotional issues with students who may have had a recent incident.
Independent Practice: What activities or exercises will students complete to reinforce the concepts and skills developed in the lesson?
Provide each student with a copy of the text-dependent questions to complete. Students should be reminded to continually refer back to the text and to use relevant and specific evidence from the text to support their answers.
How will you check for student understanding? (Formative Assessment):
- Teachers can check students' understanding by collecting their answers to the text-dependent questions, checking their work, providing written feedback, and maybe grading the assignment. Or, teachers can have students share out their responses and the teacher can provide verbal corrective feedback, allowing students to make corrections to their work during the discussion.
- Teachers should use the text-dependent questions sample answer key to help them assess students' answers.
Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond: Please see the text-dependent questions sample answer key.
Closure: How will the teacher assist students in organizing the knowledge gained in the lesson?
- Before students complete the writing prompt, be sure to review their responses to the other text-dependent questions as a class, including covering the misconceptions and key points described in the sample answer key.
- Before assigning the students the writing prompt, remind students about the perspectives video they watched earlier, DNA Biotechnology & Forensic Science. Students should review their notes from the video. The information in this video will be integrated into their response to the writing prompt. Replay the video, all or in part, as needed.
- See Prior Knowledge section (above) for additional videos to help students review/understand DNA, DNA function, and biotechnology.
- After students' written responses have been graded and returned with feedback, teachers might wish to use the provided sample response with the class. The teacher could show the sample response on an overhead or withanLCD projector and discuss:
- How the topic is introduced in the opening sentences of the introductory paragraph; have students identify the main point of the piece. Brainstorm with students other ways the writer could have opened the piece.
- Have students examine each of the body paragraphs and explain how each supports the main point of the piece.
- Have students identify where the writer effectively uses textual evidence from the article for support of his or her points.
- Have students identify the use of transition words or phrases that make the ideas flow.
- Ask students to identify where domain-specific vocabulary is used accurately and effectively.
- Have students read the final paragraph to see how the writer wrapped up the piece and connected back to the main point established in the introduction.
- Teachers may have students use the rubric to provide a score for the sample written response and have them justify the score they gave, possibly providing revision suggestions for any categories they scored lower than a 4.
Students respond to the question: "What would you do next?" Students should discuss what they believe the next step in science should be with the new information learned.
- Students will individually respond to the writing prompt. They should be directed to respond with a multi-paragraph response, with a clear introduction, body section, and conclusion. They must refer back to the text and the video as they construct their response.
- Provide students with a copy of the Rubric for Writing Prompt and go over it with them so they will know how their written response will be assessed.
- Go over the writing prompt with students and make sure students understand what the prompt is asking them to address. Encourage students to underline key parts of the prompt as the teacher goes over it so they will remember to answer all the required parts:
- Utilizing information from the article and the CPALMS Perspectives video DNA Biotechnology & Forensic Science (Resource ID 128815) explain how the fields of Biology, Biotechnology, and Forensic Science work together to solve crimes and improve the field of medicine.
- Teachers will use the rubric to assess students' written responses.
Specific suggestions for conducting Formative Assessment can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "How will you check for student understanding?"
Feedback to Students
Specific suggestions for providing Feedback to Students can be found in the Guided Practice and Independent Practice phases of the lesson where it says, "Common errors/misconceptions to anticipate and how to respond."
Accommodations & Recommendations
- For students still struggling with the structure of DNA, have them view this titled "DNA Structure" (4:21, uploaded by YouTube user Teacher's Pet).
- For students struggling with the concept of genes, have them view this video titled "What is a Gene?" (4:56, uploaded by YouTube user Stated Clearly).
- To help students further understand the field of forensics, have them view this video titled "The Real Science of Forensics" (9:23, uploaded by YouTube user SciShow).
- For students struggling with the note-taking guide, teachers may want to fill in some of the answers on the graphic organizer for students, leaving them to fill in the rest.
- For struggling writers, it might help to provide them with an outline to help them structure their response. The outline might include places for them to record:
- Ideas on how to introduce the topic
- A few specifics from the text they might want to use to support or explain the topic
- A place to write down their main point(s)
- Topic sentences (the first sentence of each body paragraph that will reveal the point of the paragraph and will connect to the paper's overall main point)
- Specific evidence from the text for support in each body paragraph
- Ideas for transition words
- Ideas for use of selected vocabulary
- Ideas on how to wrap up their piece and connect back to the main point(s)
provides numerous forensic STEM activities. Examples include:
- Taking a Tour of a Forensic Biology Lab
- Handwriting Analysis
- CSI Web Adventure
Suggested Technology: Document Camera, Internet Connection, LCD Projector
For teachers who would like more support in understanding and implementing Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects into their science curriculum, please see the teacher tutorials featured in the section of this lesson's CPALMS resource page labeled "Attached Resources."
The grade band recommendation reflects the shifts inherent in the Standards and is based on a text complexity analysis of a quantitative measure, qualitative rubric, and reader and task considerations.
Source and Access Information
Name of Author/Source: Jasmin Baez
District/Organization of Contributor(s): Brevard
Access Privileges: Public
* Please note that examples of resources are not intended as complete curriculum.