Chromosome Mutation Activities

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As your students come to a deeper understanding of cells, DNA, and chromosomes, they will also start learning about chromosomal mutations. This lesson offers activities that will help them deepen their understanding.

Studying Chromosome Mutations

As a teacher of biology, you are probably spending some time teaching your students about DNA and chromosomes. When your students learn what chromosomes are and how they work within DNA, they will also probably start wondering what happens when chromosomes develop differently from 'normal'. This marks a good opportunity to start teaching about chromosome mutations.

Chromosome mutations are usually thought of as missing, extra, or irregular portions of chromosomal DNA. These are usually structural and inherited, though sometimes they are also acquired.

To help your students learn more about chromosome mutations, you may want to offer some activities that enhance their learning. The activities in this lesson appeal to different learning styles while teaching about chromosome mutation.

Visual Activities

This section offers activities that will appeal to students who learn best using pictures or graphic organizers.

Compare and Contrast

This activity will help students understand what different mutations and disorders look like on a chromosomal level. Show your students two different human karyotypes, one with a normal chromosomal sequence and one representing a deletion or insertion. Ask them to see if they can find the differences and describe them. Then, have students repeat this task independently with a series of different karyotypes representing a variety of mutations.

Diagram Different Structures

After your students have learned different structures of chromosome mutations, such as deletions, duplications, and translocations, ask them to create a diagram representing each different kind. They can use whatever symbolism makes sense to them to represent the mutation. Then, they can put their diagrams together into little booklets that help them remember various kinds of mutations.

Kinesthetic Activities

Here, you will find activities that allow students to use their hands and bodies to learn more about chromosome mutations.

Model a Karyotype

Break students into partnerships and ask each pair to work with clay or recycled materials. Their task is to create a model that represents the karyotype for a specific disorder that results from a chromosome mutation. They should then write a caption explaining their model and some of the characteristics associated with the disorder. Give them a chance to share their models as a class.

History in Action

The discovery of each chromosome mutation has a rich and robust history, and students can benefit from understanding this. Break students into small groups, and ask each group to study the history of how one particular chromosomal disorder was discovered, is treated, or is understood. Have them create a short skit that enacts what they have learned. Finally, let them perform their skits for their classmates and ask each other any questions that come up.

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