The Transcription & Translation Process Activities for High School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

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

As a high school science teacher, you might be teaching your students about transcription and translation in RNA and DNA. This lesson offers some activities that will make this aspect of your curriculum more meaningful for students.

Teaching Transcription and Translation

If you trying to help your students understand more about how genetic material works, you will want them to understand the processes of transcription and translation.

In the scientific context, transcription refers to the process by which RNA is synthesized from a DNA template to an RNA code. In translation, a protein is synthesized from RNA to a sequence of amino acids. Together, these processes result in the creation of a specific nucleotide sequence comprising individual genetic material.

Because transcription and translation are quite complex, it can be helpful to give your students activities that will help them make more sense of these processes.

Visual Activities

This section provides activities that will allow students to access visual learning styles while deepening their understanding of transcription and translation.

Visual Glossary

Understanding transcription and translation also involves having a well-developed biology-oriented vocabulary. Ask students to work in pairs for this activity.

Each partnership should come up with a list of ten to 20 vocabulary words that they will need to know and use in understanding transcription and translation. For instance, what is ribosomal RNA or a codon? For each word they include, they should also create a sketch or diagram that helps them remember and reference the meaning over the course of your work.

Similarities and Differences

Students will sometimes struggle to understand what the difference is between transcription and translation, as well as how these processes are related and similar. Have students work with partners to create Venn diagrams that compare and contrast transcription and translation, both in terms of how they work and what their outcome is.

Tactile Activities

These activities will let students use their hands and bodies to make more sense of the biological concepts at hand.

Build a Model

Ask students to work with partners and give each pair access to clay or recycled materials. Their task is to create a tactile, three-dimensional model that shows either how the transcription process works or how the translation process works.

They should make sure that an audience who does not understand these processes would be able to look at their models and learn something about how it works. Leave time for students to share their models and discuss challenges that came up as part of this building process.

Act it Out

This funny activity will help your students get some energy out while enhancing their science understanding. In small groups, ask students to choose to focus either on transcription or translation.

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