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ScienceFix: Poems about the Gene Pool

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from ScienceFix
Scientific Topic: the gene pool Students Write: a "two-voiced poem"

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Your Glorious
Gene Pool
genetic traits explored by two perspectives in a piece of writing

This writing across the curriculum lesson was written by ScienceFix Coordinator, Yvette Deighton. Yvette believes the lesson would work well students in grades 6-12.

This lesson was proposed to ScienceFix using this template. If you have a science/mentor text lesson you'd like to have published, fill out the template and send it to Yvette Deighton, our ScienceFix Coordinator: We'll send you an NNWP Print Publication if we post your lesson here!

Lesson Overview:

Lesson Objective: Students will create a double voice poem that describes their genetic traits from their own perspective and the point of view of a geneticist. Students use the mentor texts “Shallow End Of The Gene Pool” (a song by the Austin Lounge Lizards) and I Am the Dog I Am the Cat (a picture book by Donald Hall).

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Word Choice (using precise nouns, interesting adjectives, and strong verbs in the writing)
  • Voice (keeping an audience in mind when planning writing)
  • Conventions (using correct spelling, especially of scientific vocabulary words from their research)

Materials List:

Setting the Stage:

During a unit on Human Genetic Patterns of Inheritance, ask students to examine some of their own genetic traits such as blood type, facial features, other health or physical features. I usually start with simple dominant and recessive traits whether the ear lobes are attached or “free” and then progress to more complex patterns. I describe how this trait follows the simple dominant or recessive inheritance patterns described by Gregor Mendel.

Teacher Instructions:

Once students have been given some instruction on the different patterns of inheritance (depending on the age level, it may or may not include multiple allele, sex linked, or polygenic) they could be asked to create a list of their physical traits (phenotype) and if possible record the genotype (if the traits are recessive or by inference if they know the traits from their parents and siblings).

Next ask them to begin to describe some of traits they have inherited from their parents, maybe their personality traits, abilities or skills, or patterns they see in health related traits. You might want to require that after students complete the first draft of their traits, they continue the conversation with their parents or siblings.

Now introduce the mentor text, and song: Shallow End Of The Gene Pool (Determine for yourself if you need to preface the ideas that their poem will include both positive and possibly “negative” traits. ) After students read the lyrics and listen to the song, ask them to make a list of the different traits described and the language used to describe them.

Next ask students to begin to identify the traits they may want to describe in their poem. Ask them to include physical, personality, and health traits. Once students have the basic idea. They can begin to write the first part of their poem using this template. There is plenty of room for students to be humorous, encourage them to gloat, or be silly, not taking themselves too seriously.

Once students have a rough draft of their Gene Pool Poem. Allow time for revision, editing, and feedback. I like to use the Trait Post-it® Note-sized templates (Insert Here) for personal revision and peer review.

Next, introduce the second text: I Am the Dog I Am the Cat. Allow them to discuss how the author uses two different voices and points of view to describe the same topic.

Now your students will respond to their poem from a second point of view - a geneticist. So what would the geneticist say about a gene for freckles? “A dominant gene that increases the amount of melanin in the skin in response to sunlight.” This portion of the poem may require students to use notes, textbooks, or other resources. Ask students to respond as the scientist in voice bubbles off to the side of each trait they have described in the Gene Pool Poem.

Point of caution: As always this type of topic needs a gentle consideration for students who may be adopted or have overt genetic disorders.

Do you have a student sample to share?

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We're currently looking for student samples for all grade levels for this lesson!  Help us obtain some from your students, and we'll send you a free resource for your classroom!  Samples for the lesson on this page can be posted for review at this posting site.



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