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Teaching Genetics/Heredity to Students with Special Needsw

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Ashley Vandgrift Ashley Vandgrift 30 Points

I am planning a unit on Genetics and Heredity for a biology class that I am observing/teaching in. It is a class on a slower schedule, giving students 3 trimesters to learn information instead of 2. Many of the students in this class are students with special needs that require inclusion as part of their IEP, or students that have failed to pass the course in the past. Overall, many of the students struggle with learning much of the material in this class, and I want to provide lots of differentiation in my instruction/lesson plans so the different learning needs of students can be met (i.e. visual learners, kinesthetic learners, etc.). With that being said, what are some different labs/classroom activities that I can use to help my students best learn the material? I don't want to do activities that will confuse them more, but ones that will help them fully understand the concepts of the class. If you have any that you've used before, or suggestions for the class in general, I would greatly appreciate any feedback. Thanks!

Cindy Faller Cindy Faller 200 Points

Did you ever get any responses to your thread?

Cindy Faller Cindy Faller 200 Points

This website is great because it gives you some ideas about how to prepare for differentiating your curriculum. Then it also shares that there are three ways to differentiate. You can differentiate the content, the process or the product. These different methods are explained a little bit. It's a great starting point.

Loren Nomura Loren Nomura 4055 Points

As far as genetics go, there's a simple and visual activity you could have your students do for cell division (mitosis and meiosis). It's just a foldable, have them make a meiosis or mitosis flip chart. I don't have the attachment that I use right now but I'll try and post it later

Erin Mendelson Erin Mendelson 2690 Points

Hi Ashley, I teach special education to seventh graders in an inclusion setting as well. The unit on genetics was challenging; however, we provided a myriad of learning activities. We conducted a debate about nurture vs. nature and the Scopes trial (for evolution). Many of my students are kinesthetic learners and learn best by composing their own arguments and debating. The grade is based mostly on their verbal arguments. I also searched the NSTA website beforehand and found several activities. One project involved cutting up wire and attaching beads. My co-teacher went ahead with the project when I was not there (without reading the lesson plan) and it flopped. There was another interesting activity titled Toothpick Chromosomes: Simple Manipulatives to help students understand genetics. I haven't tried this activity but I see its potential to offer a visual model. We also provided lots of short video clips, Brain pop, Discovery Ed videos, and even a rap found on you tube. We essentially flooded our students through all learning modalities to see what would stick. Overall, the Punnett Squares poses the most challenging section. I am still looking for a great way to deliver a using Punnett Squares.

Loren Nomura Loren Nomura 4055 Points

I got the flipchart idea off the NSTA SciGuide for genetics. I also used the template provided at


Patty McGinnis Patricia McGinnis 25635 Points

Have you tried searching for lessons geared for middle school students? you may find them more appropriate. Here's one called Arthropod Genetics that looks like a lot of fun.

Ricki Luster Ricki Luster 1400 Points

For heredity and genetics, I got a wonderful idea from a high school teacher. We do a Build A Baby Coin Toss Activity. Heads = Dominant/Tails = Recessive. Students are given a trait, and then they toss a coin to see if it is dominant or recessive. When finished with all of the traits, they need to draw (build) what their baby will look like. This has helped with my students' understanding of this difficult subject area. Hope this helps you too. R. Luster

Mary Ann Ng Mary Ann Ng 3385 Points

Manipulative chromosomes made out of pool noodles or colored strings. It's a great way of connecting other hands-on activities like "baby genetics" with Mendel's laws.

Kendra Young Kendra Young 17180 Points

Have you searched for journal articles in the Learning Center? I did a quick search for genetics and narrowed it down to just the journals (there are 51), so I would suggest narrowing those down to your specific grade level (the results range from elementary to college level). You can find the genetics search results here.

Then I did a search on heredity and found only seven articles, but I also linked to them here.

Be sure to come back and let us know how it goes!

Whitney Aragaki Whitney Aragaki 2490 Points

In my experience, many weaker students really enjoy genetics/heredity, because it is so relevant to their individual lives. I have seen students thrive on activities that let them take surveys on phenotypic expressions in classmates. These "fun" surveys can be translated to a discussion on dominant/recessive alleles and eventually into the understanding of phenotype v genotype. Then, you can extrapolate the understanding to the expression ratios of Mendelian genetics. Your school's math teachers would rave if the students were able to eventually connect ratios to this concept. I would give students a lot of think-time for these activities, and a lot of group work as well.

Cheska Robinson Cheska Lorena 5075 Points

Ashley, Here are some things that worked well with my 7th Graders: Using acronyms to help with cell division . Challenge your scholars to come up with the most interesting, or spectacular acronyms to help them remember the steps. For example, here's what my scholars came up with: 3 stages of cell cycle: IMC, "I make cupcakes" [but] 4 phases of mitosis: PMAT, "Pam makes apple turnovers." Using hand signals to help with mitosis phases . There are some great Youtube videos that use fingers, and also tackle both mitosis and meiosis. However, this video is the one I used and modified with my scholars: '' target="_blank"> ' target="_blank"> [b] Using memory "letter" tricks to help with mitosis phases[/b]. For example, "P" for prophase can stand for "pairs", while "M" for metaphase stands for "middle", and "A" for anaphase stands for "away" or "apart", and "T" for telophase stands for "two" but they're still "together". Using Greek/Latin root words to help remember academic vocabulary . Helping scholars break apart academic vocabulary into root words gets them in the habit of figuring out the meanings themselves. Another modification for the coin cross lab is to put masking tape on both sides of the quarters, and label them with the dominant and recessive alleles. This gets them into the habit of seeing allele combinations for genotypes.

Nicole Bartkovich Nicole Bartkovich 690 Points

Hello, I also teach Special Education. My students have a hard time understanding the concepts unless they can relate it to their life. When I was looking for ideas a teacher had posted a link to a website with multiple activities. The students loved the activities I used because the work sheets dealt with sponge bob and some of the activities were hands on. One activity I also had the students do was to create a monster based on the dominant and recessive traits listed. The pictures turn out funny and the students have a great time while learning the difference between the two types of traits.

Nicole Bartkovich Nicole Bartkovich 690 Points

Hi again, I guess it would help if I told you the website.

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