ALEX Lesson Plan


Supernatural Seeds: What Are the Positive and Negative Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms?

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Hannah Bradley
System: Dothan City
School: Carver Magnet School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35245


Supernatural Seeds: What Are the Positive and Negative Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms?


Students will begin the lesson by viewing a video clip that will explain the difference between classical and transgenic breeding of plants. Next, students will work in groups to identify common foods that contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). Students will further explore this concept by gathering and synthesizing information regarding the impact of genetically modified organisms on the appearance of desired traits in organisms. Lastly, students will engage in the "RAFT" writing strategy, by taking on the role of a farmer persuading their employees to consider the positive or negative impacts of genetically-modified food crops.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
LIT2010 (6-8) Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects
4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
SC2015 (7) Life Science
14. Gather and synthesize information regarding the impact of technologies (e.g., hand pollination, selective breeding, genetic engineering, genetic modification, gene therapy) on the inheritance and/or appearance of desired traits in organisms.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

  • Students will describe the difference between classical breeding and genetically modified breeding of plants. 
  • Students will gather and synthesize information regarding the impact of genetic modification on the appearance of desired traits in organisms.
  • Students will formulate a writing piece that describes the positive and/or negative impact of using genetically modified crops for our food supplies.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Student Materials (per student)

Pencil or pen

Copies of the informational text (or Internet capable devices view informational text)

"Debatable Issues" graphic organizer from the New York Times (can be completed on an internet-capable device or copied prior to lesson)

"RAFT Writing Template" from

"RAFT Writing Rubric" (see attachments)

Website Links Used in During Strategy (to be copied prior to lesson if internet-capable devices are unavailable to students)

"U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans." from the New York Times

"Genetic Engineering vs. Natural Breeding: What's the Difference?" from

Website Links Used in After Strategy (to be copied prior to lesson if internet-capable devices are unavailable to students)

"A Race to Save the Orange by Altering its DNA" from the New York Times

"U.S.D.A. Approves Modified Potato. Next Up: French Fry Fans." from the New York Times

"Are Americans Ready to Resurrect the Once Ubiquitous 'Spreading Chestnut Tree'?" from

"That Fresh Look, Genetically Buffed" from the New York Times

Website for Acceleration Activity: "Engineer a Crop: Transgenic Manipulation" from 

Student Materials (per group)

"Food Label Cards" from

Teacher Resources

Video clip for before strategy: "Classical vs. Transgenic Breeding" from Frontline/Nova-3:11

"RAFT Writing Rubric" (see attachment) Note: Rubric was created using Rubistar

Technology Resources Needed:

Student Technology Resources

An internet capable device to view informational text (if available)

Teacher Technology Resources

Computer with internet access

Projector/interactive whiteboard with the ability to project sound


Student Background Information: As this lesson will serve as an introduction to the technology of genetic modification of plants, students do not need to possess background information about this topic. However, students should understand that an organism's DNA within its genes contributes to the organism's characteristic traits. This lesson will require students to work cooperatively with their classmates in a pair or group. At the conclusion of the lesson, students will develop a RAFT writing project as a summative assessment. If the students do not prior experience with this writing format, the teacher may wish to spend additional time teaching this writing strategy prior to the lesson.

Teacher Background Information: From the beginning of agriculture, people have used selective breeding methods to change plants' genetic makeup and ensure the plants are useful as a food crop. Using a classical breeding process, it can take many years to achieve the desired trait, and it can be difficult to isolate the exact trait the breeder would like to change. Within the past 25 years, scientists have developed the technology to genetically modify, or engineer, an organism's characteristic traits by inserting particular genes into an organism's genome in order to produce the desired outcome. There are currently ten food crops in the United States that have been approved for food usage. Although United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have deemed these crops as safe, many consumers still question the long-term safety of consuming genetically modified organisms. 

This lesson will require students to write an argumentative speech using the "RAFT" writing strategy. The teacher may visit "Using the RAFT Writing Strategy" from for additional information on utilizing this method in the classroom. If internet-capable devices are available for student use, the students may use these devices to access the non-fiction articles required for the lesson. If devices are not available for student use, the teacher should make copies of the articles prior to teaching the lesson.

Portions of this lesson were adapted from "Genetically Modified Crops" from and "Food Fight: Researching and Debating the Future of G.M.O.'s" from the New York Times Learning Network.


Before Strategy/Engage: 25 minutes

1. The teacher should show the following video clip to students. As students watch the video clip, they should form an opinion on the overall positive or negative impact of introducing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into our food supply.

Video clip: "Classical vs. Transgenic Breeding" from Frontline/Nova documentary "Harvest of Fear"

2. After watching the video clip, the teacher should ask students to form three lines within the classroom. One line will represent the students who believe that GMOs have a mostly positive impact, one line will represent the students who believe GMOs have a mostly negative impact, and one line will represent the students who have a neutral opinion on the topic. The teacher may ask students to share their detailed opinion about GMOs with their classmates.

3. The teacher should divide students into groups of two to four students each. The teacher should show the first three slides from the "GMO PowerPoint" that can be found under Essential Files on "Genetically Modified Crops" from The teacher may allow students to discuss the questions found on the slides with their group members.

4. Next, the teacher should give each group of students one set of "Food Label Cards" from With their group members, students should divide their cards into two stacks: one stack that includes foods that definitely do not have GMOs and one stack that includes foods that may have GMOs. 

5. After students have approximately five minutes to sort their cards, the teacher should display the fourth slide of the PowerPoint. This slide lists the ten crops that are currently approved for genetic modification. With their group members, students should re-sort their card stacks into non-GMO and possibly-GMO foods. 

6. After students have had additional time to re-sort their card stacks, the teacher should provide the correct category for each food. According to "Genetically Modified Crops" from, the food label cards fit into the following categories:

  • Foods that could have GMOs: Soymilk (soybean), cinnamon crunch cereal (sugar could be from sugar beet), rice milk (canola oil), wheat bread (sugar and soybean oil), pita bread (sugar with unspecified source, canola/soybean oil), and margarine (canola and soybean oil).
  • Foods that currently do not have GMOs: 2% milk, graham crackers, clementines, yogurt, mango baby food, banana baby food, flax seed, rye flour, wheat flour, sweetener, sugar (this label specifies it is from sugar cane plant), shredded wheat, tea, coffee beans, rice, orange juice, sour cream, and cottage cheese.
    • Note to teacher: The two primary sources of table sugar are the sugar cane plant and the sugar beet. Many food labels list "cane sugar." Cane sugar or sugar cane is not an approved GM crop. If it does not specify, it could be from either plant. It could be genetically modified if it came from a sugar beet.

7. The teacher should ask the students the following questions and allow the students to discuss their answers with their group members: Based on this list, have you eaten foods that contain GMOs? Were you aware that you were eating foods with GMOs?

Note: The teacher may show the rest of the slides on the PowerPoint, if time allows or if students require additional background information on GMOs.

During Strategy/Explore & Explain: 45  minutes

Note: The teacher may wish for students to work individually, in partners, or in groups for the remainder of the lesson. Depending on the students' abilities, the teacher may wish to read one article and take notes on the graphic organizer as a whole class, before allowing students to complete this task individually or cooperatively. 

1. Students will need access to the articles listed in the materials section. Students may use a printed copy of the article or access the article online using an internet-capable device.

2. Students will read the articles while completing the "Debatable Issues" graphic organizer from the New York Times. This graphic organizer will require students to research the usage of GMOs in America's food crops and list the "Pros" (positive impacts) and "Cons" (negative impacts) of this technology. 

After Strategy-Explain & Elaborate-45+ minutes

1. The teacher should explain that students will now take a stand on the topic of genetically modified organisms. This can match their opinion from the before strategy, or students may take a different side from their previous opinion. 

2. The teacher should give each student a copy of the "RAFT Writing Template" from The teacher should tell each student their role is a "Farmer", the audience is their "Employees", the format is an an "Argumentative speech", and the topic is the "Impact of genetically modified organisms in food crops". The students will take on the role of a farmer, writing an argumentative speech that will be presented to their employees, to convince them of the positive or negative impact of using genetically modified organisms on their farm.

3. Before students begin their writing project, the teacher should show students the rubric that will be used to grade their final RAFT writing assignment (see attachments). The teacher should discuss his or her specific expectations for each student's final product.

4. Students can focus on one of the four following crops in their argumentative speech by using the linked articles to learn additional information about the impacts of genetically modifying each crop. Alternatively, students can choose a different type of crop and perform their own research using the internet or other available resources.

5. After students complete their RAFT writing project, the teacher may wish for the students to present their argumentative speech to the class. To extend this activity, the teacher may allow students to dress up as a farmer or bring props to support their argument (such as the food product that will be discussed).

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Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment: The teacher will informally assess students' understanding of the concept in the before strategy, as students take a stand on the issue of genetically modified organisms and explain their reasoning behind their opinion. The students' knowledge of genetically modified food crops will be informally assessed as students complete the card sort with their partners or group members. The teacher should review each student's "Debatable Issues" graphic organizer to ensure each student understands the positive and negative impacts of genetic modification based on the non-fiction articles.

Summative Assessment: The teacher will formally assess each student's completed RAFT writing assignment at the conclusion of the lesson. The teacher should assess students' achievement of the stated learning objectives by utilizing the "RAFT Writing Rubric" (see attachments). 


Students who require acceleration activities can extend the lesson by completing a follow-up RAFT writing assignment at the conclusion of the lesson. In the second writing project, the student can take on the role of the farmer's employee to respond to the farmer's opinion of the positive and negative impacts of genetically modified food crops.

Students can visit the following website to complete an online interactive related to transgenic breeding: "Engineer a Crop: Transgenic Manipulation" from 


Students who require intervention strategies should focus on the "potato" crop option during the RAFT writing project at the conclusion of the lesson. As students have will have already read this article in the during strategy, this option will allow students to further expand on this topic, rather than learning additional information about a new crop.

The teacher may wish to provide additional time for students to complete the RAFT writing assignment or provide additional scaffolding during this portion of the lesson.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.