ALEX Lesson Plan


DNA Mutations

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Rene' Pouncey
System: Dallas County
School: Dallas County High School
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 29733


DNA Mutations


This is a technology based, hands-on Biology lesson on the types of mutations that can occur during DNA replication. Students will complete a virtual lab on DNA Mutations. Mutations involve a physical change to genetic material that results in the abnormal encoding of protein sequences. The students will complete mRNA and protein sequences based on the information provided. The students will identify the number of amino acids changed and how they think this mutation will impact the organism.

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

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
3 ) Formulate an evidence-based explanation regarding how the composition of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) determines the structural organization of proteins.

a. Obtain and evaluate experiments of major scientists and communicate their contributions to the development of the structure of DNA and to the development of the central dogma of molecular biology.

b. Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information that explains how advancements in genetic technology (e.g., Human Genome Project, Encyclopedia of DNA Elements [ENCODE] project, 1000 Genomes Project) have contributed to the understanding as to how a genetic change at the DNA level may affect proteins and, in turn, influence the appearance of traits.

c. Obtain information to identify errors that occur during DNA replication (e.g., deletion, insertion, translocation, substitution, inversion, frame-shift, point mutations).

Insight Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Engaging in Argument from Evidence; Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Identify the structural components within a model of DNA including monomer units and hydrogen bonds.
  • Use models to demonstrate how information encoded in DNA leaves the nucleus.
  • Investigate the process of semi-conservative replication and compare the lead strand to the lagging strand.
  • Compare and contrast the functionality of multiple types of RNA and relate that function to protein synthesis.
  • Illustrate how mRNA serves as a template for building a polypeptide chain and how other types of RNA are utilized in the process.
  • Use a codon chart to determine the sequence of amino acids (polypeptide chains) that will be built from a given mRNA sequence.
  • Explain protein folding in terms of the rules of chemistry and physics to describe how the folding of the protein affects its function.
  • Relate the levels of protein structure to the final three-dimensional shape and functionality of the protein.
  • Cite and evaluate evidence that supports Watson and Crick's model of the double helix structure of DNA.
  • Annotate a diagram of the Central Dogma of Biology to include relevant discoveries and their implications on the understanding of the Central Dogma.
  • Evaluate the major findings of research projects such as the Human Genome Project, ENCODE, and the 1000 Genomes Project and modify my working definition of "a gene" based on the findings of those projects.
  • Communicate the impact of modern genome research projects on our understanding of gene structure and function.
  • Interpret the impacts of DNA changes using lab techniques such as gel electrophoresis, PCR, or computer based resources.
  • Explain gene expression in terms of genes being "turned on or off" and in broad terms identify the factors that influence gene expression.
  • Use data to support the concept that changes in DNA impact protein function in predictable ways.
  • Draw conclusions about errors that occur during replication.
  • Compare and contrast types of mutations and use a model to show how changes in DNA can result in changes in protein function.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Nitrogenous bases
  • Deoxyribose
  • Phosphates
  • Hydrogen bonding
  • Nucleotides
  • Semi-conservative replication
  • Central Dogma
  • Transcription
  • Various types of RNA, including those involved in protein synthesis (mRNA, tRNA & rRNA) and those associated with gene regulation (e.g., IncRNA, miRNA, siRNA) and post-transcriptional modification (snRNA)
  • RNA polymerase
  • Introns
  • Exons
  • Codon
  • Translation
  • Anticodon
  • Deletion
  • Insertion
  • Substitution
  • Variant
  • DNA sequencing
  • PCR
  • Gel electrophoresis
  • Big Science Projects conducted over last 30 years: Human Genome Project, The International Hap Map, ENCODE, Cancer Genome Atlas, 1000 Genomes project, ClinVar and ClinGen, and the Exome Aggregation
  • Consortium.
  • Deletion
  • Insertion
  • Translocation
  • Substitution
  • Inversion
  • Frameshift mutations
  • Point mutations
Students know:
  • All living things have DNA How the 5' and 3' orientation of DNA nucleotides results in the antiparallel nature of DNA.
  • The complementary nature of nitrogenous bases.
  • How hydrogen bonding holds complementary bases together across two DNA strands.
  • The basic mechanism of reading and expressing genes is from DNA to RNA to Protein (The Central Dogma of Biology).
  • The first step of the Central dogma is a process called transcription, which synthesizes mRNA from DNA.
  • The process where the mRNA connects to a ribosome, the code is read and then translated into a protein is called translation.
  • To become a functional protein, a translated chain of amino acids must be folded into a specific three-dimensional shape.
  • Historically important experiments that led to the development of the structure of DNA, including Mieshcer, Chargraff, Rosalind Franklin, Watson/Crick, etc.
  • DNA changes can be linked to observable traits in the natural world, such as diseases.
  • Common laboratory techniques are used to obtain evidence that supports the premise that DNA changes may affect proteins and in turn the appearance of traits.
  • Types of errors that can occur during replication and the impact these errors have on protein production and/or function.
Students are able to:
  • Build from scratch or work with previously constructed models of DNA to identify the key structural components of the molecule.
  • Obtain and communicate information (possibly through a conceptual model) describing how information encoded in DNA leaves the nucleus.
  • Obtain and expand explanation to include how the information transcribed from DNA to RNA determines the amino acid sequence of proteins.
  • Identify and describe the function of molecules required for replication and differentiate between replication on the leading and lagging DNA strands.
  • Group mRNA into codons and identify the amino acid associated with each codon. Create and manipulate polypeptide models to demonstrate protein folding.
  • Use a variety of resources (web-based timelines, original publications, documentaries, and interviews), explain how historically important experiments helped scientists determine the molecular structure of DNA, and develop the concept of the Central Dogma of Biology.
  • Analyze a variety of diagnostic techniques that identify genetic variation in a clinical setting.
  • Relate protein structure to enzyme function and discuss the causes and impacts of protein denaturation on both enzymes and structural proteins.
  • Identify the impact of DNA changes on the structure and/or function of the resulting amino acid sequences.
  • Predict the impact of errors during DNA replication in terms of protein production and/or function.
  • Classify types of DNA changes (deletions, insertions, and substitutions).
  • Use models to explain how deletions, insertions, translocation, substitution, inversion, frameshift, and point mutations occur during the process of DNA replication.
Students understand that:
  • The traits of living things are ultimately determined by inherited sequences of DNA.
  • The end product of transcription is always RNA, but the process produces many different types of RNA with varying functions.
  • DNA instructions are replicated and passed from parent to offspring, segregating traits across generations in a mathematically predictable manner.
  • A protein is a linear sequence of amino acids that spontaneously folds following rules of chemistry and physics.
  • A series of historically important experiments let to the current understanding of the structure of DNA and the Central Dogma of Biology.
  • Errors that occur during DNA replication can affect protein production and/or function. Important projects over the past 30 years have changed the definition of a "gene" and increased the ability to assess the impact of DNA variation in a trait or disease.
  • Genetic change can lead to altered protein function and the appearance of a different trait or disease.
AMSTI Resources:
ASIM Module:
Protein Synthesis Manipulative; Manipulating DNA; Genes and Consequences; Protein Synthesis with Words; Expanded DNA Extraction; HNPCC

NAEP Framework
NAEP Statement::
L12.9: The genetic information encoded in DNA molecules provides instructions for assembling protein molecules. Genes are segments of DNA molecules. Inserting, deleting, or substituting DNA segments can alter genes. An altered gene may be passed on to every cell that develops from it. The resulting features may help, harm, or have little or no effect on the offspring's success in its environment.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.B.HS.3- Recognize the structure of DNA which determines the characteristics of living organisms.

Local/National Standards:




Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will compare original DNA strands and mutated DNA strands to identify the type of mutation that has occurred.

Students will use the original strand of DNA to make the mutated strand or if given the mutated strand they will work backwards to recreate the original sequence of DNA.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Obtain information to identify errors that occur during DNA replication (e.g., deletion, insertion, translocation, substitution, inversion, frame-shift, point mutations).


 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

91 to 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

The teacher will need to make copies of the Journal questions from the Virtual Lab and Sci-Fly Mutation Worksheet. The teacher will need to decide how many strands the students will complete on the Virtual Lab.

Dice are needed for the Sci-Fly Encounter lab. One die for each group of students.

The teacher will also need copies of the ABC Brainstorm sheet or have students record answers in their journals.

Technology Resources Needed:

Interactive Whiteboard/Computer and projector for Bozeman Science Video on Mutations.

Laptops or tablets for the Virtual Lab: DNA and Genes (How do point mutation and frameshift mutation impact genetic sequences?)


Students should be familiar with the three steps of protein synthesis: replication, transcription, and translation. 

Vocabulary terms for this lesson will include point mutation, frameshift mutation, deletion, insertion, translocation, substitution, and inversion.

The DNA Mutations Powerpoint presentation can be used to go over the vocabulary for the lesson. 


Day 1

Before/ Engage

Step 1: Give students a copy of the ABC Brainstorm worksheet. Display the term DNA Mutations or images of mutations on the board. Students should work alone at first to list words or phrases that they think about the topic. Then have students work with a partner to compare answers. Then have groups share their answers with the class.

Step 2: Watch the Bozeman Science Video on Mutations. Discuss the key terms from the video. The power point DNA Mutations included in the background information could be used to discuss the vocabulary terms.


Step 3: Students will complete the Virtual Lab on DNA Mutations. Students should follow the directions for the virtual lab. Students will answer questions 1-4 on each mutated strand of mRNA and protein sequences.


Step 4: Complete the Virtual Lab Questions 5-6 as the lab analysis questions. 

Day 2


Sci-Fly Encounter

Students will complete the lab. After students have completed the lab and have drawn their fly, have students describe the type of DNA mutation that occurred. Justify if the mutation is harmful or not.

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Assessment Strategies

Students will be assessed on the Journal Questions from the Virtual Lab. Questions 1-4 should be answered for each DNA strand that is mutated. The students can check their answers so these questions should be graded on completion. Question 5 and 6 are the Lab analysis questions or summary questions so they should be graded on understanding the content.

The teacher can assess the journal questions as he or she moves around the room looking at student responses.

Students will also be assessed on the completion of the Sci-Fly Encounter Lab Sheet and the drawing of their mutated fly.


Give students a variety of everyday materials such as candy, pipe cleaners, paper clips, or pop beads to construct a model of an original strand of mRNA and  the mutated strand of mRNA to see the differences between the two.


Grouping students based on academic strengths and weaknesses will help them understand mRNA and protein sequences. If students are struggling on the strands, then pair them with a partner and map out the steps of protein synthesis.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.