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Teaching Protein Synthesis Just Got Easier

Protein Synthesis is actually a fun concept for me to teach. For me, there are 2 barriers you need to cross in order for students to learn protein synthesis:
1. Learning about the steps of transcription and translation (the easier part)
2. Understanding how DNA translates into gene expression (the harder part)

Most of my students do really well with step 1. They can learn the A’s, T’s, C’s, G’s, and U’s and where the processes are taking place. But at the end of those lessons, if you ask your students how they have brown eyes, can they answer? It can be difficult to understand how genotypes code for phenotypes. I’ve put together a list of resources to help walk you and your students through the process. 

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TEACHING TRANSCRIPTION AND TRANSLATION (The easier part)

1. USE INTERACTIVES.
Check out this interactive website where you can go through the process of transcription and translation up on the board with your students. This is a fun way to wrap up your lesson, or use as a reinforcement activity to follow up. 

Protein synthesis tarsia puzzle

2. USE PUZZLES
Once you’ve taught the process, you need to have students practice, practice, practice before the test. It’s not an easy topic, and they need to have multiple opportunities to review the vocabulary. Check out this puzzle in my TpT store that I use as a review activity. 

Protein-synthesis-codon-bingo

3. USE GAMES
Try using bingo to sneak in some codon practice! You call out the codon, students look up the amino acid on the chart, and cover it on their bingo card. (Or make it harder and call out the DNA sequence and they have to first convert it to mRNA before they can look up the amino acid). You can find the bingo cards here. 

4. USE VIDEOS
Seeing the process of protein synthesis in real time helps students see the bigger picture much better instead of focusing on the nitty gritty details. Check out these videos from biointeractive of transcription and translation occurring in real time. 

TEACHING GENE EXPRESSION (The harder part)

5. USE EXAMPLES
Providing your students with many examples of how DNA –> RNA –> PROTEIN work is critical in helping them understand the complete process. Give them examples from their own body (the gene for melanin showing up as a pigment in their skin and eyes). CLICK HERE to see an example (with video) of a protein that makes fireflies glow.

How is protein synthesis like reading the blueprint of a house?

6. USE ANALOGIES
Do your students understand why all your cells have the same DNA, but they all look different and do different jobs? I created this activity to help students understand how cells have certain genes turned on and certain genes turned off. In this activity the genome is likened to the blueprint of a house. Each student is given a job (plumber, electrician, roofer, or framing) and has to transcribe and translate only the genes that pertain to their jobs. It really helps students understand that cells do not use most of the genome, only genes that apply to them. CLICK HERE to check it out. 


Protein synthesis lesson plan bundle from Science Lessons That Rock

If you are interested in a bundle where you can find a lesson, puzzles, review worksheets, close readings, quizzes and more, check out this protein synthesis bundle! It literally has everything you need to get through this unit.

Have any other fun videos, websites, or tips for teaching protein synthesis? Share them in the comments!

​Rock on,


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Hi, I'm Becca!

I help busy science teachers get your prep back by providing you time saving lessons, labs, and resources.

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