Overview

In this activity, students must correctly pair nucleotides together based on biochemical structure and bonding patterns. Students are required to form a two-stranded DNA molecule composed of 8 nucleotides.
Students begin by doing pre-class readings and watching videos through Moodle related to nucleic acids, and also perform a quiz to test what they have learned.
In class, the instructor reviews nucleic acids and answers any student questions related to the material. During this time, students perform a clicker-like quiz on Moodle to test that they have understood the key concepts. The recommended time for reviewing the material and doing the quiz ...

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In this activity, students must correctly pair nucleotides together based on biochemical structure and bonding patterns. Students are required to form a two-stranded DNA molecule composed of 8 nucleotides.
Students begin by doing pre-class readings and watching videos through Moodle related to nucleic acids, and also perform a quiz to test what they have learned.
In class, the instructor reviews nucleic acids and answers any student questions related to the material. During this time, students perform a clicker-like quiz on Moodle to test that they have understood the key concepts. The recommended time for reviewing the material and doing the quiz is 35 minutes.
The rest of the class time is devoted to the activity. Students get into their pre-assigned groups of 4. Using the nucleic acid activity PowerPoint, groups must orient and correctly pair nucleotides together to form an accurate, double-stranded DNA chain.
While groups are working on this pairing activity, they also answer questions through Moodle that encourage them to think more deeply about why nucleotides pair the way they do (e.g., chemical bonding, nucleotide structure, etc.).
There are extra activities for groups that finish early. Alternatively, these extra activities can be accessed by students outside of class (through Moodle) as additional practice post-class.
Finally, the instructor wraps up the class with a review of the activity, what students should have learned from it, and how the activity illustrates key concepts that students will require later on in the course.

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Objectives

Students should gain a deeper understanding of nucleotides, both how and why they bond in particular patterns by using their knowledge of base pairing rules and the antiparallel directionality of DNA. Students should have a better understanding of the different nucleotide subunits (nitrogenous bases, phosphate groups, deoxyribose sugars), their function, and their structure.

Context and requirements

Level Grade 12-U0
Discipline Biology
Activity Content Nucleic acids (bond types, pairing, structure)
Technological Requirements Laptops
Best Use Practice

Author’s Notes

Benefits

This is an application-based activity that draws upon lesson material students have seen in previous classes. By applying what they know, it helps students to build a better base of nucleic acid knowledge that they will rely upon for lessons later in the semester dealing with cell division and genetics.

Challenges

Keeping students focused and on track time-wise.
Some students come to class unprepared (i.e., have no read the material beforehand)
Students can end up spending a lot of time trying to figure out the 3D orientation of the nucleic acids in a 2D workspace (not necessary to know 3D orientation for the activity).

Tips

Instructor and TAs/student helpers can help to keep groups focused.
Having students in pre-assigned groups (instead of alone) ensures that even if a student comes to class unprepared, they are usually in a group that can help them to perform the activity.
Instructor and student helpers can guide groups away from the 2D/3D pitfall if they see them struggling with the orientation of their DNA chain.
Encourage students to determine 5′-3′ directionality in the image they are working with since their are no questions that specifically get them to think about this.

Activity Pedagogical Components

Problem Solving

Students read and watch videos about nucleic acids in order to have sufficient knowledge for class so that they can perform the activity. A preparatory quiz tests their knowledge and shows them areas where they might need to re-read material.

Analysis

In groups of 4, students pool their knowledge and apply it to solve the problem of pairing nucleotides together to form a DNA chain.

Questions related to the activity task students with thinking more deeply about nucleotide bonding patterns and encourage them to apply what they have learned from their readings.

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