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Transcription Translation Tango

By Linda J. Morris


Students choreograph and perform a dance to simulate transcription/translation of the DNA molecule to make a protein

Target Audience: Life Science-Grades 7-12

Information for the Teacher

Why this dance? Molecular biology is very difficult for students to understand because they cannot visualize genes and the nucleotides that make up the genes. However, knowledge of molecular biology is necessary for students to understand the world around them. Frequently, molecular biology is in the news, reporting discoveries such as disease genes. As the genome is mapped (HUMAN GENOME PROJECT), students will need to understand what is being reported in the media as well as deal with the ethical ramifications of the discoveries. (Morris, L.J. 1993. B ioethical Dilemmas, THE SCIENCE TEACHER) To do this, a basic understanding of molecular biology is necessary. The basic molecular process of synthesizing a protein (transcription/translation) when presented in dance form can easily be understood by all types of learners. Also, students have fun.


One or two classes of students, stage; if using black light- white gloves, white socks, florescent letters A, T, C, G, U, representing the nitrogen bases

Transcription Dance

For transcription, students are 'base-paired' as the DNA molecule. An enzyme (student) breaks the weak hydrogen bonds (simulated by breaking apart of joined hands) and the cDNA strand exits the stage. In 'dances' the mRNA strand to 'base-pair" with the DNA strand. Then the DNA strand exits the stage (introns and exons are omitted). *Note- music changes to 3/4 time since the codons and anticodons are in groups of three.

Translation Dance

For translation, the mRNA strand waits for the tRNA's with their attached amino acid (groups of four students) to 'base-pair'. The dance ends as the amino acids are joined.


Students write an essay explaining the process of transcription/translation to make a protein. In this essay, they must include a discussion of the introns and exons (omitted in the dance).

Rationale- Left-brained students teach the science to right-brained students who choreograph the dance. The students develop mutual respect for each other. Homework is completed before class so that they can use class time to 'dance'.


The dance is original; however, the idea for the dance came from the workshop, FRONTIERS OF PRECOLLEGIATE SCIENCE EDUCATION, 1992.

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