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Singing in Biology

Tish Taylor

Type of Activity:

  • Authentic assessment
  • Group/
    cooperative learning
  • Group singing

Target Audience:

  • Biology, DNA structure
  • Integrated Science
  • Genetics, Biotechnology

Background Information

Notes for the teacher:
Singing can provide a fun, yet educational interlude. I realize that some of you will be reluctant to try this approach, but I promise that your students will react positively to this little exercise.

Required of students: Willingness to learn and have fun

Preparation time: None

Class time needed: As little as 5 - 10 minutes a day while studying DNA structure


Summary: Students will learn the structure of DNA in a way that they will NEVER forget!

Materials needed: Copy of the DNA song

Description of Activity:

A few days before we are going to sing, I will put "DNA song" on the weekly calendar for the students to see. This immediately generates interest and students will begin to ask questions. I am purposely vague with them and do not tell them very much. By the time the day arrives they are intensely curious which helps with their commitment. I tell them that I am going to teach them a song that will help them learn the structure of DNA. This song is easy and we will all memorize it together. I explain that in memorizing the song we will be learning the structure of DNA as well as valuable concepts that they will need to know.

Now, I give them two choices and we vote. I say, "How many want to sing this song solo?" and, of course, there are NO hands. Then, I ask, "How many would rather sing this as a group?" and they all raise their hands. I tell them before I sing the song for them the first time, that singing is not what I do best, so not to expect too much! This eases the tension, especially after they've heard me sing! I make a big issue at the beginning with those who are not at least mouthing the words. it doesn't take long for them to all be enthusiastically participating after I make them think that they will have to sing it solo.

We learn the song in parts and practice it daily. They come to class begging to sing the DNA song. After everyone has learned it, I have a contest between classes to determine which class knows it best. I let my colleagues be the judge of the recordings. One young man told me this year that he found himself singing it in his head all through football practice. Yes, indeed, this has been a rewarding activity for both me and my students.

(to the tune of Row, Row, Row your Boat)

We love DNA
made of nucleotides.
Sugar, phosphate and a base
bonded down one side.

Adenine and thymine
make a lovely pair,
cytosine without guanaine
would feel very bare.

O-O-Oh, de-oxy-ribo-nucleic acid
RNA is ribo-nucleic acid.
(author unknown)


Another thing that I started this year is letting the students teach the song to their parents and bring me a tape of it for extra credit. This has promoted very positive interactions and fun for both parents and students. You will be surprised how parents will really get "caught up" in this little activity. One set of parents recorded it many times with different renditions-- country western, opera, jazz, etc. It was really a "hoot" and everyone enjoyed it! Some students have created rap to the lyrics.

Students can also write original songs about any biological topic or concept of your choice. You will be surprised how creative and original they can be with these projects. Any trick I can use to help them learn is fair game and when they happen to be as fun as songs are, then it is twice as effective.

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