From Gene to Protein - Transcription and Translation

In the hands-on activity, From Gene to Protein - Transcription and Translation, students learn how a gene provides the instructions for making a protein, and how the gene for sickle cell hemoglobin results in sickle cell anemia. Simple paper models are used to help students learn the basic molecular biology of transcription and translation. This activity can be used to introduce students to these topics or to reinforce student understanding. In addition, students evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of different types of models included in this activity

Download Student Handout: PDF format or Word format

Download Teacher Preparation Notes: PDF format

The Teacher Preparation Notes provide instructional suggestions and background information and explain how this activity is aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.

We invite comments on this Hands-On Activity and the accompanying Teacher Preparation Notes, including suggestions for other teachers who are planning to use the activity, useful preparatory or follow-up activities, additional resources or any questions you have related to the activity, or a brief description of any problem you might have encountered. If you would prefer to send your comments or questions in a private message, please write Ingrid Waldron at

See also a complete list of activities:
Hands-on Activities for Teaching Biology to High School and Middle School Students


iwaldron's picture

2014 revision of activity

The 2014 revision of the Student Handout has clarified the explanations of the biological processes and the modeling procedures. In addition we have improved some of the questions and figures in the Student Handout. Also, we have incorporated a final question that engages students in understanding the advantages and disadvantages of different types of models. The Teacher Preparation Notes have been reorganized and clarified and additional background information has been included.

Lori Fretta's picture

2014 revision

I love this activity!,but I cannot load the 2014 revision.

From Gene to Protein—Transcription and Translation

Can I access it some other place?

Please advise

thank you,
Lori Fretta
OVUHS Brandon, VT

iwaldron's picture

Link fixed

Thank you very much for alerting us to this problem which we have now fixed. Please try the link again – it should be working for you now, but please let us know if you run into any additional problems.

jkepper's picture

Lego Movie Maker

We had the students complete this activity and do a stop animation movie at the same time of the process. Their movies were really good, and it was easy to spot misconceptions and items they understood. There is a free app for iphones that it is really easy to use. The app is Lego Movie maker. There are other apps for android phones that create these movies also.

iwaldron's picture

Thanks for the good idea!

Am I right in assuming that each group of students first made a stop animation movie of their simulation of transcription which you reviewed with them and then later made a movie of their simulation of translation? Did you review these movies with each group of students separately? Did the different teams of students compare movies?

Thanks for the excellent suggestion,


iwaldron's picture

March 2011 revision

The main change in this revision is the incorporation of a slot in the nucleus to insert the DNA molecule and a slot in the ribosome to insert the mRNA molecule. Once the DNA or mRNA molecule is inserted, most of the nucleotides are not visible, so students are not tempted to line up all the matching nucleotides or tRNA anti-codons at once. Instead, students add only one nucleotide at a time during transcription and only one amino acid at a time during translation to model the actual biological processes of transcription and translation.

Serendip Visitor's picture

DNA transcription translation

I was just wondering if you had a document template of the packet and accesories the students need for the activity? I can't seem to find it anywhere on your webpage.

iwaldron's picture

template for pages and pieces needed for activity

The template is provided as the last half of the Teacher Preparation Notes, available at the link shown above.

I hope your students enjoy and learn from the activity,

Ingrid Waldron



Serendip Visitor's picture

Very Useful

I'm doing a banana DNA extraction, DNA modeling and origami, and then using this lesson. I am using it for the second time this year with a new roster. The modeling is extremely helpful with the English Learners and English proficient students as well. Thanks so much for the development and posting the material.

Quentin Cartier's picture


Your nucleus where you are supposed to add on nucleotides of RNA says "amino acids"

Extra credit for the kid/kids that find the typo? Works for me... but thought you'd want to be told.

iwaldron's picture

Corrected Version of Teacher Preparation Notes Now Posted

The revised Teacher Preparation Notes with the correct wording in the nucleus is now available directly from this website.


Shanique's picture

Teacher Prep and templates

Neither of the PDF files are opening for me so I cannot see the Teacher Prep Notes. Can someone send these to me?

iwaldron's picture

files have been sent

 I hope you were able to open them.


iwaldron's picture

A corrected version of the

A corrected version of the nucleus is currently available by e-mailing

iwaldron's picture

We will fix ASAP

Thank you!  We are very embarrassed to have overlooked this error and will fix it and post a corrected version as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, extra credit for the kids who find the typo sounds good.


iwaldron's picture

2010 revisions


Extensive revisions have streamlined the activity and clarified the explanations and instructions.


Ingrid Waldron's picture

coding or sense strand vs. template or antisense strand of DNA

Since we are providing the DNA strand for the students to act as RNA polymerase and carry out transcription, we provide the template or anti-sense strand (not the coding or sense strand). With that in mind, you will see that the anti-codons of tRNA fit the mRNA sequence that the students will generate.

Anonymous's picture

Great idea Ingrid but is

Great idea Ingrid but is your Hb DNA sequence the sense or anti-sense strand because mRNA is made from the antisense and therefore has the same sequence as the sense strand (the strand normally shown when giving the sequence of only one strand). Your anti-codons of tRNA don’t seem to fit the mRNA sequence.

Ingrid Waldron's picture

Revised Student Handout

After presenting this activity in a professional development session for Philadelphia high school biology teachers in February, 2009, we have prepared this revised version of the Student Handout with multiple revisions to clarify the biology and the instructions and questions for the students. The newly revised Teacher Preparation Notes for this activity include some additional suggestions for discussion and modifications to adapt the activity, depending on your specific learning objectives.

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