Genetic Engineering

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LESSON OVERVIEW

This free ESL lesson plan on genetic engineering has been designed for adults and young adults at an intermediate (B1/B2) to advanced (C1/C2) level and should last around 45 to 60 minutes for one student.

Having mapped the human genome, scientists are on the brink of eradicating hereditary diseases. But gene editing is unlimited in its potential uses. Why stop merely at health? Why not boost your baby’s intelligence or choose its eye, hair and skin colour? Future wars could be fought by genetically enhanced super soldiers, and genetically modified astronauts could spend decades travelling through space; we might even become immortal. In this ESL lesson plan on genetic engineering, students will have the opportunity to discuss and express their opinions on issues such as the benefits of genetic engineering, cloning and the ethical considerations of genetics.

This lesson plan could also be used with your students to debate these issues for DNA Day, which takes place in April. For more lesson plans on international days and important holidays, see the calendar of world days to plan your classes for these special occasions.

For advice on how to use this English lesson plan and other lesson plans on this site, see the guide for ESL teachers.

PRE-CLASS ACTIVITIES

Reading activity
Before the English class, send the following article to the students and ask them to read it while making a list of any new vocabulary or phrases they find (explain any the students don’t understand in the class):

The Guardian | Fear of dystopian change should not blind us to the potential of gene editing

The article talks about the potential benefits of gene editing, and how fears of creating a dystopian future may be a little of the mark. At the start of the class, hold a brief discussion about what the students thought about the article. What do they think about the issues raised in the article? Do they agree with what was said? Can they think of any ways they might disagree with the content of the article?

Video activity
To save time in class for the conversation activities, the English teacher can ask the students to watch the video below and answer the listening questions in Section 3 of the lesson plan at home. There are intermediate listening questions and advanced listening questions so teachers can decide which would be more appropriate for their students. Check the answers in the class.

The video for this class is called “Genetic Engineering Will Change Everything Forever – CRISPR” by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell which looks at new breakthroughs in genetic engineering and how this could be used in the future.

Courtesy of kurzgesagt.org

IN-CLASS ACTIVITIES

The focus in the class is on conversation in order to help improve students’ fluency and confidence when speaking in English as well as boosting their vocabulary.

This lesson opens with a short discussion about the article the students read before the class. Next, the students can give their opinion on the quote at the beginning of the lesson plan – what they think the quote means and if they agree with it. This is followed by an initial discussion on the topic including the health problems that could be solved by genetic engineering, what the students would do with a clone of themselves, and whether humans should be genetically modified to live for hundreds of years.

After this, students will learn some vocabulary connected with genetic engineering such as designer baby, genetic discrimination and playing God. This vocabulary has been chosen to boost the students’ knowledge of less common vocabulary that could be useful for preparing for English exams like IELTS or TOEFL. The vocabulary is accompanied by a cloze activity and a speaking activity to test the students’ comprehension of these words.

If the students didn’t watch the video before the class, they can watch it after the vocabulary section and answer the listening questions. Before checking the answers, ask the students to give a brief summary of the video and what they thought about the content.

Finally, there is a more in-depth conversation about genetic engineering. In this speaking activity, students will talk about issues such as ethical considerations about designer babies, unethical uses of genetic modification, and whether genetic engineering is the next evolutionary stage for humans.

HOMEWORK

After the class, students will write about their opinion of genetic engineering. This could be a short paragraph or a longer piece of writing depending on what level the student is at. The writing activity is designed to allow students to practise and improve their grammar with the feedback from their teacher. For students who intend to take an international English exam such as IELTS or TOEFL, there is an alternative essay question to practise their essay-writing skills.

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