Assessment - Comic Strip

Protein synthesis comic strip: Created by teachers from the Science STARTS/Delta Sierra Science Program summer instituteProtein synthesis comic strip: Created by teachers from the Science STARTS/Delta Sierra Science Program summer institute


Let your creative juices flow. The process of translating nucleic acids into amino acids becomes a tale of suspense, drama and adventure as you come up with a Marvel Comics style adventure story that is an analogy for protein synthesis. Draw comparisons between DNA and a secret message written in code. Compare ribosomes to factories churning out products. Students will surprise you with the crazy analogies they can come up with and the elegant stories they can spin.

Reinforce and assess students’ understanding of the central dogma of molecular biology.

Genetic code
Base pair
RNA polymerase
Messenger RNA
Transfer RNA
Amino acid

Attachment Size
Assess_comic.doc 41 KB

Comic Strip - Logistics

30 min to introduce the activity. 1-3 hours to complete and present the comic strips.



  • White copy paper
  • Colored pencils
  • Optional: handouts or overhead specifying the concepts that must be included


Comic Strip - Getting Ready

Teacher Background
See background information from Protein Factory lesson.

Student Prerequisites
Good understanding of DNA structure (see DNA Models lesson) and protein synthesis (see Protein Factory lesson).

Getting Ready

  1. Set out paper and colored pencils
  2. Optional: make copies of concepts

Comic Strip - Lesson Plan

Lesson Plan

  1. Review the idea of transcription and translation. As you do, write down key concepts (see table below) in a column on the side of the board.

    Protein synthesis key concepts:
    • DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell.
    • The sequence of DNA nucleotides forms the genetic code.
    • RNA polymerase separates the 2 strands of DNA and then matches an RNA nucleotide to each DNA nucleotide.
    • This chain of RNA nucleotides forms a molecule of messenger RNA.
    • The messenger RNA leaves the nucleus.
    • A ribosome assembles around the messenger RNA
    • The ribosome reads the sequence of codons in the messenger RNA and matches a transfer RNA molecule to each codon.
    • The ribosome assembles the amino acids brought by the transfer RNA into a chain.
    • The finished chain of amino acids is a protein.

  2. Once you have elicited the major steps of transcription/translation, cross out or underline the vocabulary words. For example:
    • DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell.”
    • “The sequence of DNA nucleotides forms the genetic code.”
  3. Ask students to be creative and brainstorm other words or ideas that might fit in the place of the crossed out/underlined words. For example, instead of “DNA is located in the nucleus of the cell” you might say
    • The mayor is located in the town hall of the city.”
    • A beautiful princess is located in the highest tower of the castle.”
    • The Pirate King is located on his pirate ship in the middle of the Black Sea.”
  4. Use this brainstorming strategy for perhaps 2 or 3 key concepts then begin tying the ideas together to create a non-science storyline that parallels the protein synthesis process. Perhaps the princess is sending a secret message to her knight in shining armor to build a device to rescue her. Or maybe the Pirate King is sending secret orders to his henchmen on land to build a weapon.
  5. Once students get the idea, give them an overview of the project: Create a comic strip that is an analogy for the protein synthesis process. Below each panel of the comic strip, write down the translation of your story in science speak (the key concepts listed above). Begin by outlining the entire story side by side with the science speak key concepts. Only after the story is outlined should you begin illustrating.

6. Comic Strip - Sources and Standards

The inspiration for this assessment activity is the book The Cartoon Guide to Genetics by Larry Gonick and Mark Wheelis. It’s a wonderful textbook alternative that teaches genetics in a very entertaining, humorous way.

Grade 7
2. A typical cell of any organism contains genetic instructions that specify its traits. Those traits may be modified by environmental influences. As a basis for understanding this concept:
e.    Students know DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the genetic material of living organisms and is located in the chromosomes of each cell.

Grades 9-12
Cell Biology
1. The fundamental life processes of plants and animals depend on a variety of chemical reactions that occur in specialized areas of the organism's cells. As a basis for understanding this concept:
d.     Students know the central dogma of molecular biology outlines the flow of information from transcription of ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the nucleus to translation of proteins on ribosomes in the cytoplasm.

4. Genes are a set of instructions encoded in the DNA sequence of each organism that specify the sequence of amino acids in proteins characteristic of that organism. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a.     Students know the general pathway by which ribosomes synthesize proteins, using tRNAs to translate genetic information in mRNA.
b.     Students know how to apply the genetic coding rules to predict the sequence of amino acids from a sequence of codons in RNA.
e.     Students know proteins can differ from one another in the number and sequence of amino acids.