The Good, the Bad and the GMO’s GENERATE AN ARGUMENT.

Corinne Jordan
Type Category
Assessment Materials Instructional Materials
Rubric , Instructor Guide/Manual , Lesson/Lesson Plan
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.




This lesson is intended to help students understand what genetically modified foods (GMOs) are, how they were created, and their benefits and risks. Students are exposed to the variety of issues that surround genetically modified foods and help them to understand their complexity. This lesson allows students to become familiar with the appropriate vocabulary and science behind GMOs. They will be able to identify and argue the potential benefits and risks of genetically modified food such as corn (pros and cons) and the opportunity to argue and collect evidence to support the benefits or risks that surround their use. The lesson has many links to background information, scientists’ views on GMOs, and a rubric for assessment.

A Word Doc is included that has the images needed for the beginning lesson:

Intended Audience

Educator and learner
Educational Level
  • High School
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS4-5 Gather and synthesize information about the technologies that have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits in organisms.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on synthesizing information from reliable sources about the influence of humans on genetic outcomes in artificial selection (such as genetic modification, animal husbandry, gene therapy); and, on the impacts these technologies have on society as well as the technologies leading to these scientific discoveries.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The lesson was primarily written for the high school student however the content is very appropriate for middle schoolers with scaffolding. The vocabulary may need to be addressed with both middle school and high school students. The variety of the links provided are appropriate for all levels and the teacher could add or subtract resources to fit the educational level of their students. GMO’s – The Solution to World Hunger or a Disaster in the Making? was written for Grades 5-8, has a visual and collection of links appropriate for Grades 7-12; lastly, NEWSELA that provides news article that can be leveled to students reading abilities. The extent to which the students research the topic can be individualized and provide autonomy to meet the performance expectation.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
The lesson uses the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning approach (CER) as they prepare their research for argumentation, so students should be familiar with this model before completing the activity. This could be accomplished by using the lesson to teach CER or as part of an assessment of the performance expectation. The opening activity shows the students several foods and asked: “What do they have in common?” This could be used to facilitate a discussion using the CER approach. Later in the activities, the Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) approach could be scaffolded for constructing arguments and rebuttals. Scaffolding should be provided to guide students through the CER process. Using the CER approach, teachers may want to provide students with time for both individual and group oral reporting, culminating in group presentations and individual written reports that can take advantage of the rubric provided. Using a “gallery walk” will help make student thinking explicit for informal assessment and the “argument-rebuttal” activity will help reinforce the students thinking before a written component is completed.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
The lesson provides the teacher with background information and a video to explicitly discuss the concepts and provide information for the students to ensure that students gain an understanding of the science of GMOs and their impacts before embarking on argumentation. These activities and information could be used as part of a unit on genetics, where the activities can be an extension of the unit based on the understanding of technologies. Or, the teacher could assign the activity before discussing genetic technologies and the students would have to use scientific inquiry to discover information about GMOs. If the lesson is used before discussing GMOs in the classroom, then the information provided is sufficient. However, instead of just lecturing the teacher could do a read-around or gallery walk to allow the students to share their developed understanding and information on GMOs. This would mean that the students would be required to complete additional research to aid in their understanding of GMOs and the impact on their everyday lives.

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Cause and effect play a role in the lesson as students work to explain GMOs and their benefits and risks. The unit materials focus on mechanisms for causal relationships and on using evidence to support claims of causal relationships. Teachers should use the suggested prompt and add additional claims of food other than corn to focus student thinking on these concepts. This may be difficult for some students depending on their previous experiences with Claim-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) and the new concept of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The teacher could facilitate critical thinking with “Philosophical Chairs” ( to help students solidify the reasoning of their claim.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This lesson does a good job of incorporating three-dimensional learning into students’ explorations of the phenomenon of how genetically modified organisms (GMO) have changed the way humans influence the inheritance of desired traits. Students make sense of this phenomenon by using their knowledge of GMOs, researching, and arguing the potential benefits and risks of genetically modified food such as corn. The practice is developed fully with the opportunity to collect evidence to support the benefits or risks that surround their use. The lesson plan could be strengthened by clearly connecting GMOs to a real-life situation, such as the article: “In A Grain Of Golden Rice, A World Of Controversy Over GMO Foods”.

  • Instructional Supports: The lesson uses scientifically accurate and grade‐appropriate scientific information, and phenomena to support students’ three‐dimensional learning. A teacher guide, and additional resources provide good instructional support. Clear learning goals, alignment to the NGSS, background information, and additional resources all support instruction. Instructional support could be strengthened by including ideas about extensions, modifications, and formative assessment and to respond to peer and teacher evaluation, and ideas about differentiated instruction.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: The lesson demonstrates evidence of student three-dimensional learning in identifying and arguing the potential benefits and risks of genetically modified food. A rubric is included for the final product however, teachers will want to consider embedding formative assessment questions throughout the lesson and also spend time listening to students as they consider the pros and cons of GMOs. The lesson could be improved by the addition of scaffolds that connect the student’s research to their reasoning. Providing more accessible options, other than corn, for students of varying abilities would further develop the lesson for teachers.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This is not an interactive, technology-based resource.