Oct 31 2006

Eighth-Grade Lesson Plan

Eighth-grade students study genetics information online and use a spreadsheet to make a Punnett Square.

TWO TEACHERS at Divine Infant Jesus School in Westchester, Ill., created this lesson to teach students about a common genetics learning tool, the Punnett Square, on the computer instead of on paper.

Lesson description: This lesson examines the Punnett Square, which is used to calculate the frequencies of the different genotypes and phenotypes among the offspring of a cross. Students review background genetics information online and then use an allele (one of the variant forms of a gene at a particular location on a chromosome) information sheet to apply the phenotype and genotype of their “monster parents.” They use a spreadsheet to make a Punnett Square to show possible offspring outcomes from their monster parents and repeat the process for a number of characteristics. Next, students draw a two-dimensional prototype of their monster using a paint program.

The learning objectives include:

• Describing heredity as the passage of genetic information from one generation to the next
• Practicing combining genotypic and phenotypic traits from an imaginary monster family to create an offspring
• Practicing making and using Punnett Squares and spreadsheets
• Practicing using a paint program to show a two-dimensional prototype of a “monster.”

Subject area: This lesson plan is for an eighth-grade science course, specifically a heredity/genetics unit.

Standard: Illinois State Science Standard 12.A.4a/4c

Resources: Instruction and allele information sheets, interactive whiteboard and computer lab


Assessment data is based on the following two Illinois State Science Standards:

1. 12A: Students who meet the standard know and apply concepts that explain how living things function, adapt and change.

2. 12A.3: Apply scientific inquiries or technological designs to explore the science of genetics, tracing the history of genetics, correlating the principles of genetics to mitotic cell division and simple mathematical probabilities, researching applied genetics in plant and animal breeding, or associating genetic factors for inheritance in humans, including genetic disorders.

The creation of a two-dimensional figure using a paint and spreadsheet program will assess student’s ability to apply concepts regarding how living things function, adapt and change. The grading rubric examines the mastery of these skills in three categories: knowledge, application and communication.

Students are evaluated based on a scale of 0 - 4 depending on their mastery of each area, and grading is as follows:

A: Student must receive no more than one “3” and the rest “4s” in the other areas of the rubric.

B: Student may receive no more than one “2” and a combination of “3s” and “4s” in the other areas of the rubric.

C: Student may receive no more than one “1” and a combination of “2s,” “3s” or “4s” in the other areas of the rubric.

D: Student must receive at least one “1” in all three areas of the rubric.


This assignment should be used after the class has studied heredity. That way, the students have some knowledge of how genetic information is passed from one generation to the next.

Teachers either can have the students choose a trait that the “monster” will receive or can have the students write down the trait on a piece of paper and randomly pick one to determine the trait.

Expand on this lesson by incorporating art and having the students make a three-dimensional monster out of recyclable material.

Colleen Laurich teaches junior high science and Cathy Neiheisel teaches computer science at Divine Infant Jesus.