Genetics was always such a fun topic to teach! I loved this science topic because you could dive deep and really get students involved. I taught this in 5th grade with dominant and recessive traits but Ive also walked in middle school and even HIGH school classrooms where they were learning the same thing!
Once you have the concept of genetics and an understanding of the vocabulary involved you can move into making your own creations. This is where we had SO. MUCH. FUN!
Dominant and recessive traits along with Punnett squares were an important focus of teaching and we made a point to learn them from the start.
How to teach genetics with Build an Alien
I love this video (it uses aliens!) as it goes SUPER in-depth. This gives a great review or time to pause and digest the information of heredity and genetics.
We used the same concept in our classroom to build an alien. As partners the parents of the offspring used chance to determine what genotype the offspring would have. Again the teaching genetics vocabulary is important!
For chance you have many options as to what to use:
- make a spinner with a paper clip
- use Rock, Paper, Scissors (pick one partner who if they win they get a dominant, and lose get a recessive gene)
- dice (evens dominant, odds- recessive)
- Cards (again even dominant, odds- recessive)
This STEM activity gets students up and active in their genetics practice. Students build a genotype through chance and then create their alien.
The dominant and recessive traits worksheet on left is what is built by chance and they use their genotype to create their monster.
For example first one is body shape and has the genotype (bb) which is recessive. The two body shapes were included and this one fits. Also aa is recessive so this alien gets antennae and so forth!
Students had a blast watching their aliens come to life. This would be a great OUT OF THIS WORLD bulletin board to display as well.
Punnett Square practice with dominant and recessive traits!
After aliens were built we used their traits and practiced further crossing with a partner after reviewing the video.
Punnett squares can be tricky and integrating those STEM match concepts of probability really makes the learning click! It brings to life the genetics concepts in a fun way versus a heavier topic.
We would build aliens and I also have a Monster Genetics practice as well that would be awesome for your classroom! Both of these make great dominant and recessive trait practice for teaching genetics and heredity.
We would build monsters together as a start and use the aliens as a formative assessment later when they fully grasped the concept as it went much quicker!
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