by Teresa & Matthew Love

 Heredity/Traits Lesson Plan


Developed by Teresa Love, K-6 Drama specialist BYU, and Matthew Love, 5th grade classroom teacher, Entheos Academy, Magna, Utah.


Science Standard:

(Utah Core Science) # 5: Students will understand that traits are passed from the parent organisms to their offspring, and that sometimes the offspring may possess variations of these traits that may help or hinder survival in a given environment


Lesson is integrated so as to also address the following standards:

Drama Standards (National Core Arts Standards)

TH:Cr2.1.5, TH:Cr3.1.5 TH:Pr6.1.5

Language Arts

 RI 5.1, 5.4, SL 5.1, 5.2, L5.4


Time to teach:

Four or five 30-45 min. sessions (Session 1:Steps 1-2, Session 2:Steps 3-4, Session 3: Steps 5-7, 8-9, Optional 45 min Session: Step 10.)



Students will correctly use scientific vocabulary associated with the subject of heredity, and use the vocabulary in meaningful ways. 



White Board Race, Listening to Illustrate, Machine, Museum Tour (Tableau) with Teacher-in Role, Building a Story with Vocabulary



Team points are accrued throughout the entire activity. See Assessment Scheme at the end of this lesson.  Also S= Student(s); T=Teacher



  • Shared Reading Text re Heredity/Traits and associated vocabulary list. There are many, many resources for this.  Here is just one which can be found on the Utah Educational Network (UEN).

For vocabulary: For readings:

Include all the readings from the menu at the left of the page.

Note: Any good reading on Traits/Heredity and an associated vocabulary list can be used.

  • Whiteboard and markers
  • Large sheets of paper, one for each table group
  • Pencils/pens/markers/crayons


Student Background knowledge: 

      Students should have a knowledge of and success at performing the theatre game “Machine.” If students are unfamiliar with this exercise, introduce it a few days before and let them play the game a few times successfully prior to this lesson.

Here is a link :


Most S can grasp Tableau work easily. However, T may want to use tableau technique previous to this lesson.  Here is a description


  1. Pretest: White Board Race Game (1.-2) T Writes the vocabulary on the board for all to see. As a group read aloud all words. T directs S to note what terms they think they understand, and to make some mental guesses as to what some of the other terms might mean. They may make physical notes or just take mental notes.  Once they have silently gone through the list they should give a thumbs up to T.


  1. Divide the class into two teams. One child from each team approaches the board and picks up a marker.  T reads the definition of a vocabulary word.  The S at the board write the word they think is the correct one.  Once they have written the term they must put the marker on the tray and turn their back to the board.  If the term is written correctly and legibly first, that S’s team gets a point.  If the term is incorrect, then the S at the board may tag one of the team members to step in and write a new term.  Play continues until the correct term is written legibly on the board.  Continue play until all terms have been identified correctly. Award points accordingly.



  1. Listening to Illustrate. Assign students to 6 teams (three groups coming from each original two vocabulary teams). Place large sheets of paper on tables, one per each team, and provide S with pencils/markers.


  1. T will read the Shared Reading  in a way that will help students make meaning. This requires T reads using colored and expressive language.  S are tasked to raise their hands when they hear one of the vocabulary words.  Points are awarded to the first S to raise his/her hand on behalf of their team.  Meanwhile, all S are drawing pictures and symbols to help illustrate their understanding of the concepts and vocabulary. 

After the T reading, pass out the text (or if digital, give students access to the text); encourage S to use the information in the text to make their group pictures richer with many and various examples, with labels included. Once students are satisfied their artwork sufficiently illustrates and explains their assigned reading, T assesses and awards points. (We did this as a team while S were at recess.)


  1. The class as a whole is challenged to make a “Vocabulary of Hereditary Machine.” S will use a word or term as their sound and a motion that could be associated with the meaning of the word as their motion.   (For example, for the term “offspring” a student might imagine they are a parent patting the head of their child while they say over and over, “offspring…offspring…”.). 


    It would be good if the T and class collaborate on many different examples of what could be a part of this machine before asking the class to make this machine. A few non-examples will be useful also.  However, anything that is used during the example phase may not be used again in the machines the class creates.  But if the example of life cycle is “Egg, tadpole, frog” with appropriate motions, it’s perfectly acceptable for someone else to use “baby, kid, teen, adult.”


   Let S begin to make machines, with one person beginning, and other students adding on about every five seconds.  T side-coaches, encouraging students to engage in the machine, “freezing” the machine occasionally to point out good work, or work which needs improvement. T can also identify when work is being repeated or unclear. Be sure to call performers out if their work is not specific enough to communicate their understanding of the vocabulary. Praise those who exhibit both clearness and creativity in their work. T awards points as seems appropriate for S who show original thinking or fine execution.


Occasionally award participation points for those who are shy or for whom this sort of work is especially challenging. Points are awarded to S individually, but tallied for their own team totals.


  1. Museum Tour with Teacher-in Role () Each team is to closely re-read an assigned section of the shared reading. T reminds S to be sure to clearly understand all vocabulary included in their section as they will be earning points for using it well in their next scene work.


   Task S with creating a frozen picture (tableau) with their group that demonstrates the main ideas in the reading. The each group creates the tableau as if it is an exhibit in a museum.  One S from each group will be a Museum Director, who is tasked to give a tour to the new docent (Classroom teacher in-role). The Docent asks questions, points out things he/she notices that help make meaning for the rest of the class (who observe as audience), each time he tours an “exhibit.” Note:  Every time a Museum Director (or if the exhibit itself has a talking component) uses one of the vocabulary terms correctly, points can be added to the running team scores.  Remind the class that rattling off a list of words is not using vocabulary in a meaningful way


   Continue until all exhibits have been “toured.”  At any point, if the observing S are not exhibiting appropriate audience manners, T may take away a point. Good audience behavior can be rewarded.


  1. Quick class conversation re the quality of the tableau/museum work. Optional:   can take a poll for Fan Favorite Exhibit.


  1. Post-test Game. Play the Whiteboard Race Game again, this time as a class post-test.

Same rules as before.  T can decide if the list of terms should be viewable or not. T can also decide if spelling counts. (You might try 3 points for spelled correctly.) You may want to try the opposite more challenging way to play: T says the vocabulary word, students write short answer.


If reward has been promised to the winning team, award it.


  1. Optional Enrichment Activity: Story Building with Vocabulary. Assign students to small groups and assign them to enact a simple fairytale. All students must take part in the performance, though they may play animate, inanimate characters, and/or be a storyteller who narrates the story. However, they must use the hereditary/traits vocabulary words within the story, in ways that make sense to both the definition of the story and the story itself.  Good tales to use:  Little Red Riding-hood, The Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  Remember you may need to review the plot points of these tales so the children don’t struggle with stories or story structure they don’t know.  Assign a point for each vocabulary word used meaningfully and appropriately in the story.


Assessment Scheme (Much of this can be tracked by points S earn/don’t earn.) Note: T can set rubrics or checklists for any of these steps with or without help from S. Rubrics would be individualized for the particular classroom of S and for T’s chosen emphasis on associated standards noted at the beginning of this lesson.


1.-2.Note incorrect answers. Give points for correct answers.


  1. For Listening, points should equal the number of vocabulary words used in the text. T decides if hands should go up just the first time the vocabulary word is used or every time the word is used.  Group drawings should depict vocabulary words,  Criteria=meaning is clear, labeled, contains no extraneous art work (hearts, stars and rainbows not welcome here. ) 10 pts. possible per each group picture.  So, the team could have three group drawings and earn, say, 6, 8, and 9 pts. each for the team total of 23/30 pts.


  1. Points Criteria for Machine=Creativity, Accuracy, Participation. This is the formative assessment of the lesson. Check to see if students’ use of the words indicates if they understand the definitions and can use the words meaningfully in contextual situations.


5.-6. Effective group work during rehearsal (usually just attached to classroom rules), number of vocabulary words used meaningfully during the “tour,” clearness of concepts in the exhibits, behavior as an audience.


  1. No points awarded for Fan Favorite. (Just bragging rights!)


  1. As in 1.-2. Compare with pre-test.


  1. No Assessment


  1. This optional activity will show a greater depth of knowledge as the vocabulary is utilized outside of the construct of Heredity. In order to impress upon the students that this work shows a higher level of understanding, consider giving 2-5 points for correct and meaningful usage in the story.


Heredity Lesson Plan.Matthew & Teresa Love