Middle School Science includes the interesting world of Biology. One concept that can be particularly engaging is the genotype exploration in learning about the Punnett Square. The Punnett Square is a diagram that helps to determine possible genetic outcomes between two individuals.
It may not seem like it, but there are tons of ways to make the lesson relevant to teens and engage them in learning about the basics of cross-breeding.
Check out 20 of my favorite classroom activities for teaching the core concepts of the Punnett square below!
1. Create a Monster
One of the exciting things about genetics is learning to determine the possible genetic combinations. The Punnett Square is the key to learning these concepts, so let it get interesting by allowing students to create a monster, literally. Students can determine the dominant allele and the recessive allele as well as the allele combinations for a variety of little monsters! After using the Punnett Square to determine these genetic traits, students can create a drawing of what their little terror will likely look like!
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2. Break into Area 51!
Let students break into Area 51 and find some alien species to explore. Have students find some possible alien combinations of some unidentified eggs using the aliens they find as they explore Area 51. You can use the heredity activity here to explore the alien traits of the eggs.
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3. Use Popular Characters from Literature or Movies
Let students develop fun understandings beyond simply determining eye color and hair color by using popular movie and book characters with remarkable or magical traits. For example, check out this lesson using Harry Potter to teach Punnett Square allele combinations.
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4. Family Trees
Students can use photographs from their own families to track traits like eye color, hair color, freckles in offspring, or other human traits. Students can then use a Punnett square to determine the percentage of certain heterozygous traits and homozygous traits with which they and their siblings present. Check out this cool video on exploring the family tree with Punnett Squares to create a lesson around this idea.
Learn More: Stefan Bracher
5. Create the Kids: Cartoon Characters
If you are pressed for time but still want a great activity, you can let students combine two popular cartoon characters to create possible kids using the Punnett Square. Have students draw or paint the possible children using the highest probability traits determined, or you can use this pre-made Create the Kids activity that uses its own cartoon parents.
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6. Go Digital
Explore Punnett Squares with digital software. This will allow students to investigate the genetic cross of potential genotypes in a digital classroom.
7. Create a Challenge
Let students compete to use their Punnett Square knowledge to solve a challenge. This challenge can be adjusted to meet different criteria and aspects of knowledge school students have learned from the necessary varied levels of prior knowledge of Gregor Mendel and Meiosis to whatever depth of knowledge the grade level has learned about Punnett Squares.
Learn More: US Biology Teaching
8. Use Manipulatives
Use manipulative to build a hands-on interactive lesson! You can build your exciting and interactive lesson using pea pods, blocks, and virtual manipulatives, or you can use this Legos lesson!
Learn More: The American Biology Teacher
9. Play Garden Gene Genuis
What better way to get your kiddies interested in biology than with a computer game? This fun game gets your learners to consider the genes in different plants and how they interact through a bunch of games and quizzes. This is a great resource to use when you’re teaching about punnett squares and how they work!
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10. Get Silly
You can introduce the concept of Punnett Squares with a fun lesson by letting students come up with a silly combination using a simplified Punnett square idea. Students can work in groups to create silly combinations. Check out this funny meme for an example of the idea.
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11. Make it Edible
Use candy to make Punnett Squares fun for middle school students. They can use M&Ms, Candy hearts, Skittles, or other favorites to create their Punnett Squares then eat them afterward!
Learn More: Mr. Halls Class
12. Create a Mad Science Mystery
Pretend a mad scientist has begun putting different kinds of animals together to try to create mystical creatures. Students can go to the animal they think the Scientist will try to steal from the zoo next by using clues and Punnett Square data about the traits for which the Scientist is looking. This idea integrates mathematical probability well, too! If you do not want to develop your own, you can check out my pre-fabricated lesson with video and printables.
Learn More: Teachers Pay Teachers
13. Poster Project
To use human examples, you can break out magazines to pick two models with different traits, then pick a trait to explore. Cut out good photos of the trait. Do a Punnett Square on an index card. Use the models, trait examples, and Punnett Square to make a poster on dominant and recessive traits! You can use this lesson on dominant and recessive traits to guide this project or create your own.
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14. Roll the Dice
Another fun way to engage mathematical probability is to roll the genetic dice for what to put in the Punnett Squares. You can use large dice or have a chart for small dice. Let students work in pairs or groups. It would be a good opportunity to level students as a great reinforcer for all learners to grow! It would make a great review or extension for students.
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15. Get Festive
If you are learning this concept or doing a review around a certain holiday, students could create festive Punnett squares. For example, during Christmas, they can create snowman family phenotypes or gingerbread genotypes!
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16. Puppies or Kittens
Many students may have pet puppies or kittens at home. Students could work in groups to do a Punnett Square with their own pet puppies or kittens. It will be tons of adorable fun doing crosses and combinations of genotypes for students.
Learn More: Bright Biology
17. Video How-To Guides
Bring video life to the life science classroom! Have students create video How-to guides to teach others about Punnett Squares. You can use the video created to teach students as a review and example. Teaching others is an excellent way to solidify learning!
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18. Don’t Lose the Beans
Check out this cute Punnett Square activity without the square and with 20 beans! You only need two different-colored beans, a bunch of cups, and a notebook, but this cute idea could be adapted and replicated in a variety of ways. This is a fun activity in partner pairs and it hits hard on the mathematical probability aspects, too! Loving the cross-curricular activities!
Learn More: Matthew Eveleth
19. Get Interactive
Instead of Punnett Square worksheets, you can use small dishes and two different-colored beans, candies, etc. Candies will be popular since students can eat them after! Instead of writing the Punnett Squares students can create them. The video that teaches this activity has tons of genetics activities and a depth and breadth of related knowledge to pick and choose from for interactive learning at a variety of grade levels.
Learn More: IQhub
20. Break out the Dating Game
Check out this fun Punnett Square speed dating idea. Have students pick their perfect monster date! Basically, students receive dating cards with different monster genotypes and phenotypes. This cute activity is well-explained here, so check it out and start the monster matchmaking!
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