Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Wild Babies

Suzan Smith
Marion County Schools


During this first day of the unit, students consider the source of our traits and characteristics. This activity is designed to get the students thinking, intrigue their interests, and to involve them in class discussion. A KWL Chart will be initiated and used as the Diagnostic Assessment.


The student knows that the variation in each species is due to the exchange and interaction of genetic information as it is passed from parent to offspring.

The student knows how dominant and recessive traits are inherited.


-The book [Wild Babies] by Richardson and Chermayeff © 1994
-Copies of KWL Chart for each student (unit attached file)
-Teacher copy, possibly on overhead or on chart paper, of the KWL Chart
-Teacher copy of the KWL Diagnostic/Summative Assessment attached unit file (See Extensions)


1. Teacher background required on the following topics: genetics, heredity, dominant and recessive traits. Refer to the Genetics Vocabulary file for assistance with the vocabulary in this unit, or for a printout for the students.
2. Purchase or checkout the book [Wild Babies] by Richardson and Chermayeff © 1994.
3. Make student copies of the KWL Chart (attached unit file).
4. Prepare an overhead copy of the KWL Chart to display during class discussion, if desired.


1. Hold up page 15 in the book, [Wild Babies,] for the class to see. Ask the students to explain how a family of black-haired monkeys could have a red-haired offspring. Use the picture to spark class discussion on recessive traits. Allow students to make connections between the picture and their own families in a short discussion format. For example, some students in the class may have a red-headed family member. Where did the red hair come from if mom, dad, and siblings do not have red hair? Do not tell students if their comments are right or wrong. Explain that you are beginning a unit on genetics and need to know what students already know about the subject.

2. Provide the students with a copy of the KWL chart, or have students copy the chart onto their own papers. Students write their ideas about genetics and heredity in the “What I Already Know” column. Assure students that the KWL won't be graded today, but will just provide information about how much they know so you can adjust your instruction during the unit.

3. Be careful not to provide too much information before the students complete the first column on the KWL Chart. We will use this column to assess their previous knowledge (Diagnostic). You want the ideas they generate here to be their own.

4. Provide them time to complete the first column, then give directions for the W column, What I Want to Know. You might want to ask students to list 3 questions (or whatever number of questions you decide) so as to encourage them to think about genetics and the ideas heard during the initial classroom discussion. Tell them that these questions should be written in the second column on their papers, "What I Want To Know." Give them some time to generate their ideas. Also, provide time for them to answer the four questions at the bottom of the KWL Chart. Make sure students know that this will not be graded, but used to tell you, the teacher, what to teach.

5. Collect the KWL Charts including the questions. Inform the students that the last column will be filled out later as a review once they progress throughout the unit.

6. Ask students to share what they put on the KWLs. Summarize and make a list of the students’ responses on the overhead, chalkboard, or chart paper. (After class, make a copy of these reponses to use in the last lesson, Decoding DNA, of this unit as a review.)

7. Continue to ask additional questions to the students such as, "What are inherited traits?" and "Does every living thing inherit from its parents?" Summarize and continue to record student answers, whether they are right or wrong.

8. Provide the definitions of genetics, inheritance, and traits. Refer to the Genetics Vocabulary unit attached file for assistance with the vocabulary covered in this unit, or for a printout for the students. (See Extensions.) Tell the students that they will be learning about these concepts, along with much more in this new unit. Students will need to keep the definitions handy for reference during the unit.


The classroom discussion, along with the individual completion of the K and W parts of the KWL chart, will allow the teacher to assess the students’ previous knowledge and misconceptions about the topic of genetics and prescribe instruction to match the students’ needs.

Students will complete and use the KWL Chart again at the end of the unit as a review. At that time students will be able to complete the “Learned” column.

Use class discussion and the KWL Chart to measure the extent and accuracy of the students’ knowledge of genetics, as well as their misconceptions. Measurement guides for evidence of the students’ knowledge and criteria for assessment are located on the KWL Rubric in the KWL Diagnostic/Summative Assessment associated file. See Extensions.


The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).
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