Inherited and Acquired Traits


Inherited and Acquired Traits explores the difference between traits that we inherit and those that we acquire throughout life. Students will determine whether a characteristic is behavioral or physical. They will also be able to explain how some of their characteristics come from their parents while they learned other traits during their lifetime.

The lesson describes how this concept applies to animals. The activity specifically teaches students to analyze the traits of humans versus animals. Teachers can be creative with how they present these ideas. The lesson provides a few extra ideas for teachers in the “Options for Lesson” section.

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What our Inherited and Acquired Traits lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Inherited and Acquired Traits teaches students the difference between the characteristics they had when they were born and those that they acquired in life. Students will learn that they inherited certain characteristics through birth and acquired others throughout their lives. The lesson explains why certain traits appear in some humans but not others. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

There are several suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page that you may want to add to the lesson. A couple suggestions relate to the activity portion. You could have students work alone or in groups rather than with a partner for the activity. In addition, you could add more images for students to describe and use larger paper. Another option is to assign students an animal to research and figure out which traits the animal acquired and which ones it had at birth. Students could also list as many of their own acquired traits as possible and compare them to those of other students. One more idea is to invite a doctor to speak to the class about the topic and answer students’ questions.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information or guidance for the lesson. It mentions that students should have some degree of knowledge about the subject matter before the beginning of this lesson. It also suggests teaching this lesson in conjunction with others that relate to heredity. Use the blank lines on this page to write down your thoughts as you prepare the lesson for your students.


This lesson compares behavioral and physical traits and explains the difference. By the end, students should be able to identify both inherited or acquired traits. They should also be able to discern between behavioral and physical traits.

The content pages describe how characteristics are also called traits. People inherit some traits through their parents. Other traits develop after birth. The same concept applies to animals as well. A dog inherits the trait of coat color. However, he acquires the trait of rolling over for a treat!

The lesson details further differences between inherited traits and acquired traits. It discusses the idea of instincts and how they are considered inherited traits. On the contrary, learning a sport or new language would be an acquired trait.


The Inherited and Acquired Traits lesson plan includes three activities: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each one will help students solidify their comprehension of the material and demonstrate their knowledge. The guide on the classroom procedure page describes when to hand out each one to the class.


The activity provides students with an outline of a person. Students will create characteristics for the imaginary person. They can also draw the physical traits if they want to. Next, they will do the same thing with an animal. The second half of the activity shows an outline of a bear. The students will create traits for the imaginary bear. Again, they can draw the physical traits if they choose.


The practice worksheet lists out 30 statements. Students will mark each statement as an inherited (I) or acquired (A) trait. The statements will apply to both humans and animals. Next, there are 10 traits listed. The students will tell whether the trait is behavioral (B) or physical (P).


The homework is similar to the practice worksheet. First, students will mark statements as either inherited or acquired traits. Next, they will match definitions to the correct term. Finally, they will read 9 statements about traits. They will mark whether each statement is true (T) or false (F).

Worksheet Answer Keys

The final two pages of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. The correct answers are all in red to make it easy to compare them to students’ work. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade



State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.9, CSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.