DNA Lesson Plan

Instructor: Julie Zundel

Julie has taught high school Zoology, Biology, Physical Science and Chem Tech. She has a Bachelor of Science in Biology and a Master of Education.

Use Study.com's text lesson on DNA to introduce grade- or middle-school students to the structure and function of deoxyribonucleic acid. By the end of this hands-on lesson, students should have a basic understanding of the parts that make up DNA.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the pieces that make up DNA
  • identify what the pair will be when given a base
  • describe the structure of DNA (double helix and the bases that make up the 'rungs')
  • identify DNA as the instructions your body uses to build you


  • 45-60 minutes depending on age group/prior knowledge. Although this is geared toward elementary students, teachers could modify to make it appropriate for middle school students.


  • A blank piece of paper for each student
  • Colored pencils (at least four per student)
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • A projector to show the image 'Complementary Base Pairs' from the study.com lesson DNA Lesson for Kids: Definition & Structure

Curriculum Standards

Grade 4-5


Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.

Grade 6-8


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6-8 texts and topics.


Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).


  • Depending on the age/grade level, you can read the story 'Are You My Mother?' before the Study.com lesson, but it is not necessary (the Study.com lesson references the story).
  • Read the Study.com lesson entitled DNA Lesson for Kids: Definition & Structure to the class.
  • After you have read the lesson, you can tell the class they are going to build their own DNA models so they can get a better idea of what DNA looks like.
  • Start by having each student cut two strips from their paper. These strips will be the sides of the DNA ladder, so each should be at least an inch wide and the length should be that of the paper.
  • Next, have students cut out the rungs of the ladder. The dimensions of each rung should be approximately one inch tall and three inches in length. They can cut out as many rungs as they can (depending on how much paper is left) but on average, they should be able to get 4-5.
  • Next, review the idea of complementary base pairs. Tell students they are going to label their bases and then cut them. Assuming they have four rungs, have them label them as follows:
    • The first rung: label the left side 'cytosine' and the right side 'guanine'
    • The second rung: label the left side 'adenine' and right side 'thymine'
    • The third rung: label the left side 'guanine' and right side 'cytosine'
    • The fourth rung: label the left side 'cytosine' and the right side 'guanine'
  • Now have them cut the bases in half. Before they cut, show them the image 'Complementary Base Pairs' that is shown on the Study.com lesson. Explain that each base must link up with its pair, so make the cuts accordingly (the image illustrates rounded-end cuts versus pointed-end cuts).
  • Now have them color their bases as follows:
    • Cytosine: blue
    • Guanine: pink
    • Adenine: purple
    • Thymine: green
  • Finally they need to build their DNA model. Have them tape their complementary base pairs together (remember: cytosine pairs with guanine and adenine pairs with thymine).
  • Now have them tape the rungs of the ladder to the sides of the ladder
  • Now they can twist the ladder to show the double helix.


  • Explain that the base pair order varies depending on the animal, so they could change the order of the rungs and have another animal. Research animals that are structurally similar to one another and brainstorm with students how they are similar and dissimilar to one another.
  • Explain that scientists use models to represent ideas. Have students come up with a list of other scientific models (you may have to assist them depending on the age/grade level). Some examples: model of the solar system, model of a cell, and model of the atom.

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