Salmon Species

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SWBAT identify the five species of Pacific Salmon.

Big Idea

There are 5 species of Pacific salmon. Different species can be identified by their physical characteristics.

Warm Up

10 minutes

I begin this lesson by introducing students to the concept that the same type of animal can come in different forms. To provide my students with an example they can understand and have a personal connection to, I use dogs. I ask students to list the breeds of dogs that they know. I list these on the board. I then ask students to name the similarities and differences between the dog breeds. I list these on the board. 

Guided Practice

30 minutes

Next, I tell students that like the dogs that we listed, there are different types of salmon and that there are similarities and differences between the species of salmon. I provide the students with the salmon species graphic organizer. I show images of the five different salmon species in both their adult and spawning forms. I ask students to draw both an adult and spawner of each species. I use the document camera to model this process for my students. I then list characteristics (body shape, jaw shape, size, color, etc.) that differentiate each species type. For example, I share that Chinook (or King) salmon are the largest of the five Pacific salmon species, that Sockeye spawners change color dramatically to vibrant green and red, or that adult Pink Salmon weigh only 3-5 pounds.

A video of student discussing what is 'special' about their chosen species can be found here.

Independent Practice

10 minutes

I then give students time to practice the skill of identifying salmon species using the fish camera from Bonneville Dam. As salmon pass through the viewing window, I point out key characteristics which might help students to identify the species or gender of each fish. At first, this is very difficult for students. To scaffold my instruction, I use my document camera to freeze the image of a single fish on the whiteboard. I can then point out identifying characteristics without feeling time pressure. 


10 minutes

To conclude this lesson, I ask students to choose a salmon species to represent their science group for the rest of the unit. I have the students draw and color a salmon group sign of their chosen salmon species. After the lesson, I hang these above the students' tables. These pictures serve as a visual reminder of the five species of Pacific salmon to which the students can refer throughout the unit.