Not All Arthropods Are the Same

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SWBAT create a Venn diagram that compares spiders and insects.

Big Idea

Students critically read scientific texts adapted for classroom use to determine the central ideas and/or obtain scientific information to gather evidence about the natural world.


10 minutes

The purpose of this lesson is for students to begin to recognize that organisms are classified (grouped) based on the characteristics they have.  Students will use this information in future lessons within this unit as they attempt to identify different types of spiders and in future units when we begin to learn about common ancestry.  Additionally, I want students to understand that members of the same group (phyla) can be further classified into more specific groups (species).  We begin by conducting a sorting activity that breaks the class (phyla) into different groups (species).

My classroom is set up with 4 lab tables on each side of the room with an open space for walking between them.  This provides a natural and quick way to divide the class into two groups.  I select one student from each side of the class to serve and the decision maker for the half of the class they represent during this activity.  

Focusing only on the students on your half of the class, I want you to organize the students into different groups.  How you do this is up to you but be sure your are able to explain your organizational system at the end of the activity.  Be smart as you are making your decision and don't choose any system that may be offensive to others.  Students who are being organized: you are not the decision makers at this time.  Try your hardest to just follow the directions your decision maker is giving you without asking questions or offering your own ideas.

Once both sides of the class are finished, I have each decision maker explain the characteristics they used to create their groups and record their responses on the board.  I then ask the class the following questions:

  1. How did the criteria chosen by the decision makers affect the groups they made (how do the groups on each side of the class compare to each other)?
  2. Why do you think it is advantageous for scientists to use one standard classification system to place organisms into groups?


35 minutes

As a transition activity, I have students watch this video of a song on arthropods.  The primary purpose of this video is to get students into the proper frame of mind for learning and to activate prior knowledge.  As students view the video, I ask them to write down any characteristics they identify on this group of animals from the song lyrics.

Next students work on gathering information from researching using specific websites that will allow them to understand that because insects and spiders are members of the same phylum they have characteristics in common but because they are members of different species they also possess characteristic that are unique.

You are going to focus in on two members of the phylum (group) Arthropoda; spiders (arachnids) and insects.  You are going to create a Venn diagram that shows the similarities and differences between these two subgroups.

Students often ask how many items they must have on their Venn diagram.  I rarely give students a set number of items to include as they tend to focus more on reaching the proper number of items rather than learning.  Instead I tell them to include all of the good information they can find that applies to the task.  This helps develop students critical thinking skills as they sort through information looking for the relevant content to include (SP4, SP8).

I remind students to use the information they learned about spiders from the readings used in the prior lesson (Information Gathering: Facts About Spiders) and the following websites:

I like these sites because they have a nice mixture of text that is readable, video and pictures so each students should be able to find the necessary information.

You may choose to have the students work in pairs but I prefer having each student complete their own Venn diagram.  This allows me to more easily assess that each student can identify the similarities and differences between the two groups and it gives the project groups more information to choose from when they are putting together their final unit project.


5 minutes

For homework I ask students to use research to select 1 or 2 interesting spiders they can use as their focus animals for their final project.  They do not need to gather any information beyond its name at this point.  Student groups will select specific spiders from these lists when they get to that part of the project.

Students will use the next 2-3 days to complete check-in 1 of the final project.