The Animal Kingdom: Invertebrates

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SWBAT classify invertebrate animals into phylums according to certain physical similarities.

Big Idea

In this lesson, the class researches invertebrate animal phylums by viewing a Powerpoint Presentation, pictures, and a video of animals in each phylum. Then, students summarize their learning by writing a paragraph about the many types of invertebrates.

Lesson Overview

Inquiry Based Instructional Model

To intertwine scientific knowledge and practices and to empower students to learn through exploration, it is essential for scientific inquiry to be embedded in science education. While there are many types of inquiry-based models, one model that I've grown to appreciate and use is called the FERA Learning Cycle, developed by the National Science Resources Center (NSRC):

1. Focus

2. Explore

3. Reflect

4. Apply

A framework for implementation can be found here

I absolutely love how the Center for Inquiry Science at the Institute for Systems Biology explains that this is "not a locked-step method" but "rather a cyclical process," meaning that some lessons may start off at the focus phase while others may begin at the explore phase. 

Finally, an amazing article found at, How Inquiry-Based Learning Works with STEMvery clearly outlines how inquiry based learning "paves the way for effective learning in science" and supports College and Career Readiness, particularly in the area of STEM career choices. 

Unit Explanation

In this unit, students will first develop an understanding of the biotic and abiotic factors within ecosystems, the characteristics and classification of living organisms, and how plants and animals obtain and use energy to fulfill their needs. 

Then, students will delve deeper into the NGSS standards by examining the interdependent relationships within an ecosystem by studying movement of matter between producers, consumers, and decomposers by creating models of food chains and food webs.  

At the end of this unit, students will study ways that individual communities can use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.  

Summary of Lesson

Today, I will open the lesson by reviewing and introducing key vocabulary. Students will then explore the invertebrate animal phylums by viewing a Powerpoint Presentation, pictures, and videos of each phylum. At the end of the lesson, students will reflect and apply their new understanding of invertebrates by writing a summary, beginning with the topic sentence, There are many types of invertebrates.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will support the following NGSS Standard(s):

5-PS3-1.    Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  

5-LS2-1.    Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.  

In order to truly grasp an in-depth understanding of the above standards, it is important to students to understand:

  • what organisms are animals 
  • why an organism is a animal instead of a plant & how this changes the organism's role in the environment
  • how different animals take in energy
  • what types of environments different phylums of animals live within and how these animals interact with the environment


Scientific & Engineering Practices

For this lesson, students are engaged in the following Science & Engineering Practice:

Science & Engineering Practice 8: Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

Students obtain ideas through researching, viewing, and discussing. Then, they communicate newly learned information by constructing a written summary. 

Crosscutting Concepts

To relate ideas across disciplinary content, during this lesson I focus on the following Crosscutting Concept

Crosscutting Concept 1: Patterns

Students organize and classify the invertebrate animals into phylums. They also identify relationships, similarities, and differences between these animals. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas

In addition, this lesson also aligns with the following Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.C:  Organization for Matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

Food provides animals with the materials they need for body repair and growth and the energy they need to maintain body warmth and for motion. (secondary to 5-PS3-1)

LS2.A:  Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems

The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plants parts and animals) and therefore operate as “decomposers.” Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem. (5-LS2-1)

LS2.B:  Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems

Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases, and water, from the environment, and release waste matter (gas, liquid, or solid) back into the environment. (5-LS2-1)

ELA Integration

To add depth to student understanding, when I can, I'll often integrate ELA standards with science lessons. Today, students will work on meeting CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.7: Conduct short research projects that use several sources to build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic. In this lesson, students will use their research to write a summary about invertebrates.

Choosing Science Teams

With science, it is often difficult to find a balance between providing students with as many hands-on experiences as possible, having plenty of science materials, and offering students a collaborative setting to solve problems. Any time groups have four or more students, the opportunities for individual students to speak and take part in the exploration process decreases. With groups of two, I often struggle to find enough science materials to go around. So this year, I chose to place students in teams of three! Picking science teams is always easy as I already have students placed in desk groups based upon behavior, abilities, and communication skills. Each desk group has about six kids, so I simply divide this larger group in half. 

Gathering Supplies & Assigning Roles

To encourage a smooth running classroom, I ask students to decide who is a 1, 2, or 3 in their groups of three students (without talking). In no time, each student has a number in the air. I'll then ask the "threes" to get certain supplies, "ones" to grab their computers, and "twos" to hand out papers (or whatever is needed for the lesson). This management strategy has proven to be effective when cleaning up and returning supplies as well!  


10 minutes

Lesson Introduction & Goal 

I introduce today's learning goal: I can classify invertebrate animals into phylums according to certain physical similarities. I explain: So far, we've researched and investigated decomposers and plants. Now, we are going to delve deeper into the animal world! Today, we'll focus on the classification invertebrates and tomorrow we'll begin studying vertebrates. 

Teacher Note: Although it is a pretty big jump to go from learning about plants to learning about animals, we will continue to reflect upon the role of plants throughout the rest of the unit. (The main connection that I want students to focus on is the fact that animals rely on plants for food as animals are unable to produce their own food.) In addition, the anchor charts on plants will remain up throughout the room so that students can continually refer to and build upon this learning. Finally, the overarching posters that continually help build connections between decomposers, producers, and consumers include the: the Roles in Ecosystems Poster and the 6 Kingdoms of Life Poster. Due to continued review and anchor charts, students seem to make this transition with no problem at all! 


I want to provide students with some background knowledge before diving in, so I take this time to review the difference between plants and animals using the Plants Vocabulary Poster and Animal Vocabulary Poster. To make sure students understand and are engaged, I ask them to turn and talk: How are plants and animals similar (eukaryotic, multicellular) and how are they different? (Plants have chlorophyll and can make their own food. Animals don't have chlorophyll and they must consume other plants and/or animals to obtain energy.)

Next, we discuss the difference between cold-blooded & warm-blooded animals. Before introducing the meaning of these terms, I ask students to turn and talk about them using their prior knowledge. During this time, I listen in on conversations to listen for common misconceptions: Students Turning & Talking. A common misconception that many students have is that cold-blooded animals are always cold-blooded, when they can actually take on the temperature of the environment, whether it is cold or hot.

Although students are familiar with these concepts, they seem to lack a deeper understanding. Following student conversations, I introduce each of the following posters: Cold-Blooded Vocabulary Poster and Warm-Blooded Vocabulary Poster. Later on, we'll discuss these terms further.

Finally, I write the word, phylum, on the board and explain the meaning: Today, we are going to be talking about the animal kingdom. However, animals can be further classified into more specific groups. These groups are called phylums. For example, we have the mammal phylum (which includes humans) and the arthropod phylum (which includes insects). 


60 minutes

The 6 Kingdoms of Life Poster

As part of our Ecosystems Unit, I feel it is necessary for students to understand how living organism are classified into kingdoms and phylums. In order to truly understand the roles of decomposers, producers, and consumers, it's important for students to understand the types of organisms that fill each of these roles, based upon their structures and characteristics. 

In previous lessons, I began completing this 6 Kingdoms of Life Poster (Before) to help students visualize the 6 Kingdoms of Life. Today, we will continue on by completing the Invertebrates Poster section of the poster. Here's what the end result will look like: 6 Kingdoms of Life Poster (After). In a future lesson, we will complete the last section of this poster (the vertebrates). 

Google Powerpoint Presentation

For this lesson, I created a Google Powerpoint, The Animal Kingdom Presentation, to help students visualize and make sense of each animal kingdom phylum. Today, I will provide students with information on the invertebrate animal phylums. Tomorrow, I will share this Google Presentation with students. Then, they will make a copy of the presentation so that they can continue on by researching the vertebrate animal phylums and building on to this presentation (notice how the last half of the Animal Kingdom Presentation provides a template for student research). 

Getting Started

I invite students to join me on the front carpet of the room with their 6 Kingdoms of Life Posters and a clipboard (hard surface). Students will be adding notes to these posters during this time. Taking notes using a graphic organizer often helps students categorize newly learned information and encourages a higher level of engagement. Here's what a student's poster will look like at the end of today: Student Invertebrate Notes and Student 6 Kingdom Poster.  


Projecting the second slide, Invertebrates Slide, I explain: There are two major characteristics that all invertebrates share. First, all invertebrates do not have a backbone. Second, they are ALL cold-blooded. What does cold blooded mean again? (animals that take on the temperature of their environment)

Warm-Blooded & Cold-Blooded Animals

On the next slide, Warm-Blooded & Cold-Blooded Slide, we discuss the difference between warm and cold blooded animals once more. Repeated exposure is key to language acquisition. I also click on the following link, Warm-Blooded & Cold-Blood Animals, so that students can see how a thermal imaging camera can capture the temperature of a warm and cold blooded animals in different environments! This amazes students! This is also a great opportunity to discuss how warm-blooded animals use more energy to maintain a steady body temperature whereas cold-blooded animals rely on their environment to modify their body temperature (a lizard crawls onto a warm rock in the sunshine to heat up). This conversation addresses the fact that animals need energy and supports NGSS Standard 5-PS3-1: Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  

The Arthropods Phylum

Next, I introduce the Arthropods Phylum by showing students the Arthropods Picture Slide and discussing the Arthropods Fact Slide. During this time, the students and I take notes on our 6 Kingdoms of Life Posters. To really help this phylum come to life, I also show the video on the next slide, Arthropods Video Slide (also found below), which features a type of arthropod, the scorpion! 

The Annelids Phylum

For the Annelids Phylum, I show students the Annelids Picture Slide, the Annelids Fact Slide, followed by a video on the ribbon worm. I specifically want students to see the variety of organisms that fit into the Annelid Phylum due to shared characteristics. 

The Mollusks Phylum

Next, I show students the Mollusks Picture SlideMullusks Fact Slide, and this amazing octopus video. By slowing down and showing a video after discussing each phylum, students seem to have the time need to process and apply all the new information. 

The Cnidaria Phylum

For the Cnidaria phylum, I present the Cnidaria Picture SlideCnidaria Facts Slide, and this video on the world's largest jelly fish. I insert the pronunciation cnidaria (ny-dair-ee-ah) on the slides and on the poster. This turns out to be very helpful later on as students are using this word in their conversations about invertebrates. Often times, students avoid high level vocabulary words to avoid having to say them, but students bravely use cnidaria, knowing they can reference the poster when needed! 

The Echinoderms Phylum

We then move on to the Echinoderms Picture SlideEchinoderms Fact Slide, and this video that features both sea urchins and sea stars. The students can't take their eyes off the screen! I'm reminded of how powerful pictures and videos are when you're trying to bring science to life. 

The Porifera Phylum

For the last invertebrate phylum, I show students the Porifera Picture SlidePorifera Fact Slide, and this amazing video of a scientist observing the flow of water through a sponge by releasing green dye into the water! This is a perfect opportunity to discuss how this plant-looking organism is an animal because of its role in the environment. Sponges consume food particles (bacteria, plankton) by catching these particles with individual cells. Digestion actually takes place inside the individual cells! 


Looking back on this presentation method, I am REALLY happy with the results. Instead of just listing information on a poster, I provided additional support to students by adding the visual and audio components. Each phylum transformed from just words on paper to explaining a world of invertebrates that actually exists! 

Reflect & Apply

20 minutes

Sharing Findings

Now that students have built meaning and understanding by observing, questioning, and exploring the invertebrate animal phylums, it is important to provide students with the opportunity to apply and share their findings.

For this reason, I pass out lined paper to each student invite students to write the following main idea sentence: There are many types of invertebrates. Here's my Teacher Model.

Next, I ask students to write a paragraph by providing fact-based details that support this main idea sentence. Students immediately begin referring to their Student Invertebrate Notes

Sharing Out

Often times, when I ask students to complete a writing assignment, many kids take off and know exactly what to do. Others are a bit stuck and needs some support. To help model expectations and ideas for these students, I ask students to begin sharing their writing throughout the process (even when some student only have a few sentences written). 

Here, Student Sharing, a student shares the first part of his paragraph. In particular, I love how he defines the meaning of vertebrates and includes exact details from our research. 

Another student, Student 2 Sharing, explains, "There are millions of invertebrates, from the earthworm to the star fish." I can tell that this assignment really encourages students to summarize their learning from today! 

Student Work

Here are examples of student work during this time. You'll notice that some students elaborated more than others. Next time we compose written summaries, I'll read a few higher level examples aloud to inspire students to write with more detail! 

This turns out to be a great way for students to reflect and apply their understanding of invertebrates today. I'm also able to provide immediate for support for the students who get concepts of facts mixed up.