Meet Gilbert the Guppy

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SWBAT to identify the parts of a guppy by using what they learned when observing the goldfish in the prior lesson.

Big Idea

Kids learn to apply what they know from earlier lessons about the physical structure of fish


5 minutes

To engage the kids in this lesson, I call each table to the floor one at a time to sit like scientists. This means they sit crisscross applesauce, with their hands in their lap. Their mouths are quiet and their eyes, ears and brains are ready to learn. 

I ask them to remember the goldfish they observed in the previous lesson. I ask them to tell their floor partner what they saw when they observed the goldfish. I give them 20 to 30 seconds to think silently in their brains before they share with their partner.

Once they have shared with their partner, I call on random students to share with the class. I pull names from a name stick can. This prevents me from subconsciously calling on the same kids repeatedly.

I always respond with specific praise for each response. Specific praise may sound like, "Thank you for sharing about the goldfish's scales. Those are important because they protect the fish."

I engage them by thinking about the goldfish they looked at in the last lesson because they enjoyed it so much, they constantly want to talk about it.


10 minutes

This is when the guppies are introduced to the kids. I go over the same rules and procedures as in the prior lesson:

I have a dozen guppies in a tank in my classroom. I catch one fish, using a net, for each of my six tables and place them in a jar or a large cup while the kids are at lunch. I place a fish on each table as I give the kids the rules and procedures for the investigation. This means I am delivering fish to tables as I talk to the kids while they are still seated on the floor. I also have my helper of the day place a magnifying glass where each student sits at each table while I pass out fish.


  • Stay in seat
  • Keep hands in lap until asked to use them
  • Be very quiet at your seats
  • Always look at the fish, but never touch the jar/bowl


  • You will sit at your seat and use the magnifying glass to look closely at your fish without touching the jar/bowl
  • You will look at your fish to determine how your fish breathes, moves and when I come to Your table, watch how it eats
  • You will talk to your table friends about what you see the fish doing and how the fish is doing it


I then dismiss one table at a time to go to their seats to observe their fish. I give the kids 6-8 minutes to observe the fish. The time depends on how long it takes to prepare them. I set a timer - I use my iPhone. Once timer goes off, I instruct the kids to give their magnifying glasses to their table leader who in turn gives it to my helper of the day. Setting the timer allows the kids to know that we are serious about time and they need to use their time wisely.

I call one table at a time to come back to the floor to sit like scientists so we can find out what they observed.


5 minutes

I ask the kids to think about what they saw the guppy do and how it did it. What parts did it use to do the different things?

I give them 20-30 seconds to silently think about what they observed. I then ask them to talk to their floor partner. Once they have shared with their floor partner, I randomly choose kids to share out by pulling names from a name stick can.

As they share, I record their thoughts on chart paper. I do NOT make any statements connecting the observations of the goldfish with those of the guppy. I want the kids to get to those connections on their own. This supports the development of critical thinking skills.


10 minutes

I read a self-created book about a guppy to explain how the guppy uses its body parts to survive.  I think aloud as I read about the guppies and  how its different body parts are used.

If the kids have not yet connected what they learned from observing the goldfish to what they observed today, this portion of the lesson usually does it for them.

The connections between the goldfish and the guppy become very obvious here.

I project the book on my ActivBoard to read it and share the illustrations with the kids. The book also has a "student cover" so it is designed to read as a class and be taken home to share with family members. Feel free to print and copy the pages to send home with your kids!


5 minutes

Are they the same?

This section challenges the kids to use what they learned about the goldfish to relate to what they learned about the guppy.

The kids remain on the floor sitting like scientists. If they get "squirrelly" I simply ask them to stand up in their spots and jump up and down ten times while counting out loud.

This is not an in depth comparison, that is done in the next lesson. This is a quick look comparison. I simply ask the kids if they notice similarities between the two fish and allow them to volunteer information. I call on a few kids to share what they notice about the guppy that they also saw when observing the goldfish.

I record their reflections onto chart paper and save it for the next lesson where we will closely compare the two fish.

This part of the lesson is important because it provides a time for the kids to make connections across science explorations. This way they begin to make connections and draw conclusions which supports the growth of argrumentation.


10 minutes

Label the guppy

As in the previous lesson, I have the kids label a diagram of a guppy. I do not expand anymore on the similarities between the guppy and the goldfish. I leave it at what they orally shared in the previous section because I want to bring the focus back to the investigation at hand, the guppy.


I have the kids remain on the floor to hear the directions. I tell them that I will give each table leader enough diagrams for everyone at their tables. Once all the table leaders are seated at the tables, I call one team at a time to go sit at the tables.

I reveal a hand drawn diagram on chart paper that mirrors the diagram they will be labeling. I will use the chart paper diagram to walk them through labeling the parts of the guppy on their own page.

Once all the kids are seated at the tables, I ask the table leaders to give each student a page. I give the kids one minute to write their first and last names on the paper.

I then tell the kids to hold up their tracking finger, which is their pointer finger. I tell them to find the part of the fish that lets it see (eye) and put their finger on it. I quickly scan the room to make sure everyone is touching the correct part of the fish. I then have the kids write the word, "eye" on the line next to that part by following what I do on the diagram drawn on the chart paper.

I give the kids clues rather than simply stating the words of the body parts because I want them to make connections between what they observed while watching the guppy while utilizing what they already learned from observing the goldfish.

We label the following:

eye - helps the fish see

mouth - opens and closes to eat and help breathe

gill - opens and closes only to breathe

fin - on the side of the body and moves the fish

tail - allows the fish to change directions while moving in the water

Science Journals:

Once we finish filling in the diagram, I have the kids glue the page into their science journals and we gather back onto the floor.

I ask the kids to silently think in their minds for 30 seconds and think of one thing they can share with their floor partners about what they learned today. I then give the kids 30 seconds each to share with their floor partner.

Once they are done sharing, I pull four random names from the name stick can to share what their partner said they learned from observing the guppies. I use a name stick can to avoid subconscious bias when choosing kids to share. It is natural for a teacher to call on the same students all the time without even realizing it.


5 minutes

One possible extension for this lesson is to compare fish fins and tails to the wings and tails of birds. I ask the kids if they think birds and fish use their body parts in similar ways. It's a quick conversation that once again supports making connections across science concepts.