Groovy Guppies-Recording Our Observations

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The student will show the structure and color variations of a guppy with a detailed sketch.

Big Idea

If guppies look so different, are they still the same kind of fish?


5 minutes

After I rang my chime to get the class’s attention, I announced that we were about to begin our Science lesson.  I asked them to return to the carpet squares and ‘Show Five’.  Once seated, I shared “The third type of water animal that we are studying in this unit is a guppy.  As we observe them, you will notice there are some important ways they are different from other fish.”.  Using two images I previously gathered from online resources, we briefly (2-3 minutes) looked at the guppies.  I specifically chose these images because they were visually engaging and they showed dramatic differences in appearance both between these guppies and other fish.  I had the students pair/share with assigned partners.  They shared the things they noticed (“They are small!  They are skinny.  They have pointy faces. ”).  I explained "We need to look at these features because it shows each animal has things that are unique to them, that makes them different from each other."  To keep things quick here, I will recall and record these answers later in the lesson on a list.  

Whole Group Instruction

15 minutes

To broaden their experience, I showed them more images of guppies that I collected.  I introduce a technology component (online curation) as I used an iPad to do a search with the children, “We’re going to use our iPad to look for more pictures of guppies.  The first thing we need to do is go to a ‘browser’.  That’s a little like an internet library because it’s a place where you can find different kinds of informationWhen we want to learn something, we can us it to find things that we need to look at or read.”.  We found a Google search for ‘guppy’ (as opposed to ‘guppies’) produced more and better image variations.  A laptop, document projector or pictures printed out from a computer would work just as well.

 We selected and displayed three images of a guppy, chosen because of their interesting color and shape.  The images gave the students valuable perspective, not just for guppies but also for people (“Guppies look different and are the same fish, just like people look different and are the same too.”).  Using the iPad, I highlighted the unique body structure of a guppy (narrow and straight body, fan shape tail, smaller size) so they could focus the unique features of a guppy.  If you have a document projector, overhead projector, or Smart Board, you could enlarge these images.  They already studied the bodies of goldfish and had some background knowledge that immediately applied to the new fish.  Since this lesson is about observation, I don’t go into a detailed (e.g. habits, food, environment, etc.) lesson about guppies.  Some of that will come in the next lesson (wait and see!)

Using a simple list, I recorded (a student with high level writing skills could do this as well.  My class isn’t there yet.) the comments about the body of a guppy.  This was the time we accessed the comments from the discussion during the hook and reminded the students about the physical qualities they noticed about guppies, noted above (* If we wanted an additional activity to look at more guppies, a short clip like  I told them "Pay particular attention to the shape of the body, tail, fins, and head.  This is what really makes a guppy look different from other fish."  My class seemed to be OK with the still images so we moved on.

I then introduced another way to record our observations.  “Now we get to talk about a different way to remember what we observedWe are going to draw or sketch the guppy.  Scientists do this when they want to remember what things looked like.”.  I took the list we made and did a quick sketch of a guppy.  I left it very basic (simple lines, no color) on purpose because I like to see what the students will come up with one their own rather than copy (and they will!) my example.  Though this is the focus of the lesson, it went very quickly.  That's a good thing because they were able to go right to work.

Independent Instruction

10 minutes

After the whole class chart work is complete, I used the chime to dismiss the students back to their tables. Once they were seated, I said “Remember a few important aspects of the guppy- skinny shape of the body, fan tail, as well as the size (typically 1-1.5 inches) and color (gray to rainbow).  Guppies are different, like people, so be free to make your guppy look like you want.”.  

I passed out half sheets (keeping it simple!) of paper to the students so they could sketch a guppy.  This activity is designed to practice recording with a sketch so I wasn’t looking for accuracy, just something that demonstrated their observations.  I had them begin the guppy outline with a pencil so they could make adjustments if they wished.  Colored pencils were a great way to add detail in smaller areas once they had the shapes they designed.

Sketches are meant to be 'quick draws'.  After about five minutes to complete the outline and color details, I gave them a one-minute warning with the chime.  Once they completed the sketch, they had another minute to have a brief discussion at their table (though in actuality, they had been doing this all along!) to share what they sketched (“My guppy was blue.”  “Mine looked like a rainbow!”).  As that winded down, I again rang the chime and asked the students to put away their sketch in their bag or backpack and return to their carpet squares to talk about our lesson.

Wrap Up

5 minutes

Once seated, I asked the class two questions- “What color was your guppy?” and  “How long was it?” (either estimates for this or a pinkie measurement [how long was it compared to your pinkie] are OK).  I had the class do another quick pair share discussion to how their guppies were alike and different.  This simple share gave the students an opportunity to realize that guppies were very unique..almost as much as themselves!