Animal Classifications

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SWBAT identify the different structures of different animal classifications.

Big Idea

Mammals, Amphibians, Birds, Insects and Reptiles, OH MY!! In this lesson students get to learn about different animals parts while learning about animal classification.

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants and animals. This is called biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

In this lesson, students will learn that animals are grouped based on animal parts. This introduction to classification will help students understand that animal groups have similar structures. This organization will help us to organize our animal parts into similar groups.

For example:

Mammals - Hair, fur, paws, claws, hands

Birds - feathers, beaks, claws

Home to School Connection:

In this unit we will be learning animal and plant parts. Students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature. The NGSS standards ask students solve a human problem by mimicking how plants and animals survive.  Each a day a student in class will be able to take home the Organisms Bag. In this bag I have included a recording sheet, crayons and pencils, and the book What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These are the vocabulary that will be covered in this unit that addresses 1-LS1-1.  You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit.  You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.


Investigation Worksheet - Animal Classifications

Various animal parts - See Explore section (These items were borrowed from families in my classroom and nature centers in our community)

Anchor Chart - Animal Classifications

Video: Animal Groups Beginning Classification

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Science Journal Prompt: What helps us group animals?


5 minutes

The NGSS does not require students to know the different classifications of the animal groups so the focus of this lesson is to allow my students to explore parts while introducing them to the different classifications.

Boys and girls, organisms are grouped in very special ways that help us to study them.  Do you any of know how we group organisms? My students look at me with blank stares. Today you are going to learn about different animal groups. These groups have names like fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds and insects.  Today you get to visit each animal group but you have a big job. Your job is try and notice what is special about each animal group.  When you visit the "Fish Group" you will notice that all fish have things in common that help them to survive in nature.  Today you will get to answer this question: What helps us to sort animals into different groups? 


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures (animal parts) that help animals survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on animal parts.

For this exploration I have collected various animal parts from the families in our classroom. They have graciously allowed me to borrow some of their resources to support this science lesson in my classroom.

Mammals:  animal skins (cow, elk, moose, black bear, beaver, racoon, skunk), animal skulls (elk, beaver, white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn) , racoon paw, photographs of mammals, antlers (pronghorn, white-tailed deer, moose, elk), books about mammals

Birds: stuffed hawk, Magpie nest, bird nest ,bird claws, turkey feathers, books about birds

Amphibians: tree frog, books about amphibians

Reptile: turtle shell, books about reptiles

Insect: mealworms, scorpian, beetle, books about insects

Fish: stuffed fish, books about fish

You are about to do some important work.  I show my students my anchor chart on academic vocabulary: Power Words. You will be observing some of the different animals that are in the different animals groups. These are all very fragile animal parts so you will have to be very careful. Remember, you are now in the science lab so please treat these things just like a scientist. As you visit each station, you will need to use your science tools: seeing, touching, smelling, listening. Be sure to closely observing the animals part at each station and record what you see on your Investigation Worksheet: Animal Classifications. For example, if you visit the mammals station write down everything you see at this station.  Everything you write will become your evidence for that animal group.  You will need to collect a lot of evidence to help us figure out how scientists group these animals.  Are you ready?

As my students observe organisms, I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. I refer back to our question:  How are organisms grouped?


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain information from observations. In the explain section I want my students to share their observations with their turn and talk partners.  Each partnership will engage in accountable talk agreeing or disagreeing with each others' observation notes.  I want my students sharing their observations and explaining their thinking as well as engaging in high levels of student discourse and reasoning. 

Thank you for meeting me on the carpet with your observations. We can call the work you have in front of you, your data.  Each of you have collected a lot of really good data today.  Now you get to do just what scientists do. You are going to share your data with your turn and talk partner.  Your job is to have a thoughtful conversation with your partner about your findings and your partners findings. As your partner shares his or her work with you, I want you to listen carefully to your partner today.  Are you ready to give this a go?

As my students share, I video tape and listen in on their conversations.  I show my students some of the rich conversations and point out the strengths in each conversation.

I bring them back together and we record the different animal parts we observed on our Structures and Functions anchor chart.  At this time we only fill in the name of the organism and the animal part.  This anchor chart will be used throughout this unit.


15 minutes

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I elaborate on our learning with this fun video about animal classifications. We watch up to 15 minutes.

I ask my students to turn and tell their partners and share what they learned.  Together we write the characteristics of the different classifications on our anchor chart - Animal Classifications.


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write the answer to our big question: "What helps us group animals?"

As the students write I tell them to refer back to their research. I am looking for answers that include both illustrations and words that describe the different animal parts we learned about today.