The Structures and Functions of Insects

13 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify the different structures and functions of insects.

Big Idea

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! Did you know that insects do really cool things that engineers can use to create new stuff? Check out how first graders discover more about bugs and Biomimicry!

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 about the different structures and functions of insects.  They will identify that insects have three main body parts (thorax, head, abdomen), legs, antenna and wings (sometimes) and try to come up with human inventions based on these body parts. 

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.


Video: Head, Thorax, Abdomen - The Insect Song

Anchor Chart - Animal Classifications

Collect live insects on nature walk (optional but fun): ants, crickets, ladybugs

Insect Model - Egg Cartons, Pipe Cleaners, markers, Tissue Paper

All About Animals Photo Library

World of Insects Book Collection: Dragonflies, Beetles, Grasshoppers, Ladybugs, Cicadas, Butterflies, Bumblebees, fireflies, and ants

Anchor Chart - Structures and Functions - Insects

Presentation - Biomimicry and insects

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 are the structures and functions of different insects?


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 animal parts (structures) and functions while introducing them to the different classifications.

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration. I begin this lesson activating prior knowledge by showing my students this video about insect parts. If you are able, this would be the perfect place to show them live crickets or ants.

Boys and girls, today we will be studying insects. Did you hear that?  Insects have three body parts! They have a head, abdomen and thorax. 

I begin this lesson by referring to the anchor chart we created in our previous lesson Animal Classifications.  We review all the special characteristics of insects.

Today we need to research insects! Today you will be investigating the body parts of insects and how these body parts help insects survive. Are you ready?


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify functions of structures (insect parts) that help insects survive in nature.  In this lesson my students get to observe and collect data on the insect parts and functions of these parts.  For this investigation, my students may work independently to try and identify structures and functions of insects.  Weather permitting, I take students outside to try and collect insects (grasshopper, cricket, ant or ladybug) to investigate. We will let them go after observing the different body parts. We don't bring the bugs inside - yuck! 

When we come back into the classroom, my students build a model of an insect using egg cartons, pipe cleaners, markers and googly eyes. Each student will have a photograph (or live insect - ant or cricket) of an insect that he/she will use to make sure his/her insect has the correct body parts in the correct spots. Each insect must have three body parts, two antennae, and 6 legs. My students may decide to add wings to their insect if they would like. I have tissue paper available for wings. As the students are working they are given toothpicks and paper to make label flags. I ask the students to label each insect part. In order for this to be an actual model my students will be explaining why this system or animal structure has these parts.  I ask, "Why do insects have these parts? How do these parts help it to survive?" If the model doesn’t help to answer a question about how, or why, then it isn’t a scientific model.

*Students use photographs from the All About Animals Photo Library. I also have some insects projected onto our whiteboard.

 Boys and girls, today you are going to you will be observing a photograph (or live insect). Your job is to study the different insect parts and then create your own insect using these materials. I show my students the egg cartons, pipe cleaners, markers, and googly eyes.

As my students build their insects parts, 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 questions:  Does your insect have a head, abdomen and thorax? Does it have 2 antennae? Make sure your insect has 6 six legs. What part of the insect connects to all 6 legs?  I go back to our inquiry question: Why do insects have these parts? How do these parts help it to survive?


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students communicate and explain information from observations. In the explain section I want my students to discover how insects use their different structures to survive in nature. I ask my students to work with their workshop partners to use books and the Ipads to research insect.

Suggested Books:

World of Insects Book Collection: Dragonflies, Beetles, Grasshoppers, Ladybugs, Cicadas, Butterflies, Bumblebees, fireflies, and ants

You can also use PebbleGo, World Book Online, Razkids for great books about insects online. 

My students also observe our class Mealworms move through their life cycle. We used these Mealworms in previous lessons.




After ten minutes, I bring the class back together and we fill in our Structures and Functions anchor chart in a whole group setting. I ask students to share their noticings and I record them on our chart.


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 by showing my students a slide show with different animal parts and different inventions that have been made by copying each part. After watching the slide show we go back to our anchor chart and record possible human inventions created based the parts we recorded during the Explain section.

Insects are very helpful to scientists. In fact there are a lot of scientists studying Cicadas, The Morpho Butterflies and Water Striders to help solve real life problems. Can you think of any human inventions that mimic or copy an antenna, wings, butterfly mouth or a hard body covering?

I ask my students to share what they learned about the structures and functions of insects with their turn and talk partners. As they are talking I record their ideas on our anchor chart with my students. 

Presentation - Biomimicry and insects

After our slideshow we come back to our anchor chart and add possible human inventions.


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 are the structures and functions of different insects?"

I encourage my students to include both illustrations and words that describe the different animal parts and functions and I am hopeful that my students may start mentioning Biomimicry in their journals.