The Structures and Functions of Fish

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SWBAT identify the different structures and functions of fish.

Big Idea

Why are fish so smart? They live in schools! Did you know that fish do really cool things that engineers can use to create new stuff? Check out how first graders discover more about fish 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 fish.  They will identify that fish have many different kids of fins, eyes, gills, and a mouth and these different structures help fish to survive.  We will study different structures and ways that scientist have studied these structures and functions to create new inventions.

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.


Anchor Chart - Animal Classifications

Video: Go Fish (Animal Atlas)

Investigation Worksheet -Fish

Fish Books

Goldfish and Beta Fish

Fish figurines

Ipads: Website, PebbleGO, Worldbook online

Anchor Chart - Structures and Functions - Fish

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 fish?


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.

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.

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 fish.

We watch from 1:16 to 6:35.

Boys and girls, today we will be studying fish. In this video you heard that fish have scales and gills.  What else do fish have?

My students are sitting at their tables so I ask them to share their thinking with their "elbow partners."

We get to add FISH to our anchor chart!! So you will need to investigate these body parts and how they help fish survive. Are you ready?


30 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 different fish parts and the functions of these parts.  For this investigation, my students will work in partnerships to try and identify structures and functions of fish. 

Boys and girls, today you are going to use an important tool called note-taking while you research today!  You know that research is a very important science word. It means you have to find the answers to really important questions. As a reader, thinker and writer there is something very important that you need to do when you are researching.  You get to jot down notes. Today we will practice how to do that. I use the book It Could Still be a Fish by Allen Fowler and put it under my document camera. 

Boys and girls you learned that when you read a nonfiction book you are a reading a book with facts.  You are reading to learn new stuff. To take notes while reading nonfiction, you only read a small amount. I only read the size of my hand. I put my hand on the book page.  After I read that amount then I STOP and think.  I touch my hand to my head to show I am thinking. I model this. I read that small amount and then think.  Now I can jot down a quick sketch on my sticky note so I remember what I read. Remember this is not time for artwork. This is just a time for me to make a really quick picture of what I remember. I model this several times and then I ask my students to practice with me.  After a few practices, I show my students an anchor chart to help support their work today. This anchor chart is a reference tool for students to use as they do research and record their notes on the anchor chart.

I create 4 stations for my students to explore:

*Books on Fish

Let's Research - Fish Books

Let's Research - Fish Books

Let's Research - Fish Books

*Live Fish (I am careful to teach students how to respect animals before sending them off to this station)

Let's Observe - goldfish

Let's Observe - goldfish

Let's Observe - Beta Fish


Let's Research - Ipads

Let's Research - Ipads

*Fish Figurines

Let's Research - Fish figurines

For this investigation, my students work with their workshop partner and record their observations on the same Investigation Worksheet - Fish. My students will rotate from station to station.  This is can be tricky if you are new to stations. I typically watch the clock and give each group 5 minutes at each station.  That way they have enough time to observe and record their responses. 

Investigation worksheet

Investigation worksheet

Investigation worksheet

Investigation worksheet

As my students research different fish 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 question:  What are the structures and functions of fish?


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 listen in on their conversations. Then I bring them back together and we record the different animal parts we observed on our Structures and Functions anchor 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.

Presentation - Biomimicry and Fish


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 fish?

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.