Feet, Fins or Wings-Exploring How Animals Move

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Students will classify the different locomotive structures of animals by completing a sort.

Big Idea

This lesson is a fun follow-up to Fast, Faster, Fastest. Students will explore the different ways animals move.


10 minutes

Structure and function are important cross-cutting concepts that appear often throughout science curriculum.  My students have been exposed to these concepts during our five senses unit.  They learned that different structures of our body have different function.  Now, they have the opportunity to apply these concepts to a different topic area, animal movement. 

To begin this lesson, we reread Fast, Faster, Fastest-Animals that Move at Great Speeds by Michael Dahl.  This book was used in my previous lesson in this unit called Fast, Faster, Fastest.  The book is available from Amazon.  As we reread the story, I draw attention to the different structures the animals use to move.  For example, I say to the students after the kangaroo is introduced in the story, To move kangaroos hop.  What body structure does the kangaroo use to hop?  I continue doing this at different point throughout the story.  When we are done reading the book, I invite the students over to the Smartboard to continue our lesson.

Direct Instruction

10 minutes

For this portion of the lesson, I use my SmartBoard.  If you have a SmartBoard, the file Movement Structures easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  Click here to download. There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson.  Click here to access them: Movement Structures PDF of Notebook Slides

I gather my students in front of the Smartboard.  I have cards with each student's name printed on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the Smartboard.

I open the first slide (SmartBoard Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques (Click here to learn more about SIOP).

The content objective helps me focus my instruction..."What do I really want my students to know when I am done with this lesson?"  The objective should never be too large and it should be assessed, formally or informally at some point during the lesson.  It also helps the students to focus on what is really important during the lesson.  The language objective helps me identify vocabulary that is important for all my students to master and holds me accountable for giving my students an opportunity to practice and use their language during the lesson.

I read these objectives aloud for my students.

Content Objective
I can identify the different structures responsible for helping animals move.

Language Objective
I can tell a friend what structure allows an animal to move. 

Slide 2:  There are many different ways that animals move.

Slide 3:  Some animals walk or run.  Legs are the structure that allows them to move. 

Slide 4:  Some animals fly.  Wings are the structure that allows them to move.

Slide 5: Some animals swim.  Fins are the structure that allows them to move. 

Slide 6:  Can you sort the animals by the primary structure they use to move?  I invite students to come up to the board and move the animals to the correct category.  See Video.  We discuss how even though some animals have two different movement structures, there is one that is their primary structure for movement.  

Slide 7:   It is now Turn and Talk Time.  Turn and Talk allows my students to practice their academic language and develop their expressive English vocabulary.  The students have assigned Turn and Talk partners.  I ask them to hold hands with their partners and hold their hands in the air so I know that everyone has a partner.  I then say to them, What structure allows the horse to move?  I give them time to talk to their partner and when it is obvious that they have completed their discussion, I call on a student to share their discussion.  I then ask them about the snake.  They are perplexed by this one.  I give them time to try to figure it out.  (Click here to see Video).  I then explain that a snake uses a combination of muscles and scales to move.  I explain that not every animal uses one of the three main movement structures. 

We then move to our seats for guided practice.


Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

To complete the lesson, the students will have an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the different structures animals use for movement.  You will need Animal Movement Sort Activity included as a PDF with this lesson. 

I distribute copies of the sort to the students, having them put their name at the top.  I explain to the students, Now it's time for you to show me what you know about the different structures animals use to move.  You are going to cut out the animals at the bottom of the sheet and then sort them into the correct boxes by the structure that is most responsible for how it moves or its primary movement structure.  For example, if the animal usually moves by flying, I would put the picture of that animal in the category with the wing.  After you have sorted all of the animals, raise your hand and I will come and check your work before you glue down your animals. 

The students begin working (see Video) and I circulate around the room to observe their work and assist as needed.  After I check their work, I have them glue down the animals.  Click here to see completed work. 


To wrap up the lesson, I have the students get with a partner and have them write or draw a picture of one more animal that would fit into each category of the worksheet.  I also challenge them to come up with an animal that does not fit into any of the categories.