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This lesson provided by:
Author:Lucy Bumpers
System: Clarke County
School: Jackson Intermediate School
Lesson Plan ID: 6613

Animal Classification


In this lesson, students will discuss the classification of animals. They will work in groups to research and present classification information about a selected group of animals.

Content Standard(s):
SC(4) 6. Classify animals as vertebrates or invertebrates and as endotherms or ectotherms.
TC2(3-5) 1. Use input and output devices of technology systems.
TC2(3-5) 2. Use various technology applications, including word processing and multimedia software.
TC2(3-5) 5. Practice safe use of technology systems and applications.
TC2(3-5) 6. Describe social and ethical behaviors related to technology use.
TC2(3-5) 8. Collect information from a variety of digital sources.
TC2(3-5) 10. Use digital environments to collaborate and communicate.
TC2(3-5) 11. Use digital tools to analyze authentic problems.
TC2(3-5) 12. Create a product using digital tools.
ELA2015(3) 24. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. [W.3.3]
ELA2015(3) 28. Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic. [W.3.7]
ELA2015(3) 38. Demonstrate command of the conventions of Standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing. [L.3.2]
Local/National Standards:  
Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will be able to explain that:
a) Classification is the arrangement of objects, ideas, or information into groups, the members of which have one or more characteristics in common, and that
b) Scientific classification groups all plants and animals on the basis of certain characteristics they have in common.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

Students will recognize that classification makes things easier to find, identify, and study, and that scientific classification uses Latin and Greek words to give each animal and plant two names that identify the animal or plant.

Approximate Duration of the Lesson: Greater than 120 Minutes
Materials and Equipment:

Pictures of a variety of animals and general research materials on animals (e.g., biology books, classroom textbook, non-fiction library books, and encyclopedias)

Technology Resources Needed:

Computers with Internet access, encyclopedias on CD-ROM, presentation software such as PowerPoint, Hyperstudio, or KidPix, digital camera (optional)
Some recommended websites:


Reserve computer lab for research and presentation preparation.

1.)As an introduction to the activity, discuss classification in general. Ask students what we mean by classification and why we classify things. For example, why do we classify certain objects as tools, others as food and so on? Establish that classification – the arrangement of objects, ideas, or information into groups – makes things easy to find, identify, talk about, and study.

2.)As background information, let students know that, beginning in ancient times, scientists tried to develop a system of classifying animals and plants. The system we use today was developed by the Swedish naturalist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), who separated animals and plants according to certain physical similarities and gave identifying names to each species.

3.)Go on to explain that Linnaeus’s system classified plants and animals on seven levels, using Latin and Greek words. On the chalkboard, reproduce the example below, which shows how a brown squirrel is classified: Kingdom (Animalia, or “animal”); Phylum (Chordata, or “has a backbone”); Class (Mammalia, or “ has a backbone and nurses its young”); Order (Rodentia, or “has a backbone, nurses its young, has long, sharp front teeth”); Family (Scuridae, or “has a backbone, nurses its young, has long, sharp front teeth, and has a bushy tail”); Genus (Tamiasciurus, or “has a backbone, nurses its young, has long, sharp front teeth, has a bushy tail, and climbs trees”); Species (hudsonicus, or “has a backbone, nurses its young, has long, sharp front teeth, has a bushy tail, climbs trees, has brown fur on its back and white fur on its underparts”).

4.)Discuss the example with the class, bringing out the idea that each subsequent level of classification eliminates animals that could be included in the previous level. To make this point, have students give examples of several mammals (the class Mammalia) and then tell which ones are eliminated by the description of rodents (the order Rodentia), have them name several rodents and then tell which rodents are eliminated by the description of the genus Tamiasciurus; and so on.

5.)Tell students that it is not necessary to go through the entire seven level classification system to identify a plant or animal. Just two names – the genus and species names – are sufficient. Thus, the scientific name for the red squirrel is Tamiasciurus hudsonicus. Because two names are used, the system is known as the binomial (two names) system of nomenclature (naming).

6.)Tell students that since Linnaeus' time, as scientists discovered new organisms and changed their ideas about what characteristics are important in classifying organisms, the classification system has changed. Today's classification system contains five kingdoms: Monera (prokaryotes), Protista (single-celled eukaryotes), Fungi (molds and yeasts), Plantae (plants), and Animalia (animals). This five-kingdom classification system was suggested by R.H. Whittaker in 1969. In addition, a newer system even than Whittaker's has instituted a level above kingdom--the domain. Under this newer system, life consists of three domains--Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya (which contains both the plant and animal kingdoms as well as the fungi kingdom and the protista kingdom (mold and algae).

7.)Have students choose one or more of the animal pictures. Have students find the genus and species names of their animals using their biology books, encyclopedias, encyclopedias on CD-ROM, or classroom textbooks, or search online.

8.)Instruct each student to list on the chalkboard three or four scientific names he or she has found and the common names of the animals they identify.

9.)Divide the class into groups and have them devise their own systems of classifying everyday objects around the room. Students should use at least four levels of classification, but they may use as many more levels as they find necessary. They should end up with a two-part name for each of several objects in the room. Advise students to use Linnaeus’s system as a model, starting out with one classification level that divides all the objects in the room into two major categories. For example, the two “phyla” could be “natural” (made of natural materials) and “artificial” (made of artificial materials); or “useful” and “decorative.” Two major categories combined should include all objects in the room, and the final “genus” and “species” names should exclude all objects but the one being identified. (Students should use descriptive phrases rather than single words, and, of course, would not be required to use Greek or Latin terms.)

10.)If time permits, allow the students computer time to make a slideshow presentation illustrating the new classification system, inserting actual pictures of various objects taken with a digital camera. Let the groups present their new systems to the class.

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Assessment Strategies:

Evaluate each group's classification system on the basis of whether it adequately identifies the objects classified, eliminating all other objects. A rubric is a good way to assess this activity. Each group's slideshow presentation may be assessed with a rubric as well. Rubrics can be found to suit a teacher's individual needs at


Puzzling Names: Direct students to "Puzzlemaker" at Have them create word puzzles using the scientific names of animals on the class list as clues and common names as answers, or vice versa. Students can then exchange puzzles and challenge their classmates to solve them.
New Species: Have students work in pairs or groups to create new animal species. Invite students to imagine that they have discovered a new species of animal never before seen. They should draw a picture of the animal, describe its physical and behavioral characteristics, and describe its habitat.
Suggested Reading: Deep-Sea Vents: Living Worlds Without Sun by John F. Waters, Cobblehill Books, 1994
Our Oceans: Experiments and Activities in Marine Science by Paul Fleisher, Millbrook Press, 1995
Safari Beneath the Sea: The Wonder of the North Pacific Coast by Diane Swanson, Sierra Club Books for Children, 1994
Students can go online to play A Touch of Class to challenge their knowledge of different plant and animal traits.

Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

Presentation of Material Environment
Time Demands Materials
Attention Using Groups and Peers
Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior

Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.
Variations Submitted by ALEX Users:
Alabama Virtual Library
Alabama Virtual Library

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The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The University of Alabama at Birmingham
The Malone Family Foundation
The Malone Family Foundation
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