ALEX Lesson Plan


"Nailing" Down Classification 

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Katrina McGrady
System: Talladega County
School: Talladega County Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34568


"Nailing" Down Classification 


In this hands-on activity, the students will become Linnaeus by dividing into groups to create their own "Six Kingdom" classification system using various types of fasteners.  They will group the fasteners based on similar characteristics and divide them into domains, kingdoms, phyla, classes, orders, families, genera, and species. They will also have to "name" each taxon for their classification system as well as give the scientific name for each "species" of a fastener.  

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 9-12
13 ) Obtain, evaluate, and communicate information to explain how organisms are classified by physical characteristics, organized into levels of taxonomy, and identified by binomial nomenclature (e.g., taxonomic classification, dichotomous keys).

a. Engage in argument to justify the grouping of viruses in a category separate from living things.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Engaging in Argument from Evidence; Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
Crosscutting Concepts: Patterns
Disciplinary Core Idea: Unity and Diversity
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Use major features to classify unfamiliar organisms using accepted classification schemes and justify classification.
  • Use binomial nomenclature and tools such as dichotomous keys to classify unfamiliar organisms and determine where they fit into accepted taxonomic schemes.
  • Identify characteristics of organisms within each of the six kingdoms of life.
  • Distinguish biotic from abiotic materials using the scientifically accepted characteristics of life.
  • Create a logical argument based on evidence and reasoning, to support the premise that viruses are not living things.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • Classification
  • Taxonomy
  • Binomial nomenclature
  • Taxon
  • Genus
  • Family
  • Order
  • Class
  • Phylum
  • Division
  • Kingdom
  • Domain
  • Dichotomous key
  • Virus
  • Capsid
  • Lytic cycle
  • Lysogenic cycle
  • Retrovirus
  • Prion
Students know:
  • Historical systems of classification (Aristotle, Linnaeus).
  • Taxa are organized into a hierarchal system—each taxa contained within another, arranged from broadest to most specific.(domain ← kingdom ← phylum ← class ← order ← family ← genus ← species)
  • Characteristics of living things: made of cells, obtain and use energy, grow and develop, reproduce, respond to their environment, adapt to their environment.
  • Viruses do not exhibit all the characteristics of life: they do not possess cells, nor are they cells, they have no organelles to take in nutrients or use energy, they cannot make proteins, they cannot move, and they cannot replicate on their own.
Students are able to:
  • Organize items based on physical characteristics and/or DNA sequences, etc. and communicate reasoning to others.
  • Design a classification scheme (e.g., dichotomous key) for a collection of common but not necessarily related objects.
  • Correctly write an organism's name using binomial nomenclature.
  • Research viruses using a variety of sources—analysis should include viral life cycles, reproductive strategies and their structure and function.
  • Argue from evidence whether a virus is living or not.
Students understand that:
  • Biologists find it easier to communicate and retain information about organisms when organisms are organized into groups.
  • Though viruses exhibit several of the characteristics of life, they are not considered to be living things and are not included in the biological classification system.
AMSTI Resources:
ASIM Module:
Classification of Living Things; Observing Protist Locomotion; Animal Characteristics

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.B.HS.13- Classify organisms into similar groups based on physical characteristics.

Local/National Standards:

This activity addresses the following Scientific and Engineering Practices Objective:

  • Developing and using models

This activity also addresses the following Crosscutting Concepts:  

  • Patterns
  • Systems and System Models

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Learning Targets:

Behavior:  I can work cooperatively to build a model of Linnaeus' six kingdom classification system.  

Content:  I can describe how organisms are classified based on shared characteristics.  

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

61 to 90 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

1 baggie per cooperative group that includes AT LEAST 12-15 different fasteners.  Suggested fasteners include:

Short screws, long screws, drywall nails, tacks, paper clips, binder clips, staples, rubber bands, etc.  

**Be sure to include some fasteners that have shared characteristics so that they can be "included" in the same taxa together.  

Video/Videos on Classification:  

Bozeman Science Classification of Life

Bozeman Science The Three Domains

Handouts Needed:  

Nailing Down Classification Chart

Technology Resources Needed:

For one to one school:

Google docs may be used to help students collaborate in groups and present their classification models.

For one computer classroom:

The teacher can use a presentation computer, projector, ELMO and/or an interactive whiteboard to present the introductory material.  


Major concepts to be taught during the lesson. 

  • History of Taxonomy
  • Taxonomy


The teacher will need to address safety guidelines for this activity.  

1.  The fasteners should not be used in any manner that is not their original purpose.  

2.  Students should remain at their group station for the duration of the activity.  


Before/Engage: (10 minutes)

To activate prior knowledge:  For the lesson starter, ask the students, "If I told you to go to the library and get a copy of Moby Dick, how would you know where to find the book?"  

Have students share their answers at their table and determine which answer is BEST.  Then, ask each group their answer.  Record on the board or on the ELMO/projector/interactive whiteboard.  

Then, ask questions to help guide others to the conclusion that the books are organized according to the genre and author.  They each have a number that helps you locate the book.  

Finally, ask what is the advantage of having a classification system when you have a large collection of something?  Discuss with the students.


In biology, explain that there are billions of extinct species and approximately 8.7 million extant species alive on earth today.  Ask the students, "Can you remember 8.7 million details on a topic?"  After taking answers, probably not.  Because organizing extinct and extant organisms is critical to understanding many concepts in biology, a classification system was developed by a Swedish botanist named Linnaeus.  Then, show the students a presentation or video (Bozeman Science Classification of Life or Bozeman Science The Three Domains) that describes taxonomy and the history of taxonomy.  Have them take notes on the taxa and how they are organized.  (20 minutes)

**Tip: Give the students a saying to help them remember the taxa in order from largest to smallest.  For example, "Did King Phillip come over for good soup?"  (domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species)  

After reviewing the material with the class through questioning, explain to the students that they will develop a model of Linnaeus' six kingdom classification system.  

If students are not already divided into regular lab groups, divide students into groups.  Have them assign each group member a role located on the “Nailing” Down Classification Chart handout.  (i.e. Leader, Recorder, Reporter, Monitor)

Then, give each group their baggie of fasteners.  Tell them that they will organize a "6 Kingdom Classification System" for these "organisms."  Let them spread the fasteners out on their table.  Have them compare and contrast the fasteners and use their shared characteristics to group the fasteners into separate groups.  

Next, give each group a copy of the organization chart. Ask the students, "What language is used to name most of the taxa in biology?"  You will need to use this "language" to create names for your fastener taxa.  

Finally, have the students complete their 6 Kingdom Classification System. As the students work, circulate around the room and conduct formative assessments of each group's work.  If a group appears stuck, ask them questions to help guide them to a conclusion.  (30 minutes)


To close the lesson, each group should give a 2-minute informal oral presentation of their classification system and describe how organisms are classified based on shared characteristics.

After each group has explained their classification model, each group determines conclusion questions for the activity. If time allows, the answers to the conclusion questions can be discussed using a whole class discussion format OR the students could simply turn in the questions for grading. Students could also design a more formal presentation or video presentation of their classification model.  


Assessment Strategies


Student answers during starter question to describe how items are grouped/classified.

Student answers during classification activity to describe how organisms are classified based on shared characteristics. 


Completion of the Nailing Down Classification Chart Handout to design a model classification system.

Answers to the conclusion questions to determine if students can communicate information to explain how organisms are classified by physical characteristics, organized into levels of taxonomy, and identified by binomial nomenclature.


For students who have already mastered the basic content, have them analyze their classification model to determine if it needs subphyla, subfamilies, etc.  Have them justify or support their ideas with facts.    


If a student appears to know little about taxonomy during the group discussion or during a former formative assessment, pull them during the group activity for 5 to 10 minutes of small group instruction.  Use matching games, pictures, flash cards, or other activities to teach students.

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.