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Animal Classification
Grade level: 3-5 Subject: Animals Duration: One class period
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Objectives | Materials | Procedures | Adaptations | Discussion Questions | Evaluation | Extensions | Suggested Readings | Links | Vocabulary | Academic Standards | Credit
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animal classification lesson plan - print version

Objectives
 



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Students will understand the following:
1. Classification is the arrangement of objects, ideas, or information into groups, the members of which have one or more characteristics in common.
2. Classification makes things easier to find, identify, and study.
3. Scientific classification groups all plants and animals on the basis of certain characteristics they have in common.
4. Scientific classification uses Latin and Greek words to give each animal and plant two names (similar to a first and last name) that identify the animal or plant.
Materials

For this lesson, you will need:
Pictures of a variety of animals <!-- SEO LINKS -->
General research materials on animals (e.g., biology books, encyclopedia)
Computer with Internet access
Procedures

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, and 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, and 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 genusTamiasciurus; 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 brown squirrel isTamiasciurus hudsonicus. Because two names are used, the system is known as thebinomial(two names)system of nomenclature(naming).
6. Have students do some research in a biology book, encyclopedia, or online to find the genus and species names of some familiar plants and animals.
7. 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.
8. Divide your class into groups and have them devise their own system 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.” The 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 may use descriptive phrases rather than single words, and, of course, they should not be required to use Greek or Latin terms.)
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Adaptations

Without introducing Linnaeus’s system, simply let students know that animals are classified by their physical characteristics. Then have them do simple classification activities with objects around the classroom.
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Discussion Questions

1. What are some examples of everyday words that name groups or classes of things? Think about subjects you study in school such as grammar, math, and social studies. What problems would arise if words such as noun (a word for a class of words) and fraction (a word for a class of numbers) did not exist?
2. How do we use classification to make our everyday lives easier? For example, how would you use classification to do the following: organize your desk, organize your drawers or closet, plan a meal, decide what clothes to take on a trip?
3. Linnaeus’s system of animal classification is based on common physical characteristics. Can you devise a system of animal classification based on some other idea—behavior or habitat, for example? In your new system, what animals would be classed together that are not classed together in Linnaeus’s system?
4. We classify people in many ways; for example, by race, religion, physical appearance, ethnic origin, profession, life style, and so on. In which ways can classification of human beings be helpful? In which ways can it be harmful?
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Evaluation

Evaluate each group’s classification system on the basis of whether it adequately identifies the objects classified, eliminating all other objects.
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Extensions

Puzzling Names
Direct students to <!-- SEO LINKS -->Puzzle Maker” in the teacher’s section of the Discovery Channel’s school Web site. 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 their animal, describe its physical and behavioral characteristics, describe its habitat, and make up a name for it that would fit into the system of binomial nomenclature. Encourage students to use their imaginations when creating their new species.

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Suggested Readings

Deep-Sea Vents: Living Worlds Without Sun
John F. Waters, Cobblehill Books, 1994.
Beginning with an introduction to the whale's biology and its place in the animal kingdom, the author discusses his research with right whales in Patagonia, the songs of humpback whales, herd sizes, and human interactions with whales.

Our Oceans: Experiments and Activities in Marine Science
Paul Fleisher, Millbrook Press, 1995.
This book is arranged by species. Each entry has a drawing of parts, such as teeth and fins; and a map showing the distribution of the species. Information is given on status, population size, threats to survival, birth and adult weight, and diet.

Safari Beneath the Sea: The Wonder World of the North Pacific Coast
Diane Swanson, Sierra Club Books for Children, 1994.


Battle for Survival in Darwin's Eden
Esther Schrader, The Washington Post, April 6, 1995.


Swimming with Sea Lions and Other Adventures in the Galapagos Islands
Ann McGovern, Scholastic, 1992.


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Links

GalapagosQuest!
This Web site will take you on a virtual expedition through the Galapagos Islands.

Charles Darwin Research Station
This is the home page of the Charles Darwin Research Station. It describes the work done at the station and gives news from the Galapagos.

Ocean Color
This site is an online activity that uses graphics to draw conclusions about plant production in the world's oceans.

International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP)
This page is where the Earth Island Institute shares information about its efforts to protect marine mammals.

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Vocabulary

Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    Galapagos
Definition:The name of a group of islands; the Spanish word for tortoise.
Context:What's a Galapagos? Islands simply called Galapagos, the Spanish word for tortoise.

speaker    adapt
Definition:To become ready for a new situation by changing.
Context:Life on this stuff is tough and only tough creatures able to change, or adapt, can survive.

speaker    submersible
Definition:A small underwater vessel used for deep sea research.
Context:This team of scientists arrived on the Galapagos not by sailing ship like Darwin, but on this high tech research vessel, bringing with them this tiny submarine, or submersible.

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Standards

This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
 
Grade level:K-2
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Understands how species depend on one another and on the environment for survival.
Benchmarks:
Knows that living things are found almost everywhere in the world; different types of plants and animals live in different places.

Grade level:K-2
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that plants and animals have external features that help them thrive in different environments.

Grade level:K-2
Subject area:science and technology
Standard:
Understands the nature of technological design.
Benchmarks:
Knows that some objects occur in nature, whereas others have been designed and made by people to solve human problems.

Grade level:K-2
Subject area:Science and Technology
Standard:
Understands the scientific enterprise.
Benchmarks:
Understands that in science it is helpful to work with a team and share findings with others.

Grade level:3-5
Subject area:Earth and Space science
Standard:
Understands basic Earth processes.
Benchmarks:
Knows that fossils provide evidence about the plants and animals that lived long ago and the nature of the environment at that time.

Grade level:3-5
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that living things can be sorted into groups in many ways using various properties to decide which things belong to which group: features used for grouping depend on the purpose of the grouping.

Grade level:K-2
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that plants and animals have external features that help them thrive in different environments.

Grade level:3-5
Subject area:life science
Standard:
Knows about the diversity and unity that characterize life.
Benchmarks:
Knows that living things can be sorted into groups in many ways using various properties to decide which things belong to which group: features used for grouping depend on the purpose of the grouping.

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Credit

Francine Weinberg and Nancy White, educational consultants.
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