Grade: Elementary
Subject: Science

#2833. Categorizing Animals

Science, level: Elementary
Posted Sun Mar 23 13:54:54 PST 2003 by Heather Schumacher (
San Antonio, TX
Materials Required: see lesson for details
Activity Time: 45 minutes

After completing this activity, students will understand that scientists group animals into categories. They will also know that scientists use specific criteria to group the animals.

Prior to this activity, prepare a basket or bag with lots of different animals (stuffed, plastic, or pictures). They should represent the groups you will be learning (birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, insects, fish). Make up a sheet for students that includes the names of all the animals you will show them at the top and six blank boxes.

1. Gather students in a circle. Tell them that you will be showing them lots of different animals, some will be stuffed, some will be plastic, and some will be pictures. After you show them the animal, you will tell them a little bit about the animal. They should write the name of the animal in a box. As you show them each animal, they should decide if it belongs in the same group as other animals or in a different group. Tell students that they may make additional boxes on the back of the page if they feel it is necessary.

2. Show students each animal. Say the name of the animal and few facts that are relevant. Examples would include: "This animal has six legs." or "This animal lays eggs." Make sure all students write the name of the animal in a box on their page.

3. After showing all the animals, put them in the center of the circle. Pick up one animal and ask students, "Who would like to share what other animals they put with this one?" As a student shares, physically group those animals together. Ask the student, "Why did you put these animals together? What do they have in common?" Accept all responses, but push students to share a reason these animals could be grouped together.

4. Continue in this line of questioning, asking different students to share one of their categories. Ask them lots of questions that allow them to share their thinking.

5. After completing this activity, share this with students: "Today you did what lots of scientists have already done. Scientists have decided how animals should be grouped together and what makes them belong in the same group. We will be learning about these groups and what makes them unique in the next few days."

Collect the papers when you are done. You may also ask students to write a few sentences on the back about one of their categories.