Lesson Plan

Classification of Animals


In this lesson, students will identify and describe similarities and difference of living things and their processes. Students will:

  • identify and describe the functions of basic structures of animals.

  • classify living things based on their similarities.

  • know the five main animal groups.

  • identify warm- and cold-blooded animals.

  • describe basic needs of animals.

  • describe how animals go through life cycles.

Essential Questions


  • Animal Kingdom: A main classification of living organisms that includes all animals.

  • Classification: Arrangement according to a systematic division into classes or groups.

  • Warm-Blooded: Maintaining a relatively constant and warm body temperature independent of environmental temperature; homoeothermic.

  • Cold-Blooded: Maintaining body temperature by moving.

  • Life Cycle: The series of developmental changes in form undergone by a particular type of organism from its earliest stage to the recurrence of the same stage in the next generation.


60–90 minutes/1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

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Formative Assessment

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    • Students who are going beyond the standards can research and report about a cold-blooded or warm-blooded animal.

    • Students going beyond the standards can experiment, watch, and keep a journal of the ants’ actions. Students can experiment with different foods to see what the ant prefers to eat.

    • Students who might need an opportunity for additional learning can name and write the five animal groups. Have students write examples of animals from each group.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction

    Students will demonstrate knowledge of describing and identify living things and their processes. They will learn about animal classification.


    Students will be engaged in the lesson by discussions, playing games, and observing models.


    Model and describe the importance of classifying animals.


    Students will share ideas with others and the class, providing opportunities to ask guided questions to help students understand living things and processes.


    Students will express understanding during group discussions and activities which will help determine whether students understand the lesson. Additional practice and teaching will be provided as needed.


    This lesson plan is flexible and relates to different learning styles because you are reading, discussing, and providing hands-on materials to reinforce concepts taught.


    Students are engaged and can participate in large-group discussions and individually.

Instructional Procedures

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    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, or decide what clothes to take on a trip?” Have students identify things that they classify. Have students think about food, subjects like math and science, and things they classify at home.Why do we classify things? Let’s see if we can classify students by who likes or does not like to eat carrots (or another vegetable). How would we do this?” Have students give ideas how to classify the class by who like to eat a certain vegetable, and then have students observe the findings. “Just as we formed groups, scientists have grouped animals into classes to make it easier to study them. An animal class is made up of animals that are all alike in important ways. There are many different animal classes and every animal in the world belongs to one of them. The five most well known classes of vertebrates (animals with backbones) are:

    • Mammals

    • Birds

    • Fish

    • Reptiles

    • Amphibians

    They are all part of the phylum class. A phylum is a group of classes. I will remember “chordata” by thinking of spinal chord. There are also a lot of animals without backbones. These are called invertebrates and are part of the phylum arthropoda (arthropods). Two of the most common classes of anthropods are arachnids (spiders) and insects.” More information about animal classes can be found at http://www.kidzone.ws/animals/animal_classes.htm

    We are going to look at the five main animal classes of vertebrates. I’m going to introduce you to Mr. Fab.” Write Mr. Fab on the board. Mr. Fab is here to help you remember the five main animal classes. Each of the letters in Mr. Fab’s name stands for an animal class.” Use the animal classification cards to explain the five main animal classes: mammals, reptiles, fish, amphibians, and birds (S-3-2-3_Animal Classification Cards.doc). Have students share what they know about each class of animals.

    We are going to play the game called Go Fish.” You should prepare cards before the lesson begins. Print two copies of each set of cards and cut them out. Pairs work best. Each player gets four cards. Students have to ask two questions. First, they have to ask for the specific animal class and then the animal. Model in front of the class before students begin to play. For example, Student A: “Do you have a reptile?” Student B: “Yes, I do”; or, “No, go fish,” and the player collects a card. If yes, Student A might say: “Is it a cobra?” Student B will say yes, and give him/her the card, or say no and the student collects a new card. Give a set amount of time for students to play.

    Activity 1

    All living things need air, water, and food to stay alive and grow. They meet these needs in different ways. Most animals move from place to place to find food and water. Animals get air, food, and water in different ways. Some animals are cold-blooded and some are warm-blooded. I am going to try to turn you into a cold-blooded animal. Examples of cold-blooded animals are amphibians and reptiles.”

    You are now lizards. What do you know about lizards?” Have students share what they know. Give students background about lizards. Information about lizards can be found at http://www.kidskonnect.com/subject-index/13-animals/41-lizards.html. Lizards have to move from place to place, warming and cooling themselves, to keep their bodies at the right temperature. What if you ‘the lizard’ lived outside of our school—how would you adapt? What do lizards need in their environment to keep their bodies at the right temperature?”Some answers may be places to warm up and cool down, such as shelter in extreme cold or extreme heat.

    Do you know any reptiles that live in Pennsylvania? There are over 30 species of reptiles in Pennsylvania.” For information about reptiles in Pennsylvania visit: http://www.fish.state.pa.us/amp_rep.htm . Some other cold-blooded animals include: snakes, alligators, frogs, lizards, salamanders, skinks, toads, turtles, crocodiles, geckos, spiders, sharks, chameleons, fish, scorpions, and insects.

    Humans are warm-blooded animals, as are all other mammals, and to a certain extent, birds. However, warm blood is not really the question. Many reptiles have blood far warmer than ours, but only on hot days. The important thing about mammals and birds is that they maintain a constant internal temperature. Let’s get some volunteers to have their temperatures taken.” Explain to students what a normal range for a temperature reading is.

    Brainstorm with students types of warm blooded animals and cold-blooded animals. Place their answers on a chart. Refer back to the Animal Classification Cards (S-3-2-3_Animal Classification Cards.doc). I want you to pick one cold-blooded animal and one warm-blooded animal, and complete this activity. You can come up with your own animal if you don’t want to use the animals that I have shown you.” Have students name and draw a picture of a warm- and a cold-blooded animal. Then students answer, in their own words, the difference between warm- and cold-blooded animals. Students could answer the question by stating that warm-blooded animals have an internal temperature, while cold-blooded animals like the lizard have to move from place to place to keep the right temperature. See the Warm- or Cold-blooded Activity Sheet (S-3-2-3_Warm- or Cold-blooded Activity Sheet.doc). Revisit the chart to make corrections or adjustments.

    Activity 2

    Plants and animals go through life cycles. What is a life cycle? Can you describe an animal life cycle?” Show students a picture of the ant life cycle (S-3-2-3_Ant Life Cycle Picture.doc). Give background about an ant life cycle from http://www.uen.org/Lessonplan/preview.cgi?LPid=18879 .

    Ants are one of Earth’s oldest residents and play an important role by maintaining a balance in nature. Ants are insects (six legs and three body parts) that live and work together. There are over 8,000 species of ants. Ants provide food for birds, other insects, and mammals. They are scavengers that clean up dead plants and animals. Some large animals live entirely on ants and other insects for their survival. Ants help aerate soil by digging their many tunnels which in turn help us.

    In some ways, ants and people are alike. Both ants and people take care of their young, live together, have different jobs, and depend on each other. Ants have all the senses that humans have but use different body parts to achieve the same goals. Ants don't have ears; instead they use their legs and antennae to feel vibrations. They use antennae to hear, smell, and touch things. They talk or communicate by tapping their antennae together. Ants have an exoskeleton (outer covering), but have sensory structures all over their body so they know when something is touching them. Ants don't have a tongue, but they have fingerlike pulps around their mouths that have the ability to taste.

    Unlike humans, ants have two stomachs; the second stomach is filled and used to feed other ants. Ants have two types of eyes; one set has many lenses, while the other set of eyes called “simple eyes,” allows them to judge light levels in the environment. Ants don't chew their food; instead they use their powerful jaws to squeeze the juices out of their prey and also to defend themselves. Each ant colony has its own scent and can recognize an intruder. The soldier ants (larger ants) defend those who try to invade. They also use this scent to track food that their sisters have found.

    An ant’s reproduction goes like this: The queen fertilizes the eggs creating all females. Ants that are fed more in the larva stage are called “soldier ants.” Once a year, the queen creates a male by not fertilizing that egg and fertilizes other eggs to create females, one which will become a princess. The eggs hatch within 8 to 10 weeks. At this time, the male ant and Princess ant both having wings, [and] fly away and mate during flight. (Mating happens around the end of June until early August and the female can mate with more than one male.) After mating, the princess ant looses her wings, becoming a queen and beginning her own nest or colony. Male ants are created only as needed for reproductive purposes and die shortly after mating.”

    Read the story Hey, Little Ant by Phillip Hoose and Hannah Hoose. . Collect ants from outside or purchase from a store. “We are going to make an ant farm for our class.You will need to put a smaller container inside the larger clear container. The purpose is to prevent the ants from building tunnels near the center of the container. Fill the space with soil and tap to help settle it. Moisten soil slightly.To feed your ants, dip a cotton swab in honey, and smear a tiny bit on the side of your container. Drop a small crumb of cookie or bread in from time to time. The amounts of food needed are dependent upon the size of your colony. You won't need a lot of food to feed your ants! To water, sprinkle a tiny amount of water in the farm from time to time to keep the soil moist. Ants do not like light, so to ensure that your colony burrows close to the glass, you can tape a piece of black construction paper over your container or set a paper bag over it.

    Watch the ants communicate by tapping their antennae together, the different stages of ant development, the making of tunnels, cleaning themselves and each other, and so on. You can remove and later re-add several ants, add ants from a different colony, add a spider or bug, or other variations to observe what happens


    • Students who are going beyond the standards can research and report about a cold-blooded or warm-blooded animal.

    • Students going beyond the standards can experiment, watch, and keep a journal of the ants’ actions. Students can experiment with different foods to see what the ant prefers to eat.

    • Students who might need an opportunity for additional learning can name and write the five animal groups. Have students write examples of animals from each group.

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