how many ways can we classify animals

How to classify animals unit



As a young child I remember both the best time in our school year and the worst time of our school year for science lessons came when we had to make a diorama. I hated them because I always did 85% of the work, but never quite did that final bit to get a really good grade. That dislike carried over into my homeschool science lessons, and while in my head I know a diorama would be a great way to get kids involved in biomes and how to classify animals, I just couldn’t do it. Instead we tried a few different ideas in our animal classification lessons as we covered zoology.

how many ways can we classify animals

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Our spine for science this particular year was CKE Biology*, and most of these activities were part of our first unit in learning about how to classify animals.

Learning to classify animals with a Life Classifcation Mnemonic

life classification mnemonic

We started off by looking at the broadest way you could classify animals, into their various kingdoms, phylum, etc. I wrote on that fully over at my Life classification mnemonic post. It gave us a great start to think about how animals are split up. It also led to lots of laughter as the kids deliberately put things in the wrong place as the science lesson went on longer.


Step 1 of Animal Classification: Looking at the different classes


animal classification lesson for elementary

Once we had classifying animals down into their various phylum and orders, we got down to the different classes. I made those into animal classification trading cards and printed off way too many pictures of animals for the kids to classify.

It was amazing to me to see how many pictures I had of mammals, but not really a lot of other animals. It gave an unfair idea that mammals have the largest representation in our world.


And now for something completely different: astronomy and earth science lessons

Tired of looking at cute or not so cute animals? Check out a few of these astronomy and earth science ideas.

The Great Animal Habitat Game, or how to play while classifying animals

animal habitat game to learn where animals live

After looking at all the different ways you can sort animals by characteristics, we looked at how we sort them by habitat. Rather than reinvent the wheel and make what’s already been created I printed off this animal habitat game and used all the animals I printed off for our animal classification in addition to the animals in the game.

This led to a great discussion of what makes for a good animal to live in different habitats, and also the characteristics that caught us by surprise (which I’m not remembering offhand because my brain is fried right this second).


And our final bit of classification: predator or prey, the great life cycle challenge

food web lesson

We finished up this unit of our CKE Biology with a study of predator and prey animals and how the animals are all connected together in a food web. I remember doing this activity in college and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. The tricky part being it really required having about 20 kids for it to work. So I adapted it to using pictures and string (from up above), and very quickly we discovered you can’t really take much out without severely messing up our world.


Well that was our animal classification unit

animal classification unit

As I wrap this up I realized there were a few other ideas we did for animal classification, but that was getting even more specific, down into the genus and order and such. I’ll have to update those in a bit.


Originally published September 17, 2017, but I’m republishing this because the kids are reading about animal classification in their high school biology textbook


4 responses to “How to classify animals unit”

  1. Phyllis at All Things Beautiful Avatar
    Phyllis at All Things Beautiful

    My kids all gave me the hardest time when it came to the classification system. Especially Sam. They would say how flawed the system is and how it should be remade. I challenged them to do just that. It never went very far, but it crated a lot of discussion.

    1. I bet! My kids just kept asking question after question trying to understand the system.

  2. I wish I could remember the mnemonic device I was taught for this…I remember finding it entertaining as a middle schooler.

    1. I know, I vaguely remember the one I learned for the planets, but not well enough to tell it to others. I just remember the one I learned for the Great Lakes; Sister Mary Helen Eats Onions.

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