Honolulu Zoo Society : Animals A-Z

Classifying Animals (Gr 4 - 5)

Topic Overview

Begin the Lesson

The lesson examines how the Animal Kingdom is classified.


Whole Class Introduction to the Lesson

You will need at least one computer with Internet connectivity and a projection device, a classroom with more than one computer, or access to a computer lab.  This introduction will take approximately 10 minutes to complete.


Animals are organized based on a variety of characteristics. Introduce the classification of animals with this video clip: http://www.brainpopjr.com/science/animals/classifyinganimals/.  Continue with this video clip: http://www.watchknowlearn.org/Video.aspx?VideoID=54500&CategoryID=14363.


Sample Questions:

  • Why do we need a classification system for animals? Answers will vary.
  • Explain how animals are classified. They are put into groups with common characteristics: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species
  • Explain how a cat is classified. The cat is first placed in a kingdom, then a phylum, a class, an order, a family, a genus, and lastly, a species.

As part of the introduction, you may want to review some of the glossary terms in advance of students going online. At this point you can launch the WebLesson as whole-class activity using a projection device, or you can assign students to work individually or in teams in a computer lab.



Excellent (30 - 20)

An excellent student response meets all the project requirements and demonstrates that the student absorbed key lesson concepts and gave them thoughtful consideration. The response shows original thinking, creativity, and a strong sense of purpose. Ideas are organized and clearly articulated according to the proper conventions of writing (at this grade level).

Satisfactory (20 - 10)

A satisfactory student response meets most of the project requirements but overlooks one or more important elements. It reflects a general understanding of the key lesson concepts but shows little depth. The response shows little creativity or originality. Ideas are somewhat disorganized and difficult to follow, and there are numerous grammatical and mechanical errors.

Needs Improvement (10 - 0)

The student response is perfunctory, showing little or no effort. It is unclear if the student thought about or even read any of the lesson content. Ideas are scattered or off-topic. If possible, ask the student to revisit the lesson with a peer or mentor and then rewrite his or her response.


WebLesson Sites
Did you know that a cougar, puma, and mountain lion are all the same animal? When the same animal is found in different regions, each region can have its own name for that animal. That can be very confusing!

To make things less confusing, each animal has been given its own unique scientific name. This name reflects the animal's characteristics. This classification helps us organize the information we have about animals. Animals with common characteristics are grouped together which makes it easier to us to understand the relationships of different animals species.
Animals aren't the only things that are classified and put in a specific order. Can you think of some other things that are classified? How are they ordered?
Lesson Pages
The Case of the Zany Animal Antics
Rich Media
Conclusion & Project
The animal kingdom contains all of the animals on the planet. This includes everything from the smallest insects to the largest mammals. Some scientists estimate that there are over 1 million known species of animals.

Animals with common characteristics are classified into a phylum, class, order, family, genus, and, finally, specie. By categorizing the animals into these groups, it is easier to organize the information we have about animals, understand the animals' relationships to each other, and to learn more information about the animals.
A dichotomous key is a useful tool when classifying animals or trying to determine the identity of an unknown organism.

Pick ten animals you might find in your backyard or local park and create a dichotomous key for classifying them. For more help, return to pages 2 and 3, and watch the videos again.
amphibian - cold-blooded vertebrates that live in the water as youngsters (in their larval stage) and on land as adults
bird - warm-blooded egg-laying vertebrate that has feathers, wings, and a beak, and typically is able to fly
conservation - the protection of animals, plants, and natural resources
dichotomous - separated into two groups that are entirely different
genetic - inherited from your parents
inherit - to receive a characteristic from one's parents
insect - small invertebrate animal that has six legs and generally one or two pairs of wings
invertebrate - animal without a backbones
key - an aid to interpretation or identification
mammal - warm-blooded vertebrate animal that has hair or fur, makes milk for its young, and (typically) gives birth to live young
phylum - a large group of related animals or plants
reptile - cold-blooded vertebrate that has dry scaly skin, and lays soft-shelled eggs on land
species - a group of related animals or plants
unwieldy - awkward
variation - different forms of a characteristic that exist in the same species of animal or plant
vertebrate - animal with a backbones
zoologist - biologist who studies animals