Tomia Fingerle
5 E Lesson Plan
Identifying and Classifying Characteristics of
Unity Christian School
Rome, GA
NOTE: The private school I teach for, Unity Christian School, does not follow the
order of the GPS. Therefore, my 4th grade Life Science lesson standards are from
our curriculum guides (given at beginning of each day’s lesson).
I have listed the GPS standards where they would be found (2nd and 5th grades).
In this unit, students will be introduced to the systems of classification that we use to determine
relationships between organisms. Students should be able to group organisms and communicate their system of classification.
S5L1. Students will classify organisms into groups and relate how they determined the groups
with how and why scientists use classification.
a. Demonstrate how animals are sorted into groups (vertebrate and invertebrate) and how
vertebrates are sorted into groups (fish, amphibian, reptile, bird, and mammal).
S2L1. Students will investigate the life cycles of different living organisms.
a. Determine the sequence of the life cycle of common animals in your area: a mammal
such as a cat or dog or classroom pet, a bird such as a chicken, an amphibian such as a
Supporting Standards: GPS
S4CS1. Students will be aware of the importance of curiosity, honesty, openness, and
skepticism in science and will exhibit these traits in their own efforts to understand how the
world works.
c. Offer reasons for findings and consider reasons suggested by others.
d. Take responsibility for understanding the importance of being safety conscious
Investigating Characteristics of Vertebrates
Identifying vertebrates and invertebrates
A. Define the term vertebrate and list animals that are vertebrates.
Identifying Characteristics of Vertebrates
A. Create a list of 5 characteristics of vertebrates.
B. Highlight information text to support list.
Classifying Vertebrates
A. List the 7 classes of vertebrates
B. Choose one animal from one of those classes to do a research
project on.
Identifying characteristics of classes of vertebrate
A. Identify the different characteristics of vertebrate classes
1. Body covering
2. How does body get oxygen
3. Reproduction
Discovering the life cycles of vertebrates
A. Label parts of the life cycle of a vertebrate
1. Chicken
2. Alligator
3. Wood Frog (Literature Connection)
B. Using resource books students will examine the lifecycle of the
Wood Frog.
Summative Assessment
A. Written test
Life Science Unit 5 E lesson plans (5 lessons)
4th Grade Life Science
Identifying Vertebrates
Pre-Lesson preparations:
 Research and read teacher background information and use key concepts
to drive instruction.
 Gather materials listed for activities.
 Review technology options to integrate into the unit.
 List differentiations allowed for needed students.
UCS-SCI4L-1 Students will sort cards to relate to the
classification process. (skill of classifying, identifying characteristics to guide
sorting) Classroom rule of respecting others’ opinions will be reminded before
slide show.
E.Q. Can you identify animals by their appearances?
Present a power point slide show on the interactive white board of
many kinds of animals asking students to identify each before the
next slide shows the labels.
 Students will be encouraged to call out their answer quickly as
they identify and label examples of vertebrates and respect the
answers of their peers.
 Teacher encourages students to think about why/how they
know what they think each animal is. (background experiences,
previous pictures, what is similar/different, etc.
Materials: Nancy Larson Life Science Website (copyright-school member site)
Explore: E.Q.
How do you sort animals?
Card Sort cooperative activity to begin developing the concept of
sorting and sharing their reasoning behind criteria.
*4 small baggies with animal cards.
*Gray Squirrel classification chart
 Students are divided into 4 groups and given a set of cards for
their group.
 Students cooperatively decide on criteria to sort and separate
 Students move from group to group to see how other groups
chose to sort their cards. Students ask questions to understand
the methods chosen by each group.
 Display the Gray Squirrel classification chart explaining how the
system narrows down the characteristics until ending with
species: “gray squirrel”. This shows the many steps to classify a
E.Q. What is a vertebrate?
UCS-SCI4L-2 Students will define the term vertebrate.
Vocabulary, text information, and formative assessment.
Materials: Animal classification wall chart, students’ booklet C Investigating
Characteristics of Animals (pp.3-5), highlighters, Word Wall cards.
 Using the students’ booklets, read aloud the informative
paragraphs. Have students articulate their understanding and
highlight key words: zoologist, vertebral column, vertebrate,
 Have students give other words for vertebral column (backbone,
 Call upon a student to hold up a key vocabulary Word Wall card
and have class explain its definition. Mount on Word Wall.
 Using the wall chart and matching smaller sample in students’
booklet, follow the chart to explain how animal classification is
broken down from Animals to Chordates to Vertebrates to
classes of vertebrates: Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians,
Bony Fish, Cartilaginous Fish, Jawless Fish.
Formative Assessment:
(Differentiation: pair helper buddies to low performing students as
partners; if graphia issues are present, allow that student to verbalize
while partner fills out puzzle and organizer).
 Partner students to work on a crossword puzzle, allowing the use
of their text information and classification chart to complete
puzzle and a graphic organizer to sort the list of animals into
classes of vertebrates. Teacher visually assesses and corrects
misconceptions and inaccurate information.
Day Two
Identifying characteristics of vertebrates
UCS-SCI4L-3 Student will identify and list five characteristics of vertebrates.
Misconceptions: Students often fail to classify amphibians and reptiles as vertebrates.
misconceptions arise through students' preconceptions of external features of these organisms such as
segmentation, body covering, and appendages. Ex. If a snake can coil up, it must not have a backbone.
x-rays of vertebrates used to locate vertebral column.
 Students will identify five characteristics of vertebrates.
 Students will examine x-rays of vertebrates and locate the vertebral
column and cranium of each animal.
 Students will match the x-ray to the picture card and name of the
Biblical Worldview Integration: Our skeletons provide us with “structure,
shape, and support” so that we can function and live. What else does God
provide to us that gives “structure, shape, and support” in our daily walk
with Him? (Bible, parent/school safety rules, love and encouragement)
Classification wall chart
Student booklet C (pp.3-5)
Word Wall card – endoskeleton
Animal x-ray set
Elaborate: E.Q. Can you correctly identify the vertebral column
and cranium in a vertebrate’s x-ray?
This activity will challenge students to apply, extend, and elaborate on
concepts of vertebrates having a vertebral column (backbone) by locating the
spine and cranium of various animals x-rays.
 Review: “What is a vertebrate?” (animal with vertebral column;
ex. backbone, spine)
 Looking at the classification chart, have students list the classes
of vertebrates.
 Have students take turns reading about the characteristics of
vertebrates, using their booklet C, and list characteristics.
a. has a vertebral column ( bend over to feel one’s backbone)
b. The column is made up of individual bones called vertebrae.
c. Vertebrae are connected by tissue called cartilage.
d. Cartilage is softer and more flexible than bone, nose and ears.
e. Endoskeleton located inside body is made up of vertebral
column, bones, and cartilage.
f. Endoskeleton provides structure, place for muscles to attach,
and protects vital organs (heart, lungs).
g. Vertebrate has a brain protected by a cranium (skull bones)
h. Vertebral column protects the spinal cord which carries
messages to/from the brain and all parts of the body.
i. Has a closed circulatory system (circulates blood through
body in endless loop of blood vessels which carry oxygen and
nutrients to the cells and removes waste from the cells).
 Recap 5 main characteristics:
1. Vertebral column
2. Endoskeleton
3. Cranium
4. Spinal cord
5. Closed circulatory system
 Distribute animal x-rays to groups of students instructing to
locate vertebral column and cranium, then move to next group
for examination (remind students to hold x-ray by paper clip at
corner as to not leave fingerprints).
Formative Assessment: Circulate and ask students to identify the vertebral
column and cranium on their x-rays. Do they notice any other characteristics of
a vertebrate?
 Students decide with their group partners which vertebrate
listed on the board is the x-ray they have. Why do they think so?
Give characteristics to verify their claim.
 Allow students to match the photo of the animal to its x-ray.
Where they right? Tell their partner why they know they made a
correct match, giving details. Share with class.
Or: use these cards as a similar activity:
Optional Extend or Differentiation:
1. Give students a pipe cleaner to glue onto construction paper and
draw the body of the vertebrate around its vertebral column. On
writing paper, have student name and describe the vertebrae
2. Why is it good to wear a bike helmet?
Day Three
7 classes of vertebrates (Research
UCS-SCI4L-3 Students will choose one animal from a vertebrate class to
describe its body covering, explain how it breathes, what it eats, and its
UCS-SCI4L-4 Students will identify the different characteristics of
vertebrate classes
(mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, bony fish, cartilaginous fish, jawless
Objectives: (Student use of Technology)
 Students will use posters of each class of vertebrates to describe common
 Using a research activity sheet, students will choose a vertebrate to
research in the computer lab, describe its body covering, explain how it
breathes, what it eats, its predators, and three interesting facts.
Biblical Worldview Integration: Each animal is uniquely made. Plants
and animals always reproduce after their own kind as God designed it. This is
one of the laws of Creation.
 classification wall chart
 research activity sheet
 vertebrate classes posters
E.Q. Vertebrates come in 7 classes?
 Students will look at pictures or posters of mammals, birds,
reptiles, amphibians, and bony fish and list characteristics of
Integration: technology and art
Technology: (student) Students will use the computer lab to research
their chosen vertebrate of study, using a guideline and question sheet
to draw pictures and compose descriptive sentences. Student is to
describe its body covering, explain how it breathes, what it eats, its
predators, and three interesting facts.
Differentiation: Have students that struggle putting sentences
together on paper to verbalize their research using pictures or
drawings to aid in oral share.
Differentiation: Allow students to create large posters instead of the
smaller Research Question sheet.
Multiple Exposure/Review opportunity: Students can enter an online
Nancy Larson Student Link and log in to view lesson slideshows, photo
galleries, and extended learning website links (student use of
Day Four - Identifying characteristics of classes of
Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, Amphibians, and Fish posters
Investigating Characteristics of Animals (pp. 3, 6 and 7)
Science Word Wall Words homeotherm, poikilotherm
Frozen Frogs video (body temperature changes)
Evaluate: E.Q. What are some common characteristics of the
classes of vertebrates?
UCS-SCI4L-4 Students will identify the different characteristics of
vertebrate classes
Formative Assessment:
Allowing students to use their booklets and notes students are to
list five common characteristics of all vertebrates. Teacher circulates
to check understanding.
Differentiation: Allow students to verbally list the five common
Explore/Elaborate: E.Q. How are the classes of vertebrates
different from each other?
 Students will learn how animals in one class of vertebrates differ from
those in another class.
Classes - Vertebrates are sorted into groups, called classes, based on
differences such as:
1. body coverings
2. how oxygen enters their bodies
3. internal body temperatures
4. how they reproduce.
(Concentrating on five of the classes of vertebrates: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians,
and bony fish)
1. Body Coverings: (have students close eyes to feel examples of “skin
types”, then identify which vertebrate class would be represented.)
Reptiles (dry, scaly skin)…food grater
Amphibians ( moist, smooth skin) …partially deflated balloon
Most Fish (overlapping scales) sequined fabric
Birds (feathers and scaly legs)…artificial/or real feathers
Mammals (hair)…fake fur fabric
2. How oxygen gets into body (vertebrates have different ways of
bringing oxygen into their bodies and removing carbon dioxide, which
takes place in the lungs of mammals, birds, reptiles, and most adult
amphibians when they breathe. This exchange in fish and some young
amphibians takes place in gills. The salamander can actually absorb
oxygen through their moist skin.)
3. Internal body temperature (homeotherm/poikilotherm)
 mammals and birds have body temperatures that stay about the same,
regardless of air temperatures. (homeotherm) warm-blooded
 fish, reptiles, and amphibians have body temperatures that change with
their surroundings. (poikilotherms) cold-blooded
4. Reproduction of vertebrates
(vertebrates produce more of their own
 Mammals have young born alive.
 Reptiles, fish, amphibians develop eggs outside the mother’s
 Birds have hard shelled eggs
“Turn and Talk”
 Students pair up with a partner to share their understanding of the
different classifications of the vertebrate classes.
 Students explain in their own words the common characteristics within
each class of vertebrates.
 Students may use their booklets, word wall words, and the examples of
vertebrate posters, and graphic organizers they completed.
EXTEND: Student use of Technology: Interactive Vertebrate
characteristics game. (as students match characteristic to class, the game
will accept or deny the match; once all characteristics are matched an animal of
that class pops up and moves…this was fun for me too!) ****This can be used to
differentiate for students who have short/long term memory and retrieval
Day 5
- Describing the life cycle of vertebrates
a. Students will label the life cycle of the vertebrates classes of birds, reptiles,
and amphibians.
b. Students examine the lifecycle of a chicken, alligator, and a Frog
 Investigating Characteristics of Animals booklet
 Word Wall Words: metamorphosis and larva
 Resource book: Wood Frog Life Cycle series, Creative Teaching Press,
David M. Schwartz
 Vertebrate Life Cycle Photos video (Nancy Larson curriculum)
hp?linkid=159 (copyright)
Explain: E.Q. What is the life cycle of a vertebrate?
 The life cycle of an animal refers to the complete cycle from the beginning
of an animal’s life until the time it produces a new animal like itself.
 Mammals, birds, reptiles, and most fish are born with bodies similar to
those they will have as adults.
 Some animals, such as amphibians, are born with bodies that look very
different from the bodies they will have as adults.
 The changing of an animal’s body form during its life cycle is called
Life cycle puzzles of a chicken, alligator, and a frog.
Literature Connection: Read Wood Frog Life Cycle to the class.
 Show students the Nancy Larson Curriculum video, Vertebrate Life Cycle
Photos. Discus cycles.
 Engage students in a discussion of the stages in the life cycles of a chicken,
alligator, and a frog.
 Chicken, adult-egg-chick
 Alligator, adult-egg-hatchling
 Frog, adult, egg, larva: (tadpole, tadpole with gills, tadpole with legs,
froglet) Discuss what larva means
EXTEND: Life cycle puzzles stations (hands on to complete their
puzzle with their group)
 Pass out puzzles of the life cycle of a chicken and a frog.
 Students groups cooperate to help put their life cycle puzzle together.
Once complete, teacher observes, then the puzzle is taken apart and
group moves to another puzzle station till each group completes a puzzle
of the chicken and frog life cycles.
Literature Connection Cont. (Information text)
 Compare the information in the student’s science booklet to the book
Wood Frog.
1. How is the information similar? The book uses photos and a diagram
of live frogs and larva. This helped to visualize what was written.
Extend/Differentiation: Life cycle card and object sort.
 Choose as an Extend to the life cycle lesson or use as a differentiation for
learners who express their knowledge better with hands on objects.
 Using objects to represent the life cycle stages of a frog, allow students
opportunities to colaborate with their group to put the object and
explanation cards in the right order, cycle.
Ex. ( plastic frog, tiny plastic “wiggly eyes” stuck into a glob of white clay to
represent the cluster of eggs, tadpole and froglet designed and created from
molding clay, etc.)
Summative Assessment:
 Characteristics of a vertebrate and classes test.
(short answer, drawing, multiple choice, comparing, explanation
Parts or whole test can be given to differentiate.
Other books:
 While You Were Sleeping, John Butler
 Baby Bat’s Lullaby, Jacquelyn Mitchard
 Crocodiles and Alligators, Lionel Bender