Students will learn about classifying Utah animals - specifically amphibians.
Main Curriculum Tie:
Science - 4th Grade
Standard 5 Objective 3
Use a simple scheme to classify Utah plants and animals.
- Party favor “blowers”
- Project WILD, (801) 538-4719) has publications, Growing
Wild and Nature’s Call issues about amphibians. They also have an “Amphibian and Reptile” trunk
with information/books/videos available to teachers who have attended a Project
- Reptiles and Amphibians: A Golden Guide, by Herbert S. Zim and
Hobart M. Smith; ISBN 1-58238-131-3
Background For Teachers:
Amphibians are a group of cold-blooded animals that includes frogs,
toads, newts, and salamanders. They typically spend part of their life in
water, part on land. They are distinct from reptiles in that their eggs must
be laid in moist conditions and their soft skins have no scales. The larvae
usually live in the water, while the adult lives on the land and is generally
four-legged and carnivorous. The process of metamorphosis, hatching
from eggs into gilled larvae that later develop into land-loving adults
with lungs, is a distinct characteristic of amphibians.
Eighteen different kinds of amphibians can be found in Utah. There
are eight toads, nine frogs (two of which are not native), and only one
salamander. Amphibians exhibit a wealth of amazing adaptations that
help them survive, including many protective and warning colors,
poisonous secretions to avoid being eaten, many types of feet for various
means of travel such as climbing, swimming and even gliding, and
natural anti-freeze in their blood to keep them from freezing.
Frogs and toads are not exactly the same. Frogs have bulging eyes,
webbed feet, and powerful hind legs useful for jumping great distances.
Toads are more at home on land, however, they return to the water to lay
their eggs. Toads have shorter hind legs than frogs and move in short
hops. Because escape from predators is difficult, toads have poison
glands on both sides of their necks. If an animal bites a toad, the animal
may get sick from the poison.
This activity is further work in the classification of Utah animals,
specifically amphibians. Studying them provides practice in classifying
animals in Utah by physical characteristics. The word “dichotomy”
means “division into two.” A dichotomous key reduces the task of
identifying something into a series of questions that are based on physical
features. Each set of questions eliminates others, eventually leading to the
name of the mystery item.
Fourth graders do not need to know specific animals,
but a general
knowledge of them is helpful. Some of the more common species in Utah
- Woodhouse’s Toad
- Canyon Tree Frog
- Great Basin Spadefoot Toad
- American Bullfrog (not native)
- Northern Leopard Frog
- Red-Spotted Toad
- Boreal Chorus Frog
- Tiger Salamander (Utah’s only salamander)
Intended Learning Outcomes:
1. Use Science Process and Thinking Skills
2. Manifest Scientific Attitudes and Interests
Invitation to Learn
Teach a short song to the students. It is sung to the tune of “Are
What’s it got?
What’s it got?
Let’s identify it
Come on and just try it
“Have,” “Have not”
“Have,” “Have not”
Try singing it as a round. Discuss what the song is about
classification and identifying animal groups with dichotomous keys.
Ask the following oral True/False questions and have students
answer with the “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” game (Up=True,
Down=False) to pre-assess prior knowledge for this investigation:
- Frogs live
in all Utah environments. (T)
- Toads can give you warts. (F)
- Frogs can leap farther than toads.
- All frogs are nocturnal. (F)
- Toads have moist skin (F)
- Some toads live in Utah’s deserts
- Toads must live near water. (F)
- Toads are poisonous. (T)
- Amphibians lay eggs. (T)
- Frogs have rough, dry skin. (F)
- Frogs and toads are amazing! Have students
cut apart the Amphibian Information Cards and read about the different
amphibians that live in Utah.
- Have each student organize the cards in some
way on the paper
provided. Leave this direction open so that the activity allows for
some inquiry to take place. Tell them to be prepared to explain to
the group their system of organization. Students record this
system in their science journals.
- Discuss systems within tables. Display
all the charts.
- Review the similarities and differences between frogs and
(Use the Characteristics of Frogs and Toads chart as a reference,
but have students do this individually and copy information in
their journals.) Allow time to adjust the organization of their cards
if they wish to change.
- Review the concept of a dichotomous key (see background
information). Be sure students understand that even though all
their charts are different, one isn’t right and the other wrong. We
are using a system that is used by scientists to communicate
information in a similar way so that all scientists understand the
information. This system is called a dichotomous key. Identify the
charts within the group that use dichotomous keys.
- Tell students there
is a different dichotomous key. This type helps
to identify the names of amphibians based on their physical
characteristics, but also helps us learn the animal’s name.
one together that models this kind of key for students.
(See sample within lesson.)
- Students work together to “key” out
their amphibian cards.
Teacher should be available to answer questions and correct any
- Create an Envelope Journal for their amphibian cards to
their science journals.
- Using the Amphibian Information
Cards, underline or highlight
only pertinent information that special needs students might need
to complete the activity. This allows them to do a minimum of
reading for task.
- Have special needs students do a Venn Diagram of
and differences between frogs and toads, rather than a
dichotomous key. (See research for explanation.)
- Play a version of “How
Many Frogs Can Live in this Pond?,” a
Project WILD Activity. This helps students use kinesthetic
learning, as well as logic, to process information about frog
adaptations and survival. (The game may be requested from
Project WILD (801) 538-4719.)
- Game is played by having 3 sets of colored
cards, with at least
one for each student. Blue is dragonflies, green is frogs/toads,
red is herons. There should be a high ratio of dragonflies to
- Dragonflies can run forwards, backwards, sideways.
- Frogs have party
favor blowers and can only hop two-footed
- Herons have straws and take only giant steps.
- Set up a perimeter.
Everyone begins on the perimeter’s edge.
At the signal, frogs/toads look for food (dragonflies) and
herons look for food (frogs/toads) within the borders.
- Food is captured
by frogs blowing out “tongues” and touching
dragonflies, who are then “eaten” and out. Herons hold straws
in their mouths and touch frogs/toads, who are “eaten” and
- Play several rounds and see what happens to the different
- Switch roles until everyone has had an opportunity to be an
- Create mini-journals for amphibian classification (see Envelope
- Have students take home the Amphibian
True/False handout and
see how much their family knows about Utah’s frogs and toads.
students walk home from school as if they were a toad one
day (with short hops) and another day like frogs (big long leaps).
Which is easier? Why?
- At home, think like a frog. Notice what you eat for
there things you eat that would be difficult to enjoy if you could
only use your tongue? Remember, you have to swallow it whole!
- The quiz at the beginning of instruction is a good
for this activity.
- As students categorize their amphibian cards, it
will be easy to see
who understands division of animals by characteristics. Some will
only categorize; other students will begin to use dichotomous
- On a large map of Utah, assign each student to plot the habitat
location of an amphibian specie. They will need to draw their
animal and correctly show its physical characteristics. They might
need to duplicate their picture for more than one location. Display
the map next to their classification charts.
Adams, D., & Hamm, M. (1998). Literacy in Science,
Technology and the Language Arts: An
Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Connecticut: Bergin and Garvey, p.10.
This text deals with science and mathematics inquiry processes as
tools that enable students to gather and discover data for themselves
through the process of scientific inquiry. As information is observed and
identified, recording it becomes an integral part of the process and leads
to integration in language arts.
“By constructing their own knowledge in a meaningful context,
children can gain a conceptual understanding and develop the means for
integrating language and science knowledge into their personal
conceptions. To really learn the skills of language and science, students
must follow a learning cycle: explore new phenomena, construct their
own understandings, examine, represent, solve, transform, apply, prove,
Lemlech, J.K. (June 2001). Curriculum and Instructional
Methods for the Elementary and
Middle School. New Jersey, Prentice Hall.
This text covers how children learn, delivery of instruction,
implementing curriculum and professional growth. It explores the “how’
and “what” in preparing instruction. There is emphasis on
interdisciplinary use of journals, cooperative learning, and a variety of
other strategies to teach in all subjects.
The science journal is “a practice manual, a workbook that allows
students to wrestle with ideas in a manner that is comfortable and
productive for them as individuals. Journals created in this manner allow
teachers to see how a student thinks and where to aim instruction to assist
individual and class development.”
Martin, D. (2000). Elementary Science Methods: A Constructivist
Wadsworth Thomson Learning, pp 79, 83.
This text is for college students preparing to teach elementary science
using the constructivist theory to learn methodology for teaching inquiry
and other science processes. It is also an introduction to National Science
Standards and how to identify developmentally appropriate science
material for grades. The text identifies learning styles and how to adapt
science instruction to meet the needs of all students.
Text remarks concerning teaching classification (emphasis added):
objects by considering relationships that are subordinate to a larger group
as a whole is called class inclusion and is a skill that is
learned in the early concrete operational stage of cognitive development.
It is important to note that the ability to sort (or classify) does not come
spontaneously to children; they must be exposed to the phenomenon.
They must be encouraged to do many sorting activities using many
different kinds of things to gain experience in the skill of classification. …Hierachical
(sub-groups with two or more sub-groups) systems of
classification require higher levels of cognitive skills.”
Created Date :
Dec 20 2005 10:19 AM