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5E: DYI Dichotomous Key Guided Inquiry Lab

Alison Dunford
Lesson Plans

How can scientists identify organisms they have never seen before?

Suppose you discovered a plant or animal you had never seen before...
How would you figure out what it is?
How would a scientist be able to tell if they discovered a new species?

Are we doing the work of scientists?


Students will be able to use a dichotomous key to classify a group of objects.

Students will be able to construct a dichotomous key for a collection of items or
Students will engage in Habits of the Mind and Nature of Science standards as

SCI.5.S5CS1: 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.
SCI.5.S5CS3: Students will use tools and instruments for observing, measuring,
and manipulating objects in scientific activities.
SCI.5.S5CS5: Students will communicate scientific ideas and activities clearly.
SCI.5.S5CS6: Students will question scientific claims and arguments effectively.
SCI.5.S5CS8: Students will understand important features of the process of
scientific inquiry. Students will apply the following to inquiry learning practices
S5L1a: Animal Classification: Demonstrate how animals are sorted into groups
(vertebrate and invertebrate) and how vertebrates are sorted into groups (fish,
amphibian, reptile, bird, and mammal).
S5L1b: Plant Classification: Demonstrate how plants are sorted into groups.

1. 5 iPads
2. 1 Lab instruction sheet per student
3. Choices of items/photos of organisms for classification (aliens, minions,
plants, buttons, matchbox cars, students choice, etc.)
4. Computers with Inspiration or Kidspiration
5. Chart Paper and/or Poster Board
6. Scissors, markers and pencils
7. Scratch Paper
8. Post-It Notes 3X3 or 3X5
9. Student Science Journals
Various samples of dichotomous keys universities are great



Turn and Talks 1 minute each:

Tell your group one really important idea you have learned about
classification so far.
What other things do humans classify? Why do you think humans like to
make groups like this?
Teacher will hold up a large box of buttons (or similarly complex collection) with
many varieties, and ask students to consider how they would begin classification
of organisms in the BUTTON KINGDOM. Teacher will walking around and
allowing the students to touch and see that the buttons are very similar, but also
unlike, and,
Engagement examples expected from students:


with different ways to be sewn to clothing 1 or 2 or 4 holes, shank,

with different shapes round, square, tree shaped
made of different materials plastic, shell, bone, metal
of different colors reds, whites, blacks, blues, etc.


Pre-Lab work: One week prior, pre-assess knowledge of classification, and as

instruction begins, collaborate with students to develop a list of questions they
have about classification. I use examples, mini-lessons, and models due to
students having no true prior knowledge first.
Half of the class works as a research scientist on the Botanist
Research iPad Lab with partner(s). This allows the teacher to facilitate
learning of a smaller group of students, working on the DIY
Dichotomous Key lab,
Thinking Question: Taxonomy is a classification of something. Can you tell me a
type of taxonomy or classification we use often in class? (Blooms Taxonomy
classifies levels of thinking).
Today we are going to move from knowledge-comprehension-analysis orders of
thinking up to analysis-application-synthesis-evaluation. We will go from solving
a dichotomous key to creating our own.
Review lab sheet and lab expectations with students. Send students to work
table and ask them to complete #1 (team name and list) on sheet, then make a
1st and 2nd choice of items to classify from #2.
Ask for one team member to bring first and second choices for classification to
teacher, and then teams with duplicate 1st choice may rock-paper-scissors.
There are many choices your team of scientists must make on this project.
Discuss choice of items/organism with students. Ask them to begin with drafting
unless art is their first choice (DIY-DIY Lab).
Students will complete project based lab and display posters of keys in hallway
(1-2 days).
After student work is displayed in the hallway, classes will take their interactive
science notebooks, pencils and several Post-It Notes to the hallway. Students will
independently, with partner(s) or with support, solve several dichotomous keys
completely and leave constructive feedback for the team. (Model this first.)
Assessment is by peers and teacher.



As students share their ideas and understandings, teacher may record key
ideas/phrases. Students record this in their interactive science notebooks:

Tell me your thoughts when you first started creating your dichotomous

Was it easier or more challenging to create a key versus solving one by

someone else?

What actually happened as you got into creating the key with your team?

This is a great opportunity for students to have dialogue about the

features of a dichotomous key and the challenges scientists face
when trying to share information communication!

Suppose you discovered a plant or animal you had never seen before...How
would you figure out what it is?

How would a scientist be able to tell if they discovered a new species?

How is your key the same or different than the keys we solved that were
created by others?


Student Choice must be standards-based - possible options include:

Write a plan for a science food lab as a culminating lesson for this unit on

Consolidate photos and blog entries from class. Become the editor for a
science publication and edit your class photos and paragraphs for clarity
and understanding. Post to Weebly blog.

Look at several copies of dichotomous keys (use university level and also
on level samples and reflect on the similarities and differences.

Record a video for TRNN as you tour several dichotomous keys in the
hallway. Include how your thoughts and understandings about
classification have changed over time.

Plan, create, and carry out a kinesthetic model of a key.

Student choice proposal to teacher.



Have students look throughout their kitchens at home and list examples of
different plants and plants that make the products they see. Discuss veggie
drawer, cans of veggies, dried plants used, etc. Students must use plant
classification criteria they are currently learning in class, and use Inspiration or
Kidspiration to write a short dichotomous key of their choice in their interactive
science notebooks with descriptions.



1. Students with visually impairments:

a. Allow individual students to choose best way to access
materials/curriculum. Increase student choice for accessing any
materials needed for best outcome.
b. Large copies of lab sheets, lab sheets in DropBox for iPads, large
pictures of DIY collections
c. iPad stands, hand lenses, large lighted viewer if needed, computers
with zoom software
d. Allow screen capture and print options
e. Proximity, focus on clear descriptions, peer partners
2. Students with special needs, and all other students as needed:
a. Review all lab materials, directions and expectations clearly
b. Science team groupings and peer helpers assigned
c. Small groups with co-teacher support
d. Students step together analyze characteristics, sketch drafts
together, etc.
e. Additional models and modeling use interactive science notebooks
f. Extended time
g. Chunking directions
h. Verbal and non-verbal cueing/prompting
3. Differentiation of Content: Guided inquiry was co-authored with students.
Demonstrate in addition to discussing, highlight examples with students to
show the way, examples and organizers, supplementary materials from
textbook, extended examples for advanced students, interest center with
real world examples, focus on student understanding of learning on
Blooms taxonomy. Wait time.
4. Differentiation of Process: Directions are specific. Step together
throughout process. Assist with vocabulary for characteristic descriptions,
allow pacing changes, allow students to tour other team projects for
ideas on application, mini-lesson with teacher as needed. Wait time.
5. Differentiation of Products: Guided inquiry was co-authored with students.
Student choice in DIY aspect, Student choice of product outcome, activity
seeks multiple perspectives, student led design, extensive extensions.
6. Differentiation of Affect: Greet students, positive and pleasant work
environment, enthusiasm is contagious, model respect for students, for
science, and for learning environment. Help students see themselves as


scientists, and see the work of scientists as important. Seek to speak to

every student individually and in teams. Display student work for others to
enjoy. Reminder of class rule as needed.
7. Differentiation of Environment: Team tables encourage
conversation/collaboration, extra materials are at hand, display student
work for others to enjoy, science is clearly the objective in this room, stand
or sit, stay on time, students clean up after class for next group coming in,
reminder of class rule as needed.