Understanding Science lessons Watching animals move

Author: Sharon Janulaw

Overview: Learners will identify the way animals move and the body parts used to move by observing animals, their body parts and their movements.

Lesson concepts:

Grade span: K-2


Advance preparation: If you are having students observe animals outside on the school grounds, find a place where there are animals to observe before you take students outside. Plan the boundaries of the area in which you want your students to observe. If you are going to have students observe animals inside the classroom, place the animals in different areas of the room so that students will have enough room to observe them.

Time: 30 minutes

Grouping: Small groups and whole class

Vocabulary: body parts, legs, wings, tail, fins

Teacher background: Animals that walk or run can have any even number of legs, from zero (e.g., snakes) to hundreds (e.g., millipedes). Some animals, such as birds, many insects, and bats, are able to get around both on their feet and with their wings. Some animals that live in water swim with fins (e.g., fish), flippers (e.g., dolphins), while others, such as penguins, seem to fly underwater with their wings. Not all aquatic animals swim. Some walk on legs (e.g., lobsters and crabs), others on tiny tube feet (e.g., sea stars and urchins), and some slide along like sea slugs and snails. There is seemingly no end to the different ways animals can get from place to place.

Teaching tips: It might be easiest for younger students to stay inside the classroom to observe animals. They might not find animals outside to observe, either because the animals are not available or because the students can be distracted by whatever is happening outside. Pet stores may be willing to loan animals such as a spider, a hamster, a lizard for a day. Crickets, red worms, feeder guppies can usually be purchased at a reasonable price. You might also be able to find a spider, a snail, a slug around your house to bring in. Provide food and water for the animals if you are keeping them in a container for more than a day. When students are observing animals, remind them that scientists who observe animals stay very still so that they donít disturb or scare the animals they are observing.


    Whole group
  1. Have students share what they know about how animals move. Record their ideas on a Circle Map or chart.
  2. Tell students that they will be looking at animals and observing how they move. They will record in their Science Notebooks what animal they are observing, how the animal is moving, and what body parts it uses to move. Draw and write an example on the board to show how to record the information. (You could ask a student to skip to you and then draw a person, sound out the word skip, and draw an arrow pointing at the legs.)
    Small group
  1. If you are taking students outside, have them get their Science Notebook, a pencil and line up. When you get outside, show them the boundaries of the area in which they should stay. Remind them that they can look close at the ground or away into the sky. They could move around inside the boundaries as they look for animal movements to observe. Remind them that they will draw the animal and record how it moved and what body parts the animal used to move.
    If you are having students observe animals inside, assign students to small groups and tell each group which animal they will observe first and how they will move from animal to animal as a group. Have students get their Science Notebooks and a pencil and walk to the area in which they will observe their first animal. Remind them that they will draw the animal and record how it moved and what body parts the animal used to move.
    After about five minutes give each group directions for moving to the next animal they will observe.
  2. Continue until students have observed and recorded information about all the animals inside or until students have had enough time outside to observe and record information about animals.
    Wrap-up: Whole group de-brief
  1. Have students share what they noticed and recorded about the animals they observed.
  2. Ask students to name an animal and talk about how it moved and what body parts it used to move in that way.
  3. Have students talk to their neighbor about what is the same and what is different about the animals they observed. Ask students to share the similarities and differences they noticed. You can ask students to think about how to group the animals they observed, what groups they would put them in and which animals belong in each group. Students can share the reason an animal belongs in the group in which it was placed.
  4. Ask students if they have any questions about the animals, their ways of moving or the body parts they used to move.

Assessment: Have students write or draw what they learned about how animals move.

An Understanding Science lesson
© 2010 The University of California Museum of Paleontology, Berkeley, and The Regents of the University of California