Cladograms are my favorite part of the classification and taxonomy unit. They are relatively simple for students to grasp and are great for visual learners. While they can be easy to read, sometimes students struggle once you ask them to make their own.
Enter: the ultimate teacher engagement tool. Candy.
In this activity, students will be given a ziplock baggie with 4 types of candy inside. On the front of the worksheet students will be given the traits to analyze and then are asked to complete the cladogram. On the back of the worksheet students need to use the same candies but analyze them using different traits. Once they finish their cladograms they are free to eat!
TIP: As I've used this activity over the past few years, I've found students sometimes struggle with the back side of the worksheet where they have to make their own cladogram. One line of questioning that really helps them organize their thoughts is this:
"What is a trait all 4 candies have in common? What is a trait only 3 of them have in common? What is a trait that 2 of those 3 remaining candies have in common? What is a trait that only 1 of the remaining candies has?" Once they think of it that way it is much easier to fill out the chart and complete the cladogram.
I've made this lab worksheet completely editable so you are free to change the candy types based on what you can find on sale at the store. Don't feel forced to use the candies I have listed! Keep in mind, if you change the candy types you will likely have to change the traits students are looking for on the front side of the worksheet.
I hope you enjoy this activity! Want another classification lab activity? Check out this blog post where students use preserved specimen jars to classify organisms.
It's what most people think of when they think back to their high school biology classroom.... dead animals in jars. Why are they even there? How can you use them in your classroom? And God forbid, what do I do if one of the jars breaks?
I like to incorporate the preserved specimens into my taxonomy and classification unit. After I teach my students about the Linnaean system of classification, I ask students to classify the specimens I have.
Here's how it works:
1. Set up your tables into groups. I put 3-4 specimens per group, depending on how many specimens are available.
2. As soon as students walk in the room, ask them to not pick up the jars. (You will have to repeat this!) Once everyone is settled we talk about handling formaldehyde (once you tell them it can cause cancer they are usually pretty cautious). I let students slide the jars around the table but not pick them up. This majorly helps with safety issues.
3. Each group gets a classification packet. Their task is to find the organisms in the packet that are sitting in front of them. Once found, they need to write down as many classification levels as they can. The biggest thing to tell your students is to work backwards- instead of finding the kingdom first, they will find the animal under phylum or class, and then work backwards in the packet until they get back to the Kingdom. Don't worry if you are confused, samples are provided in your purchase!
4. Depending on the length of your classes and how many days you want this lab to last, you can have students rotate around the room. I've found that students can usually get through 4-5 specimens in a 50 minute class period.
Don't have any specimens lying around? Don't worry, a paper lab has been provided for you as well. Check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!
Natural selection is one of my favorite topics to teach. Students enter the classroom with prior misconceptions and it's fun to have students figure out what natural selection and evolution really mean. Here is a list of my favorite natural selection and evolution activities:
1. Battle of the Beaks- This lab is always a hit! Students get to simulate Darwin's finches by having different "beaks" (tweezers, clothespins, etc) and feeding on different foods. Check it out here FREE in my TpT store!
2. Rock Pocket Mouse- In this activity students examine how fur color in pocket mice determines their fitness. Students learn that mutations aren't good or bad, but instead are beneficial or harmful based on their environment. Check it out here for free on biointeractive's website.
3. Who Wants To Live A Million Years?- In this online game, students get to choose traits of a fictional species and see if their species can survive a million years.
4. Analyzing Darwin's Finches- This activity looks at the research of Peter and Rosemary Grant. This couple studied Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands and saw evolution occur twice within a short number of years. This activity incorporates graphing skills which is always great to throw in! Check it out here.
5. Speciation Video- When you talk about how all of today's species evolved from a common ancestor, naturally many questions will arise. How do new species form? I love how clearly this video explains the process of speciation.
I also have some evolution writing prompts in my store too! Check out my blog post on how I use writing prompts in my classroom!
Becca of Science Rocks
Hi, I'm Becca! I've been teaching science for 10 years at both the middle and high school levels.