My 7th grade science class is beginning our life science unit. During this unit we will study characteristics of living things, cells, the human body and much more! One of the first concepts that we covered was classification.

My curriculum instructed me to cover the history of classification, from Aristotle to Carl Linneaus to more recent 6 or more kingdom philosophies. Although I find this information interesting, starting off a lesson with a lecture about dead people does not fascinate my students. But why not make them the scientists first?


Anything you can find in the classroom! Just make sure you have the same items for each group.

The goal for this activity was for students to begin thinking about how we can organize different objects. I gathered a bunch of random materials from my classroom: pipe cleaners, clothespins, toothpicks and anything else I could find! Each group received a basket with the same materials as the other groups.



 I told the class to work with their group and organize the materials given. The groups got right to work. Some students asked me questions, like “What is this 

made of?” I decided NOT to give answers right away. I wanted students to look and use reasoning skills. There were debates about where to put the straw, a

nd disagreements about the clothespin. Surprisingly, the students took this task very seriously. What I thought would take them 3 minutes, took closer to 10!

Once groups were satisfied with their groupings, we discussed as a class what the main factors were when deciding which group to put the items in. The material that makes up the object was picked several times. Others classified items by their shape. One group finally decided that they should organize their items according to the object’s purpose. We discussed how all the groups had slightly different methods of classifying, but they all worked… mostly.

Next, I challenged the students to make DIFFERENT groupings – something that had not been used yet. Some split the items by comparing “high mass” and “low mass”. Another group chose color as a separating factor. As I glanced around the room, other items tempted me to see what the groups would do! However, time, as always, stopped me. 

Doing this activity was a perfect lead into discussing some of the scientists that did just that! Students were now intrigued by these men, because they had just experienced similar confusion, frustration, and thrill of trying to “organize” many different items.

This was another one of my favorite kinds of activities – seemingly simple, but becomes a great springboard for students’ ideas and connects them to the lesson!

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