Foundation, Term 2: Classification

Focus: Criteria

Scope and sequence: Sorting, Criteria, Dichotomous keys

Learning intention: Students compare features of living and non-living things to explore classification systems and devise new ones.

Overview: Although classification is not officially a science inquiry skill, it is strongly linked to observation and the science inquiry skill of processing and analysing data and information. The focus in this unit is on encouraging students to create their own classification systems as this constitutes higher order thinking.
NSW Syllabus
Australian Curriculum (version 9.0)
"A student compares features and characteristics of living and non-living things." (ST2-4LW-S)
"Students learn to compare characteristics of living and non-living things and examine the differences between the life cycles of plants and animals." (AC9S3U01)

Week 1

Introduction to classification

Taxonomy is the branch of science concerned with classification. This video (4:11) shows how classification works using a red fox as an example.

Classification systems continue to evolve so there is some debate about the number of categories. The following screenshot from the previous video is a reminder that there are generally considered to be eight categories involved in biological classification as follows:

An interactive resource is available from the UNE Discovery program ( where students can make adaptations to creatures and then use the Latin binomials to name the new creatures. 


Week 2

Classification discussion using shapes

How many groups could the following five shapes be grouped into?

Try sorting them into groups of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5.



Discuss Caminalcules and the idea of inventing creatures for the sole purpose of divising classification criteria. Joseph Camin did this in the early 1960s and some of his Caminalcules are shown below:


Discuss the word 'criteria' and then link it to classification in terms of 'attributes'.

Below is an an example of how the eight cards have many similarities and differences. This can also be played as a game with the whole class where different criteria is given for each round. For example:
In the example below the answer would be 3. The child with the highest number is the winner and then they start a new round. For example:

You might have noticed that "Wears a hat" is more related to fashion than to the intrinsic properties of the creature. Even so, this can provide a valuable opportunity to discuss intrinsic properties.

Week 3

Introduction to dichotomous keys


Week 4

Week 5

Week 6


Week 7


Week 8


Week 9


Week 10

Moderated self-assessment


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