Taxonomy of Living Things

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12130

How is organization helpful? Think library books, clothing racks, dictionaries, and (maybe) your room! Learn how scientists organize living creatures and study some yourself so you can "phylum" away!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Organization can help us keep up with our belongings or our school work. How do scientists organize all the living creatures on Earth? There are zillions of them!

Can you imagine walking into a grocery store to get an apple and finding that there are no distinct sections of goods or produce?

  • How hard would it be to find the apple without any organization?

Grocery stores are organized to easily help shoppers find what they need. Similarly, scientists have developed a system to help organize all living creatures on Earth. The system of defining groups of organisms based on similar structures and characteristics is called "taxonomy."

If you missed or want to review the previous Related Lesson in this Taxonomy of Living Things series on history, check it out in the right-hand sidebar.

Today, we use a sophisticated taxonomic structure that includes eight distinct levels of organization. These allow all living ceatures to be classified using common characteristics, functions, and structures.

As you progress through this section of learning, use a Cornell Note format to keep track of notes. Check out this resource for help with setting up the note sheet: How to Take Cornell Notes, by wikiHow.

  1. Take a sheet of paper and fold it in half longways, like a hot dog.
  2. You will put note questions on the left-hand side of the fold, and answers to the following questions on the right-hand side.
  3. The note questions will be given to you in the lesson, but you might have to find the answers by completing lesson activities.
  4. At the end, you should have a good understanding of the taxonomic hierarchy.

Note question 1

  • What levels of organization do scientists use in today's classification system?

There are eight levels, ranging from a single species to the largest group, a domain.

Note question 2

  • How are taxonomic levels different from one another?

To answer this, draw the following graphic organizer on your paper:

Use resources to fill in important information that applies to each level of classification. Taxonomy, by Basic Biology, and the six subpages starting with Kingdoms at Classification, by BBC, should provide you with the necessary information to complete notes for this question.

Note question 3

  • What is an example of an organism's taxonomic classification?

Learn Biology: Classification- The Taxonomic Hierarchy, by Mahalo, shows you taxonomic hierarchy through an interesting example and provides a way to remember the levels:


  • Do you see how every living organism is classified using the same system of organization?

This allows scientists all over the world to be able to speak a common language about living creatures. It provides scientists with a way to speak specifically about individual species and to discuss larger groups like phyla and classes.

  • What did you learn about how organisms are classified?
  • How does this system compare with the two we discussed in the previous Related Lesson?
  • Why do scientists need to classify living things?

In the Got It? section, you will get to explore a cool interactive and research the taxonomic hierarchy of a living organism.

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