Groups of Living Organisms

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12375

We often group things together by their similarities, like toys, people, cans and jars of food on the shelves, and books in libraries. Scientists do the same with animals. Go to "class" with animals!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

  • How are the animals pictured above similar?
  • How are they different?
  • What makes each type of animal pictured the same as — and different from — humans?

There are so many types of animals: those that live on farms, those that live in jungles, those that live in oceans, and even those that live in human homes!

With so many different groups of animals, people — especially scientists — need a way to keep track of the various animals, where they live, what they eat, their migration patterns, and other information, to learn more about them. Gradually, scientists did create a method of keeping all the animals on Earth organized.

  • Why do you think it would be important for scientists to know all of this information about animals and to organize groups of animals?
  • Did you know that there are more than five million species, or types of living creatures, on Earth?

That is one reason scientists like to keep them organized.

While there are many ways to sort animals, scientists use similar characteristics, or qualities, to group them.

  • What is one feature that all birds share?

All birds have wings, even if they can't fly. That is an example of a characteristic used to group animals.

different birds

The process of grouping organisms is called "classification," because the living organism is classified based on specific features.

There are many types of animals in our world. Scientists have grouped these living things so that it is easier to keep track of the many species.

Visit the Animal Classification site, by Sheppard Software, to learn how animals are grouped based on different characteristics. First, learn all about the different groups of animals by clicking on their links. As you learn, keep track of the details using a graphic organizer such as the one shown below, that you can copy onto a sheet of paper:

Animal Class Major Characteristics Examples


  • What are some things you learned about groups of animals?
  • How do you think this system helps scientists understand newly discovered animals?

Using characteristics like wings, legs, and fur, makes animal classification easy, because we can observe those features with our eyes. Some relationships between species, however, are based on behaviors that must be studied over time, like reproduction and care of the young. All of this information provides scientists a way to organize the many animals on planet Earth.

In the Got It? section, you will review what you have learned with an online quiz.

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