Seven Levels of Taxonomy

Contributor: Roxann Penny. Lesson ID: 12769

Have you ever had to group things together like pennies, nickels, and dimes, or different laundry items? Scientists do that with living things. Learn how they group animals (and even candy!) together!


Life Science

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

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What are the seven levels of taxonomy?

First, let's begin by exploring what "taxonomy" means. Think about all the names of the people in your neighborhood. Sometimes, it may be difficult remembering each person's name. Scientists try to solve this problem by creating categories for identifying living things. Taxonomy is the science of identifying, or classifying plants and animals into specific categories — sort of like a filing system for living organisms.

Scientists use taxonomy as a uniform (orderly) way of identifying and organizing organisms into groups. To do this, they make observations and ask specific questions about an organism they wish to classify. What questions do you think a scientist might ask when trying to classify an organism? Discuss your ideas with your parent or teacher.

Bear in mind that all organisms placed in the same classification group must share common characteristics, or qualities. So for example, a great white shark (Carcharodon Carcharias) would not be classified with a grizzly bear because they do not share the same characteristics.

Take a look at the image below. It illustrates the seven levels of taxonomy in order from the largest group (bottom) to the smallest group (top). Taxonomists use each group to help them find the best fit when classifying an organism.

  • Can you name the largest classification group illustrated in the image below?
  • What about the smallest classification group?
  • Why do you think each category decreases in size?

levels of taxonomy

One helpful way to remember the seven levels of taxonomy is to use a rhyming phrase. The first letter in each word of the phrase corresponds to each classification level, from largest to smallest. Try one of the following examples: Kevin's Poor Cow Only Feels Good Sometimes.

Kingdom Kevin's
Phylum Poor
Class Cow
Order Only
Family Feels
Genius Good
Species Sometimes


In taxonomy, scientists usually begin classifying organisms by starting with the most common, or general, characteristics of an organism. As they continue studying an organism, they narrow down the organism's characteristics, making the classification group for that organism very specific. Learn to identify each level of classification with this Simple Science presentation, Classification of Living Things:

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What challenges do you think scientists would face without taxonomy? Discuss this question with your parent or teacher.

To continue learning about the seven levels of taxonomy, move on to the Got It? section of this lesson for some practice activities.

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