Strand III
Use Scientific Knowledge from the Life Sciences in Real-World Contexts


Science/Strand III
Content Standard 2
All students will use classification systems to describe groups of living things; compare and contrast differences in the life cycles of living things; investigate and explain how living things obtain and use energy; and analyze how parts of living things are adapted to carry out specific functions. (Organization of Living Things)


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2
Middle School


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School
Benchmark 1

Compare and classify organisms into major groups on the basis of their structure.

Benchmark Clarification

Organisms are classified based on related characteristics. Although “species” is the basic unit of classification, students should not be concerned with the formal five-kingdom classification system at this time.

Students will:

  • Compare and contrast similar characteristics in structure, such as physical appearance, anatomy, and reproduction
  • Use these characteristics to arrange organisms into different groups (e.g., plants: flowering/non-flowering and animals: vertebrate/invertebrate, single-celled/multi-cellular, cold-blooded/warm-blooded)
  • Classify organisms into smaller groups (e.g., vertebrates: mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles)

Key Concept / Real World Context / Instructional Example / Assessment Example / Resources


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Key Concept
Characteristics used for classification:

  • vertebrates/invertebrates
  • cold-blooded/warm-blooded
  • single-celled/multi-cellular
  • flowering/non-flowering

Groups of vertebrates:

  • mammals
  • birds
  • fish
  • reptiles
  • amphibians

Observation tools:

  • hand lens
  • microscope


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Real World Context
Representative organisms:

  • dog
  • worm
  • snake
  • amoeba
  • geranium
  • bacteria
  • insect
  • mold


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Instructional Example

Benchmark Question: How are groups of living things classified?

Focus Question: Using a variety of classification systems, how can we classify different groups of organisms?

Students need several experiences classifying organisms in order to understand better the key scientific concepts of diversity and unity of living things. Each student should be given a similar set of 15 to 20 pictures of vertebrate and invertebrate animals. Students should then sort the pictures into different groups, according to their own classification system. Have them repeat this process two more times, using different classification rules each time. Students then will record each sort on paper, give each group a title, and list common characteristics they used to classify these organisms.

Next, students will form pairs and share their data. Each team will use their data to select a system they think will work best. The teacher should continue to combine pairs of students and have them share their method until the entire class agrees upon one system.

Discuss, as a class, the titles for each group and identify characteristics for each group of organisms.

Students should become familiar with the terminology contained in the key concepts. They should also be introduced to more formal classification systems, such as a dichotomous key (a tool used by scientists to classify organisms).

Constructing: (SCI.I.1.MS.1), (SCI.I.1.MS.5).

Reflecting: (SCI.II.1.MS.1).


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School/Benchmark 1
Assessment Example

Students will classify a variety of organisms into groups according to their structure. Students will use the following categories:

  • vertebrate/invertebrate
  • categories of vertebrates:
    • mammals
    • birds
    • fish
    • amphibians
    • reptiles
  • single-celled/multi-cellular
  • flowering/non-flowering

These categories could be used in class games such as Jeopardy or Concentration.

(Give students rubric before activity.)

Scoring Rubric






Correctness of classification

Classifies with 60%-69% accuracy.

Classifies with 70%-79% accuracy.

Classifies with 80%-99% accuracy.

Classifies with 100% accuracy.

Identification of common characteristics

Lists one common characteristic for each category.

Lists two common characteristics for each category.

Generalizes several key characteristics for each category.

Compiles a detailed description of common characteristics for each category.


Science/Strand III/Content Standard 2/Middle School/Benchmark 1


The Budding Botanist. AIMS.

Exploring Environments. AIMS.

Project WILD.

Unique U. AIMS.