The Indian Ocean and classification with Sheena Talma

Lesson overview

A science focused lesson where students classify some organisms that are frequently thought to be other things: dolphins are mammals not fish; sponges are actually animals; and coral are colonies of animals that can look like trees.

Classification is a huge topic and appears in the Science Programme of Study at Years 4 and 6. This lesson provides learning opportunities relevant to both these stages and can be adapted to suit the level of your class.

Learning outcomes

  • Identify living, dead and non-living things
  • Group objects in different ways
  • Classify living things using standard scientific groups with reasons
  • Create and use a key to classify organisms
  • Classify difficult organisms using standard scientific groups with reasons

Lesson steps

  1. Mission statement from Sheena Talma (10 mins)
    Students are introduced to their lesson’s mission by Sheena Talma.
  2. Discovering coral life (10 mins)
    Present students with different examples of marine life and ask them to think about what, why and how they are.
  3. Grouping by similar characteristics (15 mins)
    Students are presented with a range of different objects and asked to put these into groups.
  4. Grouping living and non-living things (15 mins)
    Students sort objects into living, dead and non-living things using a practical activity.
  5. Using a key to classify (20 mins)
    Students use a key to classify different living things found on coral reefs. An optional extension activity challenges students to create and use their own key to classify marine invertebrates.
  6. Grouping scientifically (15 mins)
    Using a card sort, students learn about the features of different scientific groups and can successfully match the vertebrates, invertebrates, plants, fungi and microbes with these features and examples.
  7. Explaining (or sharing) classification (20 mins)
    Students demonstrate their learning by explaining how to classify difficult examples of coral life. Students can also complete a postcard describing and classifying their favourite example of marine life.
  8. Reflection (10 mins)
    Students reflect on their learning, considering what they have learnt, what connects to their prior knowledge and what they still want to know.


By task
To support lower ability students, focus on the differences between living and non-living objects. Use the practical activity to facilitate this.

To challenge higher ability students, focus on justifying the classification of organisms, explaining not just what group organisms belong to, but why they don’t belong in an alternative group.

By outcome
The open summary assessment task (Student Sheet 8d) allows students to demonstrate their learning at any level.

By support
For ideas of how to support and challenge students further, look for guidance and ideas in the teacher guidance.