Learning Objectives

  • Students will classify a variety of objects in order to compare and contrast.
  • Students will analyze previously collected data in order to place items into meaningful groups.


Tools And Materials

  • Students will need their list of observations from the previous activity.
  • If possible, students will again need to bring in their interesting items, or if unable to bring these items into class, they will need to bring photographs of these items.
  • You may wish to allow students access to computers with word processing software.


Teaching Stratedgies

  • Students should now have a list of "interesting items", as well as a list of characteristics for each of these items.
  • Inform students that simply describing the items they have found is not sufficient for a truly diligent field researcher. Students must also find similarities and differences among items, and place these items into groups that reflect these comparisons.
  • Have student groups gather and compare their lists of observations. For each type of observation they have created, have them create two or more categories in which to place each item. (The easiest two categories are simply "does exhibit a specific trait" and "does not exhibit a specific trait", although sometimes more degrees of meaning are necessary.)
  • While student lists may vary greatly, the rules of classification are still the same for everyone. Students should try to group the objects into sensible categories based on important characteristics. Grouping all items that were dusty is not likely to be a meaningful category. However, grouping all items that are coins or grouping all items found in a box labeled "Grandma" may be.
  • Once students have a category for their observations, have them create a hierarchy of categories. Are some categories more important? Are some redundant (can the information they reveal be shown using other existing classifications)? Are some not as useful as they first thought? See how few categories they can use, but still identify each item uniquely (so that no item has the same categories as any other item). This scientific classification may remind students of how living organisms are classified.


Standards From MCREL Standards

Standard 2.11: Understands the basis of scientific knowledge

  • Knows that scientific explanations must meet certain criteria to be considered valid (e.g., they must be consistent with experimental and observational evidence about nature, make accurate predictions about systems being studied, be logical, respect the rules of evidence, be open to criticism, report methods and procedures, make a commitment to making knowledge public).


Standard 21.1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument

  • Understands that when people try to prove a point, they may at times select only the information that supports it and ignore the information that contradicts it.
  • Understands that to be convincing, an argument must have both true statements and valid connections among them.
  • Evaluates the overall effectiveness of complex arguments.


Standard 21.6: Applies decision-making techniques

  • Secures factual information needed to evaluate alternatives.
  • Predicts the consequences of selecting each alternative.
  • Makes decisions based on the data obtained and the criteria identified.


Standard 22: Working With Others

  • Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
  • Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.