All in the (Insect) Family


All in the (Insect) Family is a lesson plan targeted to third or fourth grade students. It primarily focuses on science, although language arts and art are incorporated as secondary interdisciplinary ties. The lesson plan will enable students to explore the diversity of insects that live around them, and to discover that insects are grouped and categorized according to similarities and differences. The lesson plan encompasses several activities, including an insect hunt, sorting/grouping insects , classifying insects, and creating insect family portraits. These may be completed over the course of several days or spread throughout a week as an insect unit.

Science process skills used:
observation, analysis, description, comparison/contrast, and sorting/categorizing
Concepts learned:
Diversity, classification, insect relationships, (and ecosystem components, through the extension activities)


TEKS addressed: Science, 3rd grade
Process Skills:

1A:Demonstrate safe practices during field and laboratory investigations.
2B:Collect information: observe and measure.
4A:Collect and analyze information using tools such as calculators, microscopes, cameras, safety goggles, sound recorders, clocks, computers, thermometers, hand lenses, meter sticks, rulers, balances, magnets, compasses
Systems (Content Knowledge):
8B:Observe and identify organisms with similar needs that compete for resources.
10B:Identify inherited traits in animals.

Collecting Materials: Hand lenses (or Discovery Scopes if available), tweezers, trowel, ruler, collection jars, clipboard & data sheets, pencil, & tote bag (to hold items and serve as a Discovery Bag)
Classroom Materials: Paper plates for sorting insects, insect flash cards, age appropriate field guides, insect family chart (use A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects as a guide to orders & families), classroom computer (if availabl e)
Materials to make: Data sheet form to be used for recording observations during collection; insect flash cards
Number of items needed: Students will work in groups of 4-5, so approximately 5 Discovery Bags will be needed, depending on class size.
Note. Other items can be easily added or substituted in the Discovery Bags

Getting Ready (Background Information)
Students will already be learning about insects. This lesson plan will give students an opportunity to practice skills learned previously such as determining whether or not an organism is an insect. It builds on this basic classification skill by encouraging students to explore insects further, and to learn five to seven common insect orders into which they can be classified.

Motivate! (Engage)
Show students a family portrait. Discuss the concepts of family units and relatives, with which students will have personal knowledge. Introduce the concept that people aren't the only organisms which have families. Insects, which the class has been studying, also have families. (In fact, all animals have families.) Introduce the insect hunt activity.

Activity (Explore)
Insect Hunt (app. 1 hr.)
Show students a Discovery Bag, and discuss the items in it. Discuss with students the concept that they are scientists working to explore a habitat—the schoolyard. For this activity, the schoolyard is not a playground—it is a habitat which they are exploring to determine the insect organisms living there. Explain to students that scientists work in teams of specialists. For this activity, students will be divided into teams of scientists. Each will be responsible for using one of the tools in the Discovery Bag; it will be their 'specialty'. Periodically, groups can rotate specialties so that all students have an opportunity to use each instrument. Conduct insect hunt.

After insect hunt, label specimens according to the group that they belong to, and place them in the freezer overnight.

Insect Sorting (app. 1 hr.)
The day after the insect hunt, take insects out of the freezer and ask student groups to work together to sort the insects that they found according to their similarities & differences. Paper plates can be used easily for this purpose, with a separate group on each plate. Ask students to list and describe the groups that they devised in their journals.

Group discussion: What groups of insects did each student group find? What were the similarities and differences between groups of insects?

Safety Tips

Concept Discovery (Explanation) (app. 1 hr.)
Show students a basic classification chart showing how insects fit into the world of animals. Tell students that similar insects are grouped into families, and that similar families are grouped into larger units called orders. Using the classification chart and insect flash cards, ask each group to re-evaluate their insects to see what orders they include. How were their groupings like the insect order chart? How were they different?

Going Further: Elaboration
Note: I have purposefully included elaboration activities which are interdisciplinary in nature so that they can double as both Elaboration and as Connections.

Have each group present their reports and Insect Family Portraits to the class as a review and a grand finale to the insect hunt. Display student groups' work on the wall in the classroom or in the hall. If possible, create a student display of the insect unit for the rest of the school to see, or have students present their findings to another class.

Review concept of insect families using the insect classification chart. Which orders were most commonly found by the class? Why might this be so? (In a field, students will probably find many grasshoppers, but not many dragonflies. This is because grasshoppers feed on grass, so are naturally found in a field of grass; dragonflies live near water and feed off of insects that live in or near water, so would not be found in large numbers in a dry field.)

Assessment: Evaluation
These activities are participatory in nature and involve the teacher as a facilitator, rather than an instructor, giving the teacher opportunity to observe students during the activities. The rubric below can be used by the teacher to determine student scores. This will eliminate some of the subjectivity of attaching grades to hands-on activities which are not standard "question answer/scored" activities. A maximum score of 30 is possible, and would be considered mastery of concepts involved. Two evaluation scores are based on personal skills areas—participation and teamwork. T he four other score areas are based on mastery level of subject content.

Description of skill or task
(Can be graded by group or by student)
Participated in actvity. (On task)     
Functioned well as member of team. (Teamwork)     
Comprehends concept of group of organisms
being related.
Able to distinguish between different orders of insects
and group insects accordingly.
Able to distinguish between families within an order of insects.      

Connections: Integration with other content areas
Note: I have purposefully included elaboration activities which are interdisciplinary in nature so that they can double as both Elaboration and as Connections. Thus, the elaboration activities are repeated here.

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