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Lesson Plan

Classification: Dichotomous Key by ECSDM


Biology/Living Environment

Grade Levels

Commencement, 9th Grade, 10th Grade


This lesson is a student-centered, interactive way to teach dichotomous keys.


  • To teach students about the naming system used in biology and its basis by utilizing various approaches as to appeal to multiple intelligences.
  • To teach how organisms and species similarities are used to classify them, and how their evolutionary changes are reflected in their classifications, per New York State Math Science Technology Standard 4.
  • Also, Benchmarks for Science Literacy 5 – The Living Environment, particularly Diversity of Life, will be utilized.

    Moreover, this lesson meets NSTA standards for science teaching:

    • B - Teachers of science guide and facilitate learning,
    • C - Teachers of science engage in ongoing assessment of their teaching and of student learning,
    • D - Teachers of science design and manage learning environments that provide students with the time, space, and resources needed for learning science.


    • By the end of the lesson, students will be able to explain the classification process and nomenclature used for classifying organisms.
    • At the close of the lesson, students will be able to use dichotomous keys to identify organisms with 90% accuracy.
    • Students will recognize the importance of a systematic means of classification.


    SMART Board with laptop, projector, and Internet access
    Handouts - Printed from regentsprep.org
    Lecture notes as appropriate


    • Direct instruction will dominate this section of the lesson.
    • Students will be given a “Do Now” consisting of an exercise to review classification, at the teacher's discretion, which may include key vocabulary.
    • After a few minutes, it will be reviewed with the class to complete stimulation of schema.
    • Then, students will be asked questions based upon the previous class and prior night’s homework, which dealt with an introduction to classification. The focus will be on
      • Binomial nomenclature
        • Carolus Linnaeus
        • How to write names of organisms scientifically
      • Characteristics of classification/relatedness of species


    • Students will be asked to come up with a way to organize information regarding relatedness of species.
    • We will brainstorm as a class, utilizing an inquiry-style of learning.
    • The following notes will be put up on the SMART Board from regentsprep.org:

    Dichotomous Keys

    Let's take a look at some tips!

    Then, students will receive a handout of a dichotomous key printed from the above website. We will discuss this as a class.

    Guided Practice

    • Cooperative learning will dominate this portion of the lesson.
    • After students have become efficient using the dichotomous key, eight students will be asked to volunteer for an unknown task.
    • Working in pairs, students will create a dichotomous key to tell these students apart, utilizing higher levels of thinking, as delineated by Bloom’s taxonomy.
    • Appropriateness will be stressed, and examples given.
    • Teacher will scaffold learning and spend more time with those needing additional support.

    Supplementary Practices

    • Students will be accommodated according to their diverse needs. This includes, but is not limited to, outlines and further information on classification and assistance with reading.
    • Students have assigned seats based upon specific learning needs to accommodate different styles of learning.


    • Students will share their dichotomous keys.
    • These skills will be built upon more at a later time, most likely when a detailed study of the diverse living things in our environment takes place.


    • The student-generated summaries/explanation of the dichotomous keys will be monitored for accuracy, with corrections made by the teacher as needed.
    • The student-created dichotomous keys will be collected and evaluated for correctness and creativity.
    • The students will be tested on dichotomous keys at a later time on their chapter test.


    • The level of student achievement in completion of student-generated dichotomous keys and homework will correlate with success of exercise.
    • Teacher will answer the following questions:
      • Did the students find this interesting?
      • Did this show them a real-life way for using classifications that will carry over to other aspects of life?

    SMART Board

    This instructional content was intended for use with a SMART Board. To download free SMART Notebook software from the SMART Technologies website, please click here.


    Jeanine Branham, Enlarged City School District of Middletown

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