Teaching Animal Structures and Functions – Fourth Grade

How can you teach animal structures and functions in fourth grade? To make it more manageable, focus on one class, or group. Since birds have so many adaptations, they make a great choice.

Ms. Sneed Plans for Teaching Animal Structures in Fourth Grade

Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, clicked away on her laptop. Recently, her class explored plants. Now they would dive into animal structures.

“Ready to plan the next portion of our life science unit?” she asked her teaching partner.

“Yep,” replied Mr. Frank. “Bring it on. If I remember correctly, last year our students used a jigsaw project to learn about animal adaptations.”

“You read my mind.” Ms. Sneed turned her laptop so Mr. Frank could see.

Exploring Animal Structures

“Each child receives two research sheets. Then they head online to Project Beak, which was created by the Nebraska Bird Partnership. What a great resource!

“On the first page, they answer some questions about one body part. Here, for example, you see research sheets for feathers and beaks. Let’s look at the other body parts offered.”

Quickly, Ms. Sneed opened Project Beak. Then she pointed to the animal structures in the sidebar and read them aloud:

  • Feathers
  • Wings
  • Beaks
  • Feet
  • Skeletal system
  • Internal organs
  • Senses
  • Communication
  • Reproduction
  • Migration
When teaching animal structures in fourth grade, ask kids to answer questions about specific adaptations.

Focusing on One Adaptation

“Next,” Ms. Sneed continued, “they create a poster. Each features a different adaptation of the body part they studied on their first page. Let’s look at a few examples”

As she hovered over Feet on the Project Beak website, five adaptations appeared:

  • Swimming
  • Catching prey
  • Perching
  • Wading
  • Climbing

“Essentially, each child becomes an expert on one adaptation of one animal structure,” said Mr. Frank.

Kids use Project Beak to research a specific animal structure and create a poster.

Fourth Grade Students Share Animal Structures and Adaptation

“Correct,” Ms. Sneed replied. “Afterward, we display the posters. Then everyone learns from them.”

After teaching animal structures in fourth grade, hang kids' work on a bulletin board for all to see.

“What if we were to extend this a bit?” asked Mr. Frank. “In my class, I think I’ll have each student make a one-minute presentation. You know, to hit the highlights of the animal structures and functions. Then we can follow up with our bird beak lab.”

“Great idea! More engagement, more integration with ELA, and more learning!” Suddenly, Ms. Sneed paused. “Remember that cool video that showed how birds fly? Without a doubt, our kids need to see it.”

“Yeah, and we can also share the link for that bird migration app.”

The two teachers grinned at each other. Once again, a great set of lessons!

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