EdPlace's Key Stage 2 home learning science lesson: Grouping Living Things

Looking for short lessons to keep your child engaged and learning? Our experienced team of teachers have created English, maths and science lessons for the home, so your child can learn no matter where they are. And, as all activities are self-marked, you really can encourage your child to be an independent learner.  

Get them started on the lesson below and then jump into our teacher-created activities to practice what they've learnt. We've recommended five to ensure they feel secure in their knowledge - 5-a-day helps keeps the learning loss at bay (or so we think!).

Are they keen to start practising straight away? Head to the bottom of the page to find the activities. 

Now...onto the lesson!


Key Stage 2 Statutory Requirements for Science
Year 5 and 6 students should be able to describe how living things are classified into broad groups according to common observable characteristics and based on similarities and differences, including micro-organisms, plants and animals; and give reasons for classifying plants and animals based on specific characteristics.


Grouping living things can be a thorny problem. Is that classified as a plant or a problem?  

What’s the point of sorting out living things? Well, humans love order – they love to understand how different living things are related and on what grounds. So why not draw on your child’s natural instinct for orderliness and help them unravel and correctly group plants and animals. Sorted!

We're confident that if you follow the step-by-step approach below your child will be able to:

1) Understand how to group living things
2) Apply this understanding to be able to group animals and plants

3) Explain their understanding back to you, if they've really grasped it!


Step 1: Why do we classify?

So, what’s all this about? Well, imagine the cutlery drawer in the kitchen. Imagine it was a complete jumble of knives, forks, cutting tools, serving tools – carving knife mixed with teaspoons, garlic crusher with tea strainer – what a mess! Wouldn’t you want to sort it out, bring order, so when you simply needed a spoon for your cereal, you could just put your hand on it, blindfolded?

Well, classification is just that – the goal is to sort living things into groups which have similar features. In your cutlery drawer, you might have a section for teaspoons and any spoon-shaped object of a fairly small size goes in there. By sorting out living things into groups, using their similarities and differences, we can understand better the life that shares our planet with us and, understand our place within that life better too.


Step 2: Identifying common characteristics

As you know, life on our planet can be split up into plants, animals and also tiny little micro-organisms, like bacteria. Plants are pretty much rooted in the ground and make food for themselves while animals generally move around and have to find things to eat.

So that’s three groups already.  What we’ve got to do now is look at how and why animals can be sorted out into smaller and smaller groups. It needs sorting out, really...


Step 3: Can you spot the difference?

So, let’s look at animals: how many differences can you spot between these two?





Loads...of course! However both sit in the huge category of animals, so we have to start somewhere. The first thing we may notice is quite an obvious characteristic: backbones. The ant on the left doesn’t have a backbone (making it an invertebrate) but the fish on the right does (making it a vertebrate). You’d have to look inside both animals to check, but it’s a major difference. First animal sorting, done! An invertebrate doesn't have a backbone. A vertebrate does have a backbone. Now, let’s look at invertebrates, the one in the picture – what sort of invertebrate is it? An ant. No, what sort of invertebrate? Oh, it’s an insect. But why, how do you know? What we need are some definite characteristics to sort them out. So what about these characteristics below?

Insects = animals with six legs

Spiders (Arachnids) = animals with eight legs

Snails & slugs (Molluscs) = animals with a single slimy foot

Worms = animals with a tubular body in segments

Keep it simple! Sure, there are lots of other characteristics too (and lots of other groups which are great to find out about), but for now, try to nail down one thing that’s easy to remember and stick with it.


Step 4: Have a go at sorting

Why not try to sort these invertebrates into their different groups – remember, there are four groups you can choose from – and use those simple differences (and any others you know already).

First off, let’s take a look at the following pictures:





Now, let’s use names without pictures – how will you get on?

5.  Butterfly

6.  Wasp

7.  Brandling worm

8.  Ramshorn snail

9.  Scorpion

Finally, what about some pictures of invertebrates you may not know – can you still sort them out using the characteristics you’ve learned?





Step 5 - Have a go yourself!

Now, you’ve had some practice, why not assign your child the following five activities in this order. 

All activities are created by teachers and automatically marked. Plus, with an EdPlace subscription, we can automatically progress your child at a level tailored to their needs. Sending you progress reports along the way so you can track and measure progress, together - brilliant! 


Activity 1 - Grouping Plants and Animals

Activity 2 - Differences and Similarities

Activity 3 - What Am I?

Activity 4 - Grouping Invertebrates 1

Activity 5 - Grouping Invertebrates 2



1) Mollusc group – Snails and Slugs

2) Arachnid group - Spiders

3) Insect (six legs)

4) Worms (lugworm with a segmented body)

5) Butterfly = insect

6) Wasp = insect

7) Brandling worm = worms (obviously!)

8) Ramshorn snail = Molluscs (snails & slugs)

9) Scorpion = Arachnids (spider group, with eight legs)

10) Mollusc – snail & slug group (it’s a sea snail called a topshell)

11) Insect (see its six legs? It’s a greenfly/aphid)

12) Arachnid – spider group (see its eight legs? It’s a sheep tick)


Keep going! Looking for more activities, different subjects or year groups?

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All English, maths and science from Year 1 - GCSE