Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species! How does one even start to explain to students how scientists classify living things and why scientists would even want to? That was my challenge this week, so I decided to start with the phrase ”King Philip Came Over For Great Spaghetti” written across the white board. This stirred up curiosity. I followed the question by asking my students if any of them were collectors and what it was they collected: stamps, coins, shells, etc.

Groups of labeled buttons help students learn about scientific classification.

I then pulled out my button collection (that has at least 800 different buttons) and told them there was one really neat one that I wanted to show them. As I proceeded to dig through the bag in search of the button, they realized how difficult it was to find it.

Students Sort Buttons to Learn About Scientific Classification

To help, I divided them into teams and asked them to sort a portion of the buttons that I put on their tables, making sure to label each grouping. They went right at it! After 20 minutes of sorting, we viewed each group’s collection and talked about how they sorted their buttons.

We then listed on the board the reasons one might sort a collection, and I shared why scientists choose to sort using scientific names. At this point I also explained that using the phrase about King Philip would help them remember the order of grouping that scientists use for classifying all living things: Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species.