Plant Classification Activities & Games

Instructor: Nora Jarvis

Nora has a Master's degree in teaching, and has taught a variety of elementary grades.

As your students learn about plant classification, it can be extremely helpful to have the opportunity to look at live plants. Use the following activities and games to teach your students about plant classification.

What is Plant Classification?

Think about how many plants there are in the world. How do scientists organize all these different plants? They do this through a complex system of classification that is based on defining features of plants like seeds and leaves. First, you'd identify the class of the plant, then subclass, then order, then suborder, then order, then family, and continue on down the line. This is a way to organize the vast amount of plants that exist in our world.

As you work with your students, you should decide how far down the line you'd like to classify the plants. If you have younger students, it will be more appropriate to stop at family. For older students, you might continue classifying until the category of subspecies or variety. These are decisions you should make based on your students.

The following activities and games will help your students learn more about plant classification and give them a chance to examine and classify their own plants.

Plant Features

Materials:

  • Collection of plants, either photos or live plants
  • Magnifying glasses

Instructions:

  • Divide students into small groups and pass out a few plants to each group, along with two trays per group.
  • Explain to your students that there are several different ways to classify plants, and they are going to examine some of the ways that scientists differentiate between plants.
  • First, have your students examine the plants and divide them based on whether they have seeds or spores.
  • Next, have your students examine the plants and divide them based on whether they are vascular or nonvascular. For this, your students will need to use their magnifying glasses to determine if the plants have phloems or xylems.
  • Last, have your students examine the plants and divide them based on whether they are monocots or dicots. They will need to determine if the plant has one vein or two.

Nearby Plant Exploration

Materials:

  • Cameras

Instructions:

  • Take your students out of the school to examine plants. Depending on your school, you might have students examine plants on the school grounds or taking a walk through the neighborhood.
  • As a class, have your students take photographs of the different plants they see.
  • Back at school, divide your students into small groups. Print out photos of the plants and give a set to each group of students.
  • In their groups, students should look over the photos and discuss the ways in which the plants are different from each other.
  • Ask your students to create their own categories to sort the plants. As students work, circulate and ask them how they are making their decisions about what aspects of each plant are important to note.
  • After students have made their own categories, record their different categories on the board. Place a star next to any categories that are used by scientists in plant classification. For instance, you might place a star next to ''Number of leaves'' but not ''Big leaf or small leaf.'' Explain to students that there are many different ways to differentiate plants, but the starred ones are the ones that scientists use.

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