Vertebrates and Invertebrates

Learning about animals is always fun. Students will enjoy Vertebrates and Invertebrates as they discover the unique traits of so many animals. Throughout the lesson, they will learn how to classify animals into these two categories. They will see just how easy it is. They simply need to see whether the animal has a backbone or not.

Students will also learn to analyze animals’ environments. Using the clues of an animal’s surroundings, they can more easily classify it correctly. The lesson details several other facts about animals as well. Other ideas for teaching the lesson are provided in the “Options for lesson” section.


Vertebrates and Invertebrates is an excellent lesson for teaching students how to classify animals. Specifically, they will learn that vertebrates are animals with a backbone. Invertebrates are animals without a backbone. They will likewise differentiate between the environments of the two classes. Knowing the traits of these environments will help them discern if an animal has a backbone.

In addition to classifying animals into these two categories, students will learn other facts about them too. For instance, they will discover how many types of animal and types of insects there are. They will also learn how animals have adapted to their environments over long periods of time. By the end, they will distinguish vertebrates from invertebrates with ease.

What Vertebrates and Invertebrates includes

The lesson introduces the concept of how scientists organize things in different ways to keep track of them. They use classification to organize animals, such as those with backbones and those without. The lesson provides many examples of the types of animals that fall into these groups.

There are many facts scattered throughout the lesson. Students will enjoy learning so many different things about animals and insects. For instance, some scientists think they have only discovered 14% of total animal species. And even within a species, animals can be divided even more specifically.


For the activity, students will reflect on what they learned to answer the questions. Each question is related to the article they read during the lesson. There is a total of eight questions to answer.


For the practice worksheet, students will determine whether animals are vertebrates or invertebrates. The first part presents a list of 24 different species. They will mark either a “V” or an “I” next to the name. Next, there are three pictures beneath the chart. Students will have to guess the right class based on the clues in the pictures.

Finally, students will read a short story in which someone finds the bones of an animal. Students will look at the picture of the bones. They will then explain how to use a classification chart to find out what animal it is.


The homework focuses on insects and how they have exoskeletons versus endoskeletons. Students will research this topic and discuss which skeleton they think is better. They will have to compare vertebrates to invertebrates. They will also provide pictures of both classes in the space provided.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade



State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.