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Grades 3-5


This lesson about fish is the first of a series of hands-on life science lessons that utilize the scientific method. Students will observe, hypothesize, and draw conclusions regarding fish, their anatomy, and how they function in their environment. In subsequent lessons students will compare their own anatomy to that of a fish, they will create a drawing to scale and enlarge it, and will apply their knowledge by creating their own fish in a realistic environment.
ITV Series
Oceans Alive Part 1 #14: What is a Fish?
(This series is also available in Spanish and is called Oceanos Vivos.)
It Figures Program #16: Using Bar Graphs

Learning Objectives
The students will:
· Identify the external structures of a fish.
· Demonstrate an understanding of the function of the external structures of a fish.


Pre-Viewing Activities
Survey student knowledge of what students know about fish. Include external parts, and how they move. It is suggested that you do this by drawing a large fish in the front of the room. Solicit the names of the parts of a fish to include:
fins mouth
tail teeth
head gills
eyes scales
Discuss the use of the various parts, for example: "What is the purpose of fins on a fish?" or " How does a fish use its gills?"
Part 2 - Distribute the "Fish Observation" worksheet. On the top section have students draw a fish and label as many parts of the fish that they can. When they their drawing, students should turn their papers over.

START the video Oceans Alive: What is a Fish? Show the entire video with sound. (4:30 minutes) Second viewing without sound. Use the segmented viewing and now sound to focus students' attention on the fish anatomy. You will use the freeze frame on your remote frequently. Segmented viewing: A two minute segment of the video will be shown. BEGIN the video after the second showing of the title approximately 1 minute into the video. The beginning image for this segment is an orange colored fish against a background of coral.
Prior to beginning the video, advise the students that the video will be shown without sound and that they are to only observe. Check for understanding of the concept of observation.
Have your remote control available for this activity. FREEZE frame after approximately 11 seconds, on second view of orange fish. Focus students on the still picture of the fish.
What features do you see?
How is the fish using its fins?
How many fins do you see and where are they located?
Resume tape. "Lets take a closer look" Freeze frame on the close up of fish head.
Questions - Can you see the gills? Direct a student to point out the gill on the video screen.
Why does a fish have gills?"
PAUSE when the tail or caudal fin is shown. Question - Are all fish tails like this one? All time for discussion.
RESUME tape. Discuss the next image making note and pausing where appropriate to discuss the different location of the dorsal fin and the shape of the fish. Also make note of the difference of the shape and location of the gill. STOP at the orange fish shown again against the coral, just before the scuba diver appears - approximate 2 minutes, 10 seconds
into the video.

Part 1 - Ask students to turn their papers back over and add to their drawings any additional body parts based on what they have seen in the video. During this time, distribute to each group a fish in a container with a bag over the container.
Part 2 - Advise students that they are to be very careful because the container contains a real fish. They are to observe the real fish. This time they need to think about how they can make this a successful observation and keep the fish comfortable. Solicit from students ideas such as
· not moving desks (or tables)
· not moving the container
· not fidgeting
· not putting anything into the water, etc.
Direct one student to remove the bag. Students will be given from 2 to 5 minutes to observe the fish (Time will depend on your class). After the observation time is completed, students will be asked to cover the fish with the bag. Students will be asked to draw a second fish on the bottom section of their "Fish Observation" Worksheet now that they have observed a real fish close up. Next, direct students to label the parts of the fish based on what they observe and remember.
Part 3 - Students will be asked to uncover the fish and fill in any details that they would like to add to their fish. Allow 3 - 5 minutes for this activity.


Have students assist with labeling the large fish that was originally drawn in the front of the room at the beginning of the lesson. Ask students the following questions:
What fins help the fish move?
Are fins paired or single?
How many total fins does the fish have?
How many fish fins are there in total counting all 8 fish that are being observed in our groups?
What do the different fins do for the fish? (balance, turn, steer, propel and lift)
What other body parts can you identify? (mouth, eyes, nostrils, gill flaps, teeth, etc)
How would you describe the fish covering and color?


Students will be evaluated on their completed drawings and their involvement in class discussions and group interaction.

View the entire video Oceans Alive/Oceanos Vivos Part 1 - #14 "What is a Fish?" During the video, direct students to write down the most interesting fact learned from viewing the video. After viewing the video, they will share these facts with other class members (reference "Tea Party" active video viewing method).
Science & Math:
Provide students with pictures of different kinds of fish or have students research and compile pictures of different kinds of fish and classify according to groups: Boney and Cartilage Fish groups. Graph results. Reference ITV It Figures Program #16 - Using Bar Graphs.
Language Arts & Visual Art:
Instruct students on techniques and structure of writing cinquain poetry. Brainstorm to create a word bank for vocabulary. Have students write poetry either individually, in partners, or in groups. Share poetry orally. Write poetry on art work with fish illustrations.


Life Sciences: Grades 3 - 6 :Characteristics of living things; structures of living things;
relationships and classification of living organisms.
Math: Problem Solving, Using Graphs


Salmon & Trout Education Program, California's Salmon and Steelhead Teachers Guide and Student Activities K6

Master Teachers: Jane Scott Jones and Sharron L. Walker

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