Inspiration from the Dollar Store: A new way to teach Dichotomous Keys and Taxonomy

One of my least favorite parts of biology to teach is taxonomy.  I admit it.  I’m a logic and problem-solving girl.  I like genetics.  Biochem.  But taxonomy?  Ugh.  I understand it’s important to organize information about the organisms that exist on Earth.  But I hate teaching it because I feel like it is such a chore to list different Domains, Kingdoms, Phylums, Classes, Orders, Families, Genus(es?) and Species.  I feel it is hard to connect kids to this type of material.  I wanted to find some way to make it fun and logical.
So where did I go?
I went to the dollar store!  It is a great place to look for inspiration because if I magically come up with a new idea right then and there in the store, I can buy what I need for the lesson with the change in my pocket.  I have found many other great things at the dollar store, even lab goggles when I worked in a school with no supplies.
At this particular dollar store trip, I happened upon bags of really cheap plastic animals and the light bulb went off in my head!  That’s it!  The perfect way to have students learn about dichotomous keys… by creating their own!  I bought a few packs, brought them home, separated them into baggies for groups of 3 students, and typed up a guide.

(Recently, these animals have been harder to find at dollar stores but I have found them at Party City as well!)

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New Teacher Tip #5: Get Organized from the Start!

New Teacher Tip #6: Call Parents with Good News!