A CIESE Collaborative Project

Classifying Objects

In this activity students will develop the skills of observation and classification. It also provides for reinforcement of the concepts of similarities and differences.

Students will be able to:

  • Use their senses to identify properties of objects such as color, size, shape, etc..
  • Classify a set of objects by their similarities and differences
  • Understand that scientists classify things to make them easier to study


  • Large paper bag
  • 5 oranges and 5 apples (these can be eaten later)
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Markers or pens
  • Collecting bags or trays
  • Pocket magnifiers
  • 3x5 Cards
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Old magazines with pictures of plants and animals

Time: Two class periods

Teacher Preparation

  • Place stickers or small marks on a 2 or 3 of the oranges and apples (you can use the supermarket stickers that are often found on fruit).
  • Place the oranges and apples into the large paper bag and close it up.

Activity #1: Introduction to Classification
For this activity, do the following: 

  1. Assemble the students as a class and have them sit in a circle.
  2. Take out a large piece of paper and draw a line down the middle.
  3. Take out your bag with the apples and oranges in it but keep the bag closed.
  4. Tell the students that they are going to try and separate the objects in the bag so that they have two piles or groups. The objects in each pile should be similar to each other. For younger students you may need to help them understand the concept of similar and different.
  5. Spill out the contents of the bag into the middle of the circle. Let the students pass around the objects and tell them to observe them closely as they come around the circle.
  6. Then ask them to think about how they could group the objects into two piles. They will most likely come up with having one group of oranges and one of apples. If they do, go ahead and make the two piles, one on each side of the line on the paper.
  7. Next ask them how else you might group the objects beside by the type of fruit. Have them discuss the question with a neighbor or pair them up to discuss. Then have a class discussion to share everyone's ideas. For those that come up with viable classifications, have them create the appropriate groups on the paper. One possible alternative grouping would be based on the fruit that had stickers and the ones that did not.

Activity #2: Classroom Classification
For this activity, do the following:

  1. Assemble the students and give each one of them a collection bag.
  2. Instruct them to go around the classroom and collect small objects which can fit in the bag. They should collect between 10 and 15 objects. Do not tell them what they will do with the objects yet. Give them about 15 or 20 minutes to collect the materials.
  3. You may want to set some ground rules for the collection process, such as what areas or objects are off limits. If needed, you may want to place some object out in the room for them to collect.
  4. Have them return to their desks or work areas and have them take out the large piece of paper. Have them draw a line down the middle of the papers and explain to them that they will need to group the objects they collected into two piles, one on each side of the line. Just like with the apples and oranges, they should group them into two piles of similar objects. Give them about 10 minutes to complete this task.
  5. Next, have the students switch places with each other. Each student will now need to figure how the other student classified their objects. Give them about 10 minutes to figure this out and then go around the room and ask each student to report on how the objects were classified. The student who completed the original classification can indicate if the students conclusions were correct.
  6. OPTIONAL: If time permits you can ask the students to remain working on the other person's objects. This time they will need to classify them but using different characteristics. For example, if the first time the objects were classified by size they could be classified by color this time.

Activity #3: Animals, Plants and Non-living Objects
For this activity, do the following: 

  1. NOTE: If time does not permit it, you can create the cards rather then having the students do it. Also, if you have very young students who are not familiar with the differences between plants, animals and non-living objects you may wish to create the cards yourself.
  2. Pass out between 10 and 15 3x5 cards to each student and distribute the magazines so that each student as at least one.
  3. Have students cut out pictures from the magazines and glue them onto the 3x5 cards. They should select plants, animals and non-living objects to place on their cards.
  4. Once the students have finished creating their cards collect them all and mix them up in a big bag.
  5. Go around the room and let each student select the same number of cards that they originally placed in the bag. Have them lay the cards out on their desks in a random order.
  6. Using a large wall chart or blackboard, have a class discussion about the differences between plants, animals and non-living objects (e.g. rocks). On the chart make three columns, labeled "plants", "animals", and "non-living objects". Ask students to come up with characteristics of each type of object that are unique to that object. Record each valid characteristic on the wall chart.
  7. Once you have completed the discussion, have students sort the cards into three piles, one for plants, one for animals and one of non-living objects. Once this is completed students can change seats with a partner and review their work.