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Behavioral and Structural Adaptations of Animals

Lesson Plan

Behavioral and Structural Adaptations of Animals


In this lesson, students learn to differentiate between the structural and behavioral adaptations of animals. They learn about the importance such adaptations play in the role of the animal’s survival in specific climates or environments. Students will:

  • identify adaptations that help plants and animals survive in various climates and environments.

  • gain understanding of the different functions of adaptations.

Essential Questions

  • How does the variation among individuals affect their survival?

  • How do the structures and functions of living things allow them to meet their needs?


  • Behavioral Adaptation: Actions animals take to survive in their environments. Examples are hibernation, migration, and instincts. Example: Birds fly south in the winter because they can find more food.

  • Structural Adaptation: A characteristic in a plant or in an animal’s body that helps it to survive in its environment. Examples are protective coloration (camouflage) and the ability to retain water.


120 minutes/3 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

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Formative Assessment

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    • Monitor the cooperation of each student in small-group discussions.

    • Observe and collect station activities to assess general knowledge of adaptation. Observe students during Station 1, 2, and 3 activities.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Scaffolding, Explicit Instruction

    The lesson involves learning about how color can be used as protection for survival. Explain that today’s lesson will involve learning about how color helps animals protect themselves through adaptation and mimicry.


    Students become hooked into the lesson as they participate in the Protective Coloring Activity.


    To provide real-world experiences, show students a video on the Web site This video helps students gain a meaningful understanding, using visual cues that help all learners bring concepts into reality.


    Students work in their groups to reflect, revisit, and revise concepts learned through the activity and video. You can use this opportunity to informally assess student learning.


    Allow students time to add successful ideas listed on the board or by their group. It is important to provide feedback on students’ lists as this gives them another opportunity to self-evaluate and guide their learning.


    Instruction can be differentiated by providing students with teacher-generated questions. Another tailored instructional tool is to provide students with lower-level literature, hands-on activities, and Web sites to gain understanding of the same instructional objectives.


    Provide opportunities for students to move from guided activities to independent application through note-taking, correspondence, introduction, and closing activities.

Instructional Procedures

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    Day 1

    Advance Preparation: Before students arrive, count and record how many paperclips you have of each color. Write on the board the number of each color of paperclips. Go outside to a grassy area and hide the paperclips. Make some easier to find than others.

    Give students copies of the Camouflage It Activity (S-4-2-2_Camouflage It Activity.docx). Have students work in small groups to do the activity. Have the groups exchange the colored ads with hidden butterflies and try to find them.

    When the lesson begins, explain to students that you will be taking them outside and they will need to find as many of the paperclips as they can in 10 seconds. Proceed with the activity, being sure to allow only 10 seconds for students to search. When time is up, tell students to stop looking, and take them back to the classroom with the paperclips they collected.

    Have students count how many paperclips they have of each color. Add up how many paperclips each student found to get a class total. Next to the original list on the board, record the number of each color of paperclips that were found. Discuss the results with students. Ask students to consider which paperclips were the easiest to find and get their opinion as to why. (Answers will vary, but students will probably report that it was easier to find the reds, blues, and yellows.) Discuss with students which paperclips were the most difficult to find and why. (Students will likely report that the green paperclips were the most difficult to find. After discussing the data, introduce the concept of protective coloring to students and explain why it helps those animals that use it to survive.


    Day 2

    Have students write a list of the following environments in their notes: wetland, tundra, desert, prairie, ocean, and forest. Use a projector to show them the Animal Adaptations PowerPoint presentation. Each time they see an animal that is adapted to one of these environments, have them write the animal’s name next to that environment. After the presentation, hold a class discussion on the types of adaptations animals need to survive in each of the environments. Note: If needed, review the characteristics of the environments before the PowerPoint presentation.

    Have students complete the activities at Students will be able to “drag and drop” animals that use protective coloring into different surroundings to see if they can find them. Students will also be given a chance to color butterflies and moths to blend into their surroundings.

    Define “behavioral adaptation” and “structural adaptation.” Have students create a t-chart and place the following adaptations into the columns: mimicry, camouflage, hibernation, and migration. Note: Mimicry can be considered a structural or behavioral adaptation. Camouflage is structural. Hibernation and migration are behavioral. Ask students to think of at least one more example and write it under each column.

    Day 3

    Work Station Activities

    Students have the opportunity to move to two of the three stations set up in the classroom. Students have the choice of completing the activity at Station 1 or Station 2. All students have to complete the activity at Station 3.

    Station 1 Activity: Design Your Own Animal

    Have available for students copies of the Design Your Own Animal worksheet (S-4-2-2_ Design Your Own Animal.doc). In this activity, students design their own animal using one or more of the concepts learned:

    • camouflage

    • mimicry

    • retain water

    To complete the assignment, students need to draw a picture of the animal, describe what adaptations help the animal to survive, include what the animal eats, and list at least two of its predators. Students also need to print a picture, from the Internet, of the country where their animal lives and explain why that location is a suitable habitat for their animal based on its adaptations. Encourage students to use the entire space to draw their animal.

    Station 2 Activity: Label the Adaptations

    Students use old magazines to cut out their favorite animal or print a picture from the Internet. Have students glue their “animal cut out” onto a piece of construction paper. Students then label the different body parts and describe why each of those adaptations is important to the animal surviving in its environment. (For example: A panda bear has fur that keeps it warm in cold weather.)

    Station 3 Activity: Technology

    Have available copies of the Mimicry Worksheet (S-4-2-2_ Mimicry Worksheet.doc). Allow four to five students at a time to view the Web site to learn about animals that use mimicry. Allow time for each student to review the information, and then return to his/her desk to complete the worksheet.

    Students can also have the opportunity to be the “predator.” Students can look through “Where’s Waldo?” books to see if they can find Waldo camouflaged in the pictures. Students will be able to see how difficult it is for a predator to find prey, if it has protective covering as an adaptation.


    • For students performing above and beyond the standards, have them create a comparison chart on unique animal adaptations and the geological location their found in. Students research various parts of the world, ranging from equatorial to polar regions. They create a large poster of the Earth, labeled with the various structural adaptations they found.

    • For students requiring extra practice with the standards, if your school has an account with, have students view the video titled “Camouflage” under Science found at

    • A book report project on a nonfiction book about animal adaptations can be given both to students requiring extra practice with the standards as well as to students performing beyond the standards. Use the Fancy Folder Report activity sheet (S-4-2-2_Fancy Folder Report and Rubric.doc).

Related Instructional Videos

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DRAFT 11/16/2010
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