Classification and Keys

Teach students how to classify Galapagos animals and plants into groups of similar organisms, using keys. This section explains how taxonomic keys can be used to classify living organisms.

Learning objectives:

  • To know that organisms can be classified according to their physical characteristics.
  • To understand how keys can be used by scientists to identify species.
  • To appreciate that taxonomic classification is an important tool for scientists.

Student outcomes:

  • To give examples, illustrating how organisms can be differentiated and grouped.
  • To explain how keys can be used to classify organisms. Students should discuss the different levels of the taxonomic chain.
  • To discuss the importance of taxonomic classification, with reference to scientific work.


Hand out a pack of species photo cards to pairs or small groups of students. Ask them to sort the species into groups of organisms with similar characteristics. They should then write a short piece of text justifying the groups that they have created.


Introduce students to the Taxonomic Chain. This should involve an explanation of the various levels and should be illustrated with the killer whale example. Explain how keys are used to classify animals. Provide students with the using keys handout. They should select a photo card and use the key to identify what animal it is.


Present students with the island life handout. Ask them to sort their photo cards according to the taxonomic grouping on the handout. As a group, encourage students to discuss the importance of grouping organisms.


To conclude the ‘Wildlife of Galapagos’ section, ask students to complete the online quiz for either an extension or a homework task.  Or find out about the work of Carl Linnaeus and write a short biography of his life and role as a pioneer in science.


Classification and Keys

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