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This lesson teaches students how to use dichotomous keys. Students are first introduced to dichotomous keys in the simplest way possible. They pretend to be aliens, who must use a dichotomous key to name four simple shapes. Next they must use a dichotomous key to name six celebrities. Then they do an interactive online flash activity in which they use a dichotomous key to name bugs. Finally, they use a dichotomous key to name aliens. This activity is one that is found all over the internet. The only change I made is that I differentiated the aliens by letters instead of numbers. I made this alteration because I found that students were sometimes confused about whether they were supposed to start at step 1 (correct) or at the step of the alien’s number (at step 4 for alien 4, for example.) As an extension activity, I challenge students to write their own dichotomous keys for a number of sharks.
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