This activity acquaints students with vocabulary and concepts and prompts them to record their observations and formulate questions.

What you need

  • A book about fish, such as What’s It Like To Be A Fish?
  • A poster-size sheet of paper (a Post-it™ Easel Pad sheet works well)
  • An observation worksheet for each student with room to draw and describe a fish
  • Discussion questions
  • Marker
  • Tape
  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils (optional)

What to do

  1. Mark the pad sheet into three columns or use three different sheets for a KWL chart.
    KWL chart
  2. Ask students to sit on the floor around you. Read or paraphrase the book or selected
    sections. Keep younger students engaged by relating breathing, movement and other aspects of the fish to the students’ own bodies.
  3. Ask the students to help you fill in the first column of the chart and to tell what they know about fish. Wait for most, if not all, hands to be raised before calling on a student to speak.
  4. Write responses in the first column, emphasizing vocabulary words that you would
    like to reinforce.
  5. Now ask the students to help you fill in the second column. Ask them to tell the class what they want to know or learn about fish. Younger students may have difficulty formulating questions. It may help to give them a model for starting their queries such as “I wonder…”;“Why do fish…?”;”How do fish…?”; “Whatdo fish…?” Ask them to think about thesequestions and ask them to write down anyother questions they think of later.
  6. Upon entering the Aquarium or prior to looking at a classroom tank, hand out the student observation worksheets and pencils. If you are on a field trip at the Aquarium, it is ideal if you can divide the students among the chaperones and have each group go to a different exhibit. (See the Aquarium map to select observation sites.)
  7. Ask students the discussion questions to elicit student observing, writing, drawing and questioning.
  8. After observing fish at the Aquarium or in the classroom, hold a discussion about what the students observed or wrote and drew on their sheets.
  9. You may want to have students research their fish and complete the last column in small groups based on their observations and research and have them report to the rest of the class.

Optional activities

  • Compare two or three types of fish using a Venn diagram.

Comparative venn diagram example for two species of fish

  • Have students research the answers to the questions in column two on the chart.
  • Have students write a story about their fish or imagine what happens in the exhibit tank at night when visitors and staff go home.

Discussion questions

  • Which fish did you observe?
  • What did your fish look like?
  • What did it do?
  • Why do you think it was doing those things?
  • Where does it live?
  • How does it interact with its environment?
  • How does it interact with other fish that are like it?
  • How does it interact with other types of fish or animals in the same tank?
  • Were there other animals in the same tank?
  • What were they?
  • What does your fish need to live?

Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks

Life Science

  • PreK-2
    • Characteristics of Living Things
    • Living Things and their Environment
    • Organisms and their Environment
    • Characteristics of Plants and Animals
  • Grade 4-5
    • Adaptations of Living Things
  • Grade 6-8
    • Classification of Organisms
      Interactions of Living Things within an Ecosystem

English/Language Arts

  • PreK-8
    • Language Strand
    • Literature Strand
    • Composition Strand