Demonstrate the Twenty Questions game format with your students; say you are thinking of an animal.
Students will at first ask in their yes-no questions if it is a gorilla, a squirrel, etc., any animal that pops
into their head. Explain that they are going to learn a more efficient way of asking questions so that one
can guess the answer in less than twenty guesses.
Using the chart, point out that one can eliminate lots of animal types by asking if the animal belongs to a
certain phylum or class. Each group of students should use what classifications and terminology is
understandable to them at their level.
Guide them in first asking question about certain classifications near the top of the chart (the hierarchy
of classification); e.g., "Is it a vertebrate?" If the answer is yes, then all invertebrates are eliminated. The
next question might be, "Is it a mammal?"; then all birds, reptiles and amphibians are removed. Family
may be the last category in some lower grades: "Is it a squirrel (or rabbit)?" Students will have to be
taught about Orders, too.
In higher grades, the concepts of genus and species are better understood. An example of the dog could
be used to to introduce here. Other questions that relate to habitat or appearance also help eliminate
suspects: "Does it eat plants(meat, everything)?"; "Is its home underground (up a tree)?"; "Does it have
fur (hair)?"; and closing in on a species, "Is it brown (spotted, striped)?"
Two teams can be formed, or students can be picked individually to stump the class and all participate,
whichever works best with your students.
If younger students have a picture of their animals, they may help them to focus and be better able to
answer the others' questions.
As each questioner asks his/her question, the teacher will monitor it, to stop questions like "Is it a
mouse?" before its being a mammal or rodent is established. Students will soon be able to monitor, too.
Keep the game moving; keep track of how many questions were asked, and step in with suggestions if
children get stuck. Write on the board the score of each animal: how many questions it took to guess--
the class can compete with itself (or teams can compete).
Each student has the name of an animal pinned to his/her back. He/she asks other students the questions
above, "Am I a vertebrate?" or "Do I live on the prairie?" They must answer to the best of their ability
to help the subject guess the animal. Monitoring is necessary because friends like to give frieinds the
: The teacher should be able to tell by the questions asked and the ability to answer if the
students need more work with the chart or names of divisions. When students can play the game without
hesitations and with animals other than prairie, they have the concept down.