Fish Fun

Contributor: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Type Category: Instructional Materials

Types: Lesson/Lesson Plan

Note: This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.


Intended Audience

Educational Level
Upper Elementary
Grade 5
Grade 4
Grade 3


Access Restrictions
Free access - The right to view and/or download material without financial, registration, or excessive advertising barriers.

Performance Expectation

4-LS1-1  Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.

Clarification Statement:

Examples of structures could include thorns, stems, roots, colored petals, heart, stomach, lung, brain, and skin.

Assessment Boundary:

Assessment is limited to macroscopic structures within plant and animal systems.

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation

This activity seems to have been written prior to the release of the NGSS so it does not refer explicitly to this Performance Expectation, but students are engaged in making sense of the relationship between structure and function as they test the effectiveness of three fish mouth types with three types of food sources. Photos are provided to engage students in the consideration of mouth structures, but more effective pictures for this purpose and additional background information can be found at:

Science and Engineering Practice

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice

Students investigate to determine the best of three model mouth types for each given food source (parasites and algae, small fish, large fish). Groups test each mouth model in a water-filled basin at each of three stations to determine which is best suited to the different food sources and rate their effectiveness on a 1-3 scale. To more fully engage in this practice, the student worksheet provided could be revised to include a time constraint and the collection of quantitative data to offer further support for their arguments.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

The relationship between the effectiveness of fish feeding ability and survival success within an ecosystem is an important concept here. Students might create marine food webs to go along with their written stories to make this relationship more explicit and to provide an opportunity to emphasize the science component of the creative writing rubric.

Disciplinary Core Idea

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea

These activities are focused primarily on fish mouth structure and diet, although students do apply their learning to questions about such as how this affects where they live, and their place in the food chain. When students create stories in the Elaborate and Evaluate phases, they could further address this performance expectation if they also completed a table that included additional information on the fish, such as body and fin types, or behaviors concerning predator/prey relationships and ecological niches.

Crosscutting Concept

This resource was not designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, but can be used to build towards it using the suggestions provided below.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept

Language Arts-oriented activities in the Elaborate and Evaluate phase of the lesson sequence address behaviors and interactions between fish and other organisms. The teacher might emphasize the roles of different fish from an ecosystem perspective, providing models of food webs on the board and having students create them in their notebooks to support the systems concept.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students observe pictures of fish mouth types and make predictions about the relationship between their structures and their food sources, and they then investigate using models to find support for their predictions. Prior to the investigation, students might also view videos of the modeled fish feeding to provide a more engaging phenomenon. To extend the activity, students could research structures of other animals (bird beaks or feet, mammal limbs) and predict the functions they are best suited to, or they could design other mouth structure models to meet particular needs.
  • Instructional Supports: Direct relevance to most students’ lives is difficult using tropical marine fish, but the extension suggested above could be focused on animals visible in local habitats. Student Sheet #3 has much background information and explanation in text form, but could be supported by video for struggling readers or English language learners. Links are provided to images of additional fish or other marine organisms to use to predict feeding behaviors from mouth structure, but they are not of consistently high quality. This important aspect of the activity could be supplemented with other images found by an online image search for fish mouths.
  • Monitoring Student Progress: Student worksheets provide opportunities for formative assessment of student observations, analysis of models and questions about the relationship between structure and function. Summative assessment is strongly Language Arts oriented. Answer keys and a final rubric are provided. Student generation of food web models based on the stories they create in the Elaborate and Evaluate phases would provide assessment opportunities for the crosscutting concept.
  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: This resource does not include a technologically interactive component.