Written by Kelly A. Hogan, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
– To practice classifying animals based the animal phyla and subgroup characteristics
– To demonstrate a fun way to work with a large amount of classifying information
Activity Description: This is a 20 questions guessing game that can be adapted to various topics and can be limited to less than 20 questions if the scope is narrow. It can be used as a whole class activity with the instructor choosing an animal or in student pairs.
Time Needed: One round can be played in about 10 minutes, but students would benefit from playing many rounds and taking turns as the questioner.
Materials Needed: None
Activity Instructions: Student A (or instructor) thinks of an animal and then writes down the classification information and characteristics about this animal. Student B (or several students) asks questions in which the answer can only be yes/no or sometimes/usually/rarely. Students should be encouraged to ask at least five questions before guessing the phylum or more specific subgroup. Student questions must be questions about characteristics. When student B thinks he/she knows the complete answer he/she must say, “By golly biology, I think I’ve got it!” The student should then state the animal AND the phylum it belongs to.
Do you have a backbone? (Yes)
Are you ectothermic? (Yes)
Do you use external fertilization? (Yes)
Do you have fins? (No)
Do you have bony limbs? (Yes)
Do you have a tail? (No)
Are you a frog or toad? (Yes)
“By golly, biology, I think I’ve got it!” Are you a frog from Phyla Chordata? (Subphyla vertebrata, Class Amphibian?)
This game forces all involved to actively engage with applying content that many students find dull and overwhelming. If your students need some help to get going, you may choose to put up a list of characteristics that they can choose from such as:
Radial symmetry, bilateral symmetry, backbone, external skeleton, ectothermic, endothermic, internal fertilization, external fertilization, amniotic eggs, scales, hair, segmentation, aquatic, etc.