Supporting files for this material can be found here.

To classify things is to put them into groups, often by their characteristics.  A characteristic is a feature that allows us to recognize or identify a person or thing.  How something looks, sounds, feels, smells, tastes, or behaves can all be characteristics.


Taxonomy is the organizing of things into groups based on their characteristics.  Traditionally, scientists use seven levels of organization to classify organisms.  These are:

  Kingdom             Kings
    Phylum                Play
      Class                   Chess
        Order                  On
          Family                   Fine
            Genus                   Glass
              Species                 Stools
*You can remember these using the mnemonic listed to the right of the list.


"Kingdom" is the name given to each of the five main groups of living things.  Organisms in each kingdom have some characteristics that make them different from organisms in the other kingdoms.

All of the organisms of one kind that can breed and produce more organisms of the same kind is a species.


The Five Kingdoms of Living Things are:

     Animal        Plant          Fungi       Protista      Monera
    complex      complex      complex     complex        simple
       cells            cells            cells           cells             cells

       multi-          multi-         multi-            uni-            uni-
     cellular         cellular       cellular        cellular        cellular

   consumer      producer    consumer

       eat                               absorb
      food                               food

Some examples of how organisms are classified with this system are as follows:

Kingdom  Animalia        Animalia        Animalia
Phylum     Chordata      Chordata       Arthropoda
Class        Mammalia     Mammalia     Insecta
Order       Primates        Carnivora     Orthoptera
Family      Hominidae    Canidae        Mantidae
Genus      Homo           Canis            Mantis
Species    sapiens          familiaris       religiosa
                 Human         Dog            Praying Mantis

A better explanation is attached below.  See the "Levels of Classification" files.  (The PowerPoint one is more interactive.)

Binomial Nomenclature is a fancy term that means "two-part name".  This is the system that scientists use to name living things.  Under this system, you take the organism's genus and species names.  The genus is capitalized, the species is not; both are either underlined or italicized.  Some examples of scientific names are:
   Human:Homo sapiens
   Dog:Canis familiaris
   PrayingMantis:Mantis religiosa

A cladogram is a type of diagram that allows us to separate things into groups based on their characteristics.  For example:

                                      a 4 H 7 y
                                       /          \
                                      /            \
                             numbers       letters
                                4  7           a H y
                              /       \            /   \
                          even   odd        /     \ 
                             4       7      upper  lower
                                               case    case
                                                 H       a y
                                                           /   \
                                                          /     \
                                                   vowel  consonant
                                                       a            y

At each level, a group is split into two smaller groups.  The branch ends when an item is by itself.

The Animal Kingdom


Supporting files for this material can be found here.