Lesson Plan

Physical or Behavioral Adaptations

a crocodile walks through a swamp with its head tilted up
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Additional Standards:
3rd Grade:  3-LS4-1, 3-LS4-2, and 3-LS4-3
4th Grade:  4-LS1 and 4-LS1-1
5th Grade:  5-LS2, LS2.A, and LS2.B
6th Grade:  MS-LS1-4, LS1.B, MS-LS2, MS-LS2-1, and LS2.A
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience.

Essential Question

1.  What are adaptations?
2.  What are the differences between physical and behavioral adaptations?


Compare and contrast physical and behavioral adaptations.


Teachers should read and review information in Biodiversity and Adaptation with students.


Whiteboard or large poster
Writing utensils 


This activity can be done in groups or as individuals. Remind the class of the difference between physical and behavioral adaptations.

Step One:  Draw a chart with two columns on a whiteboard or large poster. Column one should say "Physical Adaptations" and Column two should say "Behavioral Adaptations". The table should look like this:

Physical and Adaptation Chart
Physical Adaptations Behavioral Adaptations
examples examples

Step Two:  Have students organize the following adaptations listed as physical or behavioral:
Living in a Group 
Thick Fur
Webbed Feet 
Large Beak
Sharp Teeth
Small Body Size 
Other adaptations students think of that are not listed

Step Three:  Go through the adaptations together as a class and have students identify some animals that display each adaptation. Ask if anyone came up with other adaptations that were not listed on the worksheet. Discuss with students how paleontologists discern behavioral adaptations from fossils. 

Step Four: Complete Survival of the Fittest Lesson Plan.

Step Five: Complete Which Bone Goes Where Lesson Plan.

Step Six: Complete the Post-Unit Questions found on Biodiversity and Adaptation.



Abiotic factors:  non-living components of an environment such as climate, soil, and water.
Adaptations: any physical or behavioral characteristics of an organism that help it to survive in its environment. 
Behavioral adaptation: something an animal does usually in response to some type of external stimulus in order to survive. Hibernating during winter is an example of a behavioral adaptation. 
Biodiversity: measure of the variety of life on Earth, including habitat diversity, and the interconnectedness that ties life and habit together.  
Biotic factors: living components of an environment such as plants and animals.
Environment: all the influences, both biotic and abiotic in nature, which affect an organism. 
Paleoecology: the study of ecosystems of the past through the fossil record.
Physical adaptation: type of structural modification made to a part of the body. 

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Last updated: April 15, 2020