Is It an Insect?

Children will explore the characteristics of insects.


Lesson Objective

Children will explore insects and how they are alike and different.


What You'll Need

  • Magnifying glasses – 1 per child
  • 6 clear containers with lids containing ladybugs, crickets, roly-polies, ants, earthworms, snails (see Lesson Tips)
  • Lettuce leaves – 1 per container 
  • Chart paper
  • Marker
  • Diagram of an insect (see Lesson Tips)

What To Do

Note:  Punch small holes in the lids of the containers, and add some lettuce to give the animals air and keep them active. Before the lesson, draw a diagram of an insect, including three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), six legs, two antennae, and one or more pair of eyes. Put this aside until Step 2.
  1. Ask the children what they think an insect looks like, and draw what they describe on the chart paper.
  2. Display the insect drawing that you created prior to the lesson, and compare the two drawings.
  3. Explain to the children how to identify an insect (see Did You Know?).
  4. Distribute the magnifying glasses.
  5. Place the containers with the animals on the tables.
  6. Give the children some time to examine the insects.
  7. Have the children identify which animals are insects and which are not insects based on your discussion.

Guiding Student Inquiry

  • Describe what an insect looks like.
  • Explain what the outside of an insect’s body looks like.
  • Tell me how you know this animal is an insect.
  • Explain how you know this animal is not an insect.
  • Tell me what is different about these three insects.
  • What is the same about these three insects?

Explore, Extend & Integrate

  • Put the animals on paper plates. Have the children investigate the animals moving. Notice whether they have legs, how their legs move, and if they do not have legs, talk about how they move.
  • Provide small paper plates, construction paper, paint, pipe cleaners, wiggly eyes, and glue. Allow the children to make an insect.

Check for Children’s Understanding

  • Can children describe what all insects have in common?
  • Can children identify those animals that are insects?
  • Can children identify the difference between the three animals that are insects?


Did You Know?

Insects are identified by having three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), two antennae, and six jointed legs. Most adult insects have wings. Flies have two wings, but all other insects with wings have four. All of the wings and legs are attached to the central body part called the thorax. The thorax is between the head and the abdomen. All insects have no bones. Instead, they have a hard covering on the outside of their bodies called an exoskeleton. 

Insects have been on the earth for over 350 million years. Insects are part of a larger group of animals known as arthropods. Arthropods are the largest animal group on the earth. Arthropods are animals with segmented bodies, six or more jointed legs, and a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. The exoskeleton is the framework that protects their body parts, and it is on the outside of an arthropod’s body. 

Vocabulary: Child-Friendly Definitions

  • insect – a small animal with three body parts, two antennae, six legs, and a hard covering over its body.
  • animal – a living creature that is not a plant or a human.
  • body – the physical parts that make up an animal.
  • antennae – a pair of long, thin body parts used to feel and smell that are found on the heads of insects.
  • exoskeleton – an external supporting structure.
  • thorax – the middle part of an insect’s body.

Lesson Tips

  • Simple diagrams of insects are widely available when performing an online search.
  • Find as many of the live insects as possible outside. If you do not have access to live insects, use photographs or plastic insects (available at education supply or discount stores).
  • If you have enough materials, add additional containers of animals for the children to observe.


  • Insects by Robin Bernard
  • I Like Bugs by Margaret Wise Brown
  • Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
  • On Beyond Bugs! All About Insects by Tish Rabe

Home School Resources

Home educators: use these printable lesson PDFs to teach this lesson to your home schoolers. They're available in English and Spanish.

Home/School Connections

Las Conexiones a la Casa

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Content Provided By

Common Core State Standards Initiative – These lessons are aligned with the Common Core State Standards ("CCSS"). The CCSS provide a consistent, clear understanding of the concepts and skills children are expected to learn and guide teachers to provide their students with opportunities to gain these important skills and foundational knowledge [1]. Visit the CCSS