Observing and Drawing the Structures of Guppies and Goldfish

Author(s): Jennifer Howard and Reba Howard

Lesson Overview

Grade level(s):

Elementary School (K-5), Kindergarten


Biology/Life Science, FOSS-Related


Animal Physiology

Big ideas(s):

In this lesson kindergarteners will be introduced to Guppies and Goldfish.  They will observe both types of fish and focus on their structures.

Vocabulary words:

fins, gills, tail, eys, Goldfish, Guppy

What you need:

A Fish Out of Water, 5-10 Guppies, 5-10 Goldfish, 10-20 1-liter clear plastic containers, two 6-liter containers, declorinated water, fishnet, Goldfish food, Guppy food, 20 Goldfish Observation worksheets, 20 Guppy Observation worksheets, pencils and crayons


Students will begin and end the lesson as a whole group
They will be in two groups for the observation
You may choose to pair students depending on the number of fish you buy

Time needed:

40 minutes

Author Name(s): 
Jennifer Howard and Reba Howard

This lesson is a modifcation to FOSS Investigation #1 in the Animals 2 x2 unit.  In this version the students are observing both guppies and goldfish at the same time as their first introduction to the fish (where as in FOSS they have them look at them separately on separate days). Also, in this version, students not only observe, but learn to do drawings "like scientists".  They use new worksheets and write a few words about what they see.

Prerequisites for students: 

Students should be comfortable comparing and contrasting objects by shape, size, and color.

Learning goals/objectives for students: 
  • create a realistic drawing of a Goldfish and a Guppy
  • identify the eyes, gills, fins, and tail of the fishes
  • compare and contrast the structures of Goldfish and Guppies
Content background for instructor: 

See pages 42-45 in the FOSS teacher's guide for Animals 2 x 2.  Goldfish and Guppies should not be in the same aquarium together.  Guppies prefer warmer water.  Both Guppies and Goldfish will eat Tubifex worms however, if you choose to feed flakes they will need separate food.

Getting ready: 

Before the day of the lesson:

  • Buy Goldfish and Guppies
  • Copy worksheets
  • Prepare two 6-liter containers by filling them with water and dechlorinating and/or removing Chloramine from the water. Removing chlorine is relatively simple (generally if you let the water sit overnight before adding fish, the chlorine will dissipate), however in some cities, like San Francisco, water is treated with Chloramines (which contains ammonia) which will need to be chemically removed for fish and amphibian use (see below for details on how to remove Chloramine**).
  • De-chlorinate more water for the observation cups
  • Shortly before the lesson: Gently scoop one fish into each observation cup (beware, sometimes fish will jump out of the smaller cups)

**Chloramine can harm saltwater and freshwater fish, reptiles, shellfish, and amphibians that live in water, because they take chloramine directly into their bloodstream through their gills. People and animals that don't live in water can safely drink chloraminated water because their digestive process neutralizes chloramine before it enters the bloodstream.

There are two methods that can be used to remove or neutralize chloramine before adding water to a fish tank, pond, or aquarium: (1) GAC filtration system specifically designed to remove chloramine, or (2) conditioner or additive that contains a dechloraminating chemical for both ammonia and chlorine. Products are available at local pet and aquarium supply stores. Fish owners are advised to verify which method is best for them with their pet store or aquatic/aquarium retailer. If too much dechlorinating agent is added to the aquarium or pond water, it may bind up the oxygen in the water. In this case, the fish may suffocate. It is important to carefully follow the label instructions.

Lesson Implementation / Outline


Read aloud A Fish Out of Water by Helen Palmer

After reading, lead the students in a discussion about the book focusing on events that could really happen and those that could not.  Invite students to share their experiences of raising fish and what they learned.

Briefy ask the students to think about how to treat the fish while they are observing them. (Students should not touch the fish, put their hands in the water, etc.)


Tell students that they will be meeting two types of fish today.  Let them know that everyone will have a chance to work with both fish.

Instruct students that they will first observe one kind of fish and then the other.  Divide them into two groups.  Send one group to the Guppy table (where you have placed Guppies in their individual containers).  Send the other group to the Goldfish table (where you have placed Goldfish in their individual containers). Allow students to observe their fish for 3-5 minutes.

Standing where all students can see you, show them the worksheets they will be using today.  Explain that they will be drawing like scientists today (meaning that they only use appropriate colors and draw what they really see).  Ask the students what they need to add to fish so that its correct.  Guide them to talk about the eyes, gills, fins, and tail.  Model how to draw these structures.

Pass out the appropriate worksheets and give the students time to draw and write an observation about their fish.

Have the students switch groups.  Give them time to observe, hand out the worksheets, and ask them to draw the fish.

Checking for student understanding: 

The fish observation worksheets will be your check for understanding.  Did students realistically draw/color their fish?  Did they include an eye, gill, fins, and a tail?

Wrap-up / Closure: 

Gather students back to a whole group to discuss the differences between the Goldfish and Guppies.  They should mention color, size, tail shape, and fins.  Show examples of student drawings that highlight these differences.

Extensions and Reflections

Extensions and connections: 

This lesson works well with Create an Aquarium.


The fish will jump out of smaller cups!

GuppyObservationSheet.doc60.5 KB
GoldfishObservationSheet.doc61 KB
NGSS Topics
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
NGSS Performance Expectations
NGSS Performance Expectations: 
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices: 
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts: 

Standards - Kindergarten

Physical Sciences: 
1. Properties of materials can be observed, measured, and predicted. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know objects can be described in terms of the materials they are made of (e.g., clay, cloth, paper) and their physical properties (e.g., color, size, shape, weight, texture, flexibility, attraction to magnets, floating, sinking).
Life Sciences: 
2. Different types of plants and animals inhabit the earth. As a basis for understanding this concept:
a. Students know how to observe and describe similarities and differences in the appearance and behavior of plants and animals (e.g., seed-bearing plants, birds, fish, insects).
b. Students know stories sometimes give plants and animals attributes they do not really have.
c. Students know how to identify major structures of common plants and animals (e.g., stems, leaves, roots, arms, wings, legs).
Investigation and Experimentation: 
4. Scientific progress is made by asking meaningful questions and conducting careful investigations. As a basis for understanding this concept and addressing the content in the other three strands, students should develop their own questions and perform investigations. Students will:
e. Communicate observations orally and through drawings.