Teaching Animals Including humans Year 3? In part 1 of this blog post, we looked at what pupils might already know about the topic. In this article, we organise new knowledge in the unit and look at strategies for teaching feeding groups, food groups, recommended daily intake and biodiversity. Lastly, we’ll discuss strategies to teach the scientific vocabulary needed to understand the unit.

  1. Organising The Information in animals Including Humans Year 3

There are lots of facts we need to consider in Animals Including Humans Year 3. We refer to these as substantive knowledge. For example, mammals feed milk to their young, or birds lay eggs. However, it’s meaningless to just memorise a list of unrelated facts. Instead, we can connect them together in a way that makes more sense. One way to do this is to use the Big Ideas of science. These are 10 underlying principles that explain anything we come across in science. The Big Ideas for Animals including Humans Year 3 are 4, 8, and 10, which refer to obtaining energy, energy transfer, and the diversity of organisms. They are shown below:

I then sequenced them into a logical narrative for teaching Animals Including Humans Year 3. In short, obtaining energy, energy transfer, and the diversity of organisms.

1. Animals including humans cannot make their own food. Therefore, they must eat plants or other animals to obtain the energy and nutrients they need to survive.

2. Some of this energy is used by the animal, but some is passed along the food chain from producers (plants) to consumers.

3. Animals have evolved various adaptations to help them obtain food. For example, the way they use their skeletal and muscular systems, for support, protection, and movement. Some animals have skeletons made of hard materials like bone, while others have softer, more flexible bodies supported by water. Similarly, some animals have powerful muscles that allow them to run, jump, or swim quickly, while others have more limited mobility.

2. Strategies For Teaching Animals including Humans Year 3

In this section of the blog post, we’ll look at some teaching strategies for feeding groups, food groups and recommended daily intake. These are important concepts for pupils to understand how animals get energy from food. We’ll use concrete examples and visual aids to help pupils grasp these abstract ideas. Activities are designed so pupils focus on each individual part of a concept and think carefully about how it fits together with the other parts. Let’s look at some examples of how we can do this in the unit.

Strategies for teaching feeding groups, food groups and recommended daily intake

Feeding groups

These are a human construct or idea to organise animals. An anthropological story helps to by providing a concrete example of how different animals relate to one another through their diets. As pupils focus on each character, they can visualise the relationships between different feeding groups in a more relatable way. 

Food groups

We cannot see vitamins themselves, although we can see the forms in which they are commonly found such as powder, pills, tablets or the food that contains them. Even expert scientists struggle to accurately measure their effects. However, we can help children understand the effects of vitamins through a simple experiment involving Vitamin C tablets. For example, Vitamin C slows down the browning process of apples, which can be observed by children in a comparative test. They can manipulate variables to help them understand the effects of vitamins.

Recommended daily intake

We can see the food we eat, but we cannot see the individual nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and other food groups that make up that food. The recommended daily intake of these nutrients is also an abstract concept that can vary between different sources and research papers.

However, we can use visual aids such as food labels and the Eatwell plate to represent the different nutrients and their recommended amounts. They can better understand the parts that make up a healthy diet or contribute to obesity. Additionally, they can use these tools to suggest the best foods to meet energy requirements for people carrying out different activities.

Strategies for teaching biodiversity

The human skeleton

We focus on the human skeleton first (1), before comparing it to those of other animals. The human skeleton is not easy for pupils to visualise, as it is hidden under our skin. To help pupils identify and name the different parts of the skeleton, we can use activities that make them more visible. Our bones are concealed by our skin, so we want to use activities that make them as visible as possible. The simplest way to do this is by labelling and matching up each part of the skeleton. Pupils can then focus on each individual bone and think about its shape, size, location and function.

Other animal skeletons

Next, biodiversity is a massive concept.  Pupils compare the human skeleton with those of other animals using x-rays or pictures (2). Pupils can observe how different animals have different skeletal structures suited to their lifestyle and habitat. For example, they can see how deer have antlers for defence or display , how birds have hollow bones for flight , or how fish have flexible spines for swimming.

One fun activity is to make a model of an animal skeleton using cookies or biscuits (3). Pupils can choose an animal they want to research and assemble the bone s using icing.


Muscles work together with bones to produce movement. This is also difficult for pupils to comprehend because muscles are underneath layers of skin and fat. Making a model muscle (4) helps children understand the relationship between muscles and bones. They then have to explain how each part of the model they have made, represents the original structure (5). Whilst building and explaining the model, they must organise their ideas and make them visible. This gives teachers an insight into pupil understanding and any lingering misconceptions about muscles and bones.

Further tips!

It can be expensive but it’s useful to purchase some 3D models, like a human skeleton, as well. This engages even more senses and learners get to examine movement at the joints, etc. in a more realistic way.

Time-permitting, there’s a really good demonstration you can do under a visualiser that allows you to point out muscles, bones, ligaments and tendons in a chicken wing. A video of the dissection can can also be used, but has some terminology pupils don’t need to know at this stage. If anyone does a modified version or finds a simpler version, please link it in the comments!

3. Scientific vocabulary in Animals Including Humans Year 3

It is important to learn scientific vocabulary as part of science education. It helps us learn new scientific concepts and communicate them, clearly. Many subjects pre-teach pupils and help them to decode vocabulary BEFORE beginning a topic. In science, however, vocabulary is often as abstract as the concept pupils are learning about.  So, we introduce the concept first, giving relevant examples using images, models, demonstrations etc. We then layer on the related technical terms, using a range of literacy strategies to strengthen understanding.

Introduce the vocabulary in context

Below is an example of some keywords used in year 3. The vocabulary is learnt in context, with examples of the different feeding groups to support the text.

Literacy strategy to strengthen understanding –

You can also use the etymology of words to help pupils understand the meaning of scientific vocabulary as we go through the unit. Once they know what a carnivore is, this can help them understand the meaning of omnivore and herbivore. But not only that, they have a strong foundation for understanding the terms devour and voracious, too!

For example, entomology, biology and geology all share the same suffix – ology, which means “study of.” Showing them that each word has a different prefix that tells us the area of study helps pupils decipher the meaning of new words more easily.

Key Takeaways For Teaching Animals Including humans Year 3

By organising the information using the Big Ideas, embedding learning through concrete experiences, and teaching scientific vocabulary, we can help Year 3 pupils develop a deep understanding of Animals including Humans.

Download this Big Ideas of Science infographic and use it to help organise your science curriculum.