Characteristics of Mammals Mini-Lesson

Objective: Students will learn about some of the traits that mammals share.

Suggested Time: 15 minutes

Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Teacher Background

As far as we know, mammals appeared on Earth some 200 million years ago. We know because we have found their fossils: bones, teeth, and other MORE

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Print or Project

  1. A Visual Overview: Show the slideshow of photos to your class. Each has a descriptive caption and kid-friendly copy for your students to read. (Please note that there is also more extensive teacher note copy just for you.)
  2. Creative Caption Review: Once you've been through the slideshow for an overview, go back through it again. This time ask students to explain why the captions do (or do not!) work. (Example: Do you think the caption "Web-footed Wonder" is a good one for the platypus? Why or why not?)

Click the thumbnail slides below to see the captions and kid-friendly copy up close.

  1. Continue the Conversation: Point out to students that mammals share many characteristics with other groups of animals as well. For example, all mammals are vertebrates—but so are birds, amphibians, and reptiles!
  2. Write about it: Have students "invent" a new mammal! They can draw a picture of the mammal and then describe how the animal illustrates the mammalian traits, or characteristics, they've just learned about.

Extension Activities

Reinforcements: These worksheets will be useful as you further develop your teaching unit. The Word Power worksheet will give your students vocabulary practice with key terms from this mini-lesson and the related activity will help reinforce key concepts on mammals.


Word Power Vocabulary
Grade: 4 - 6
Students practice vocabulary related to mammal traits by using each defined word in a sentence.



Bird or Mammal?
Grade: 3 - 6
Students compare two animals whose superficial characteristics are identical.



Excerpted from:

Eyewitness: Mammal

Here is a spectacular and informative guide to the natural world of mammals, offer a unique "eyewitness" view of the natural history of mammal behavior and anatomy through stunning real-life photographs.

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