Vertebrate Animals Puzzles, Alison’s Montessori

Zoology, 3-6

Parts of a Frog Puzzle in the Zoology Cabinet

Do you know any pedagogical program that introduces zoology formally in the preschool years? Montessori does! What are we trying to achieve introducing zoology so early? We are simply connecting the child to its natural environment. We are helping the child develop a scientific mind, a human mind that understands the world around through classified knowledge. “This is an amphibian because it can live in water and on land. This is a mammal because it gives live birth and feed its baby its milk. This is a fish because it is a cold-blooded animal that lives in water, that breathe through gills, and that moves using fins. This is a reptile because it is cold-blooded, it breathe through lungs, it has scales, and is oviparous. This is a bird, because it has feathers, 4 limbs, and is an oviparous animal as well.”

Parts of a Turtle Puzzle
Superposing Pieces of the
Puzzle on Mute Chart

Helping children understand the realm of living organism can begin with using the examples of very typical animals that they may observe in real life anywhere: a fish, a horse, a frog, a bird, or a turtle. You may take children outside to observe these animals, or you can find them at a pet store, or at a local farm. After children have had experience with the real life animals, it is time for exploring the parts of these animals and maintain this knowledge, which will fuel years of zoology studies to come! To achieve this, Montessori classrooms are typically equipped with the materials that I am presenting today.


Optional: Vertebrates Study – Complete Curriculum (Elementary), Life Cycle of Vertebrates Study – Complete Curriculum

Puzzles and Charts

In a Montessori classroom, you will find all five groups of vertebrates puzzles nested in a wooden cabinet. At the very beginning of their time in a primary classroom, children can already explore these puzzles by taking them apart and putting them together using the pegs. The puzzles give children an experience where they can distinguish each part of the animal in isolation from its whole. The pegs provide opportunities to refine the three-pincer grip, which is critical at this age. Children are encouraged to use a mute chart to superpose each piece. This practice gives them ample opportunity to exercise visual perception and eye-hand coordination. Later, it is possible for

Parts of a Turtle Puzzle and Charts – Premium Quality (Study of a Reptile)

Three-part Nomenclature Cards

In addition to the puzzles, children are presented with a series of three-part cards, known as the Nomenclature Cards, which correspond to the parts of the animal. Each set of three-part cards consists of one control card (picture/name), one picture card, and one label card (name.) Throughout their time at the primary level, children will be invited to work with the three-part cards, which are aligned vertically and matched. Three-part cards are ingenious. Younger children who cannot yet read none phonetic works are able to match the label card to the control card. This method allows children to enter the realm of literacy, and reinforces word recognition skills implicitly. In addition, matching two identical images or words is considered a one-on-one correspondence work, which consists of pairing alike things and is a foundational math skill.

Nomenclature Charts

All Nomenclature Cards such as the Parts of a Frog Puzzle Nomenclature Cards set consists of three-part cards, a booklet, a large control chart, a reproducible black line master, and a reproducible booklet. The three-part cards are introduced using the three-period lesson. The control chart can be left on the wall after having introduced the materials. The chart helps reactivate the newly acquired knowledge, which with long-term retention. The reproducible black line master is a fun hands-on activity that children can color and label. For younger learners, you can use dotted-line letter for them to trace. Older children can create their own booklet using the reproducible booklet provided. Simply make several copies that you can make available for children. They can be invited to color a specific part of the diagram, and write the name of the part.

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Parts of a Frog and Charts – Premium Quality (Study of an Amphibian)

Nomenclature Booklets

The set of Nomenclature Cards also includes two booklets. One colorful booklet bound with a spiral, and a reproducible copy of the booklet. Older children can create their own booklet using the reproducible booklet provided. Simply make several copies that you can make available for children. They can be invited to color a specific part of the diagram, and write the name of the part.

Parts of a Fish Puzzle and Nomenclature Cards


Other ways to augment the children is by offering extensions interconnected to other content areas such as sensorial, practical life, math, language, art, geography and botany. For instance, you can have children provide care for a pet. You can create craft activities using playdough, salt dough, painting, or mixed media, recite poems, or sing songs about specific animals. In language, you might offer a set of cards depicting different kind of an animal (tortoise, sea turtle, box turtle….) You can include literature about vertebrate animals, and have life cycle materials (check out new life cycle puzzles and figurines at Alison’s Montessori.)

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Parts of a Horse Puzzle and Charts – Premium Quality (Study of a Mammal)

The zoology materials are designed to correlate with other content areas in the Montessori program, but can be included in any school- or home-based learning environment! They are autodidactic materials, which means they don’t require much intervention from an adult and can be used by a child independently. The materials grows with the child and is perfectly appropriate for ages three through six. You may want to check out more extensions, Internal Parts of the Vertebrate Puzzles, for experienced learners!

What is next in the elementary years? After learning the external characteristics of all five groups of vertebrates, children will explore other animals without a backbone: porifera, cnidaria, echinoderm, arthropod, nematode, platyhelminth, etc… It is also a time where children learn more about the internal characteristics of animals and their functions.

I hope this post helped you appreciate the simplicity, yet effective, way zoology is approached in a Montessori education. As I said, any child can benefit at any time from such materials. I recommend you get the entire set of 5 puzzles with nomenclatures cards, as I just did since my child turned 4, because the method is more effective if you have all 5 animals represented and if you have working materials such as charts and nomenclature cards.

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