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Activity: Fish Terminology
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
Table of Contents


  • Clipboard
  • Plain paper
  • Fish photos
  • Pencils
  • Markers or colored pencils (optional)


  1. Sit across the table from your partner. Determine who will be the ‘observer’ first and who will be the ‘artist’ first.
  2. Directions for the artist
    1. Place a blank piece of paper on your clipboard.
    2. Do not look at the fish photo selected by the observer.
    3. Draw the fish described by the observer to the best of your ability.
    4. Communication is important; if you have questions, ask the observer to clarify.
  3. Directions for the observer
    1. Select a fish photo. Do not show the artist the photo.
    2. You have five minutes to describe the fish in the photo. Do not use the name of the fish and do not use any hand gestures to describe the fish. Use fish anatomy vocabulary in your description.
    3. Do not look at the artist’s drawing.
  4. Switch roles and repeat steps 2 and 3 with a different fish photo
  5. Once both partners have completed their fish drawings, compare the fish photos to the drawings
Activity Questions
  1. What were the differences and similarities between the drawings and the fish photos for the following features? (Your fish may not have, or the photo may not show, all of these features. Your fish may have additional features not on this list).
    1. Body Shape
    2. Fins (dorsal, caudal, pectoral, pelvic)
    3. Mouth
    4. Teeth
    5. Eyes
    6. Scales
    7. Color
  2. What was most difficult when
    1. you were the observer and describing the fish in the photo to the artist?
    2. you were the artist and drawing the fish?
  3. What verbal cues from the observer would have made drawing easier?
  4. Were any features missing from the drawings that you or your partner made compared to the fish photo? Why do you think these features were absent?
  5. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using color as a descriptor?
  6. How do you think this method of describing and drawing compares with photography or fish printing (gyotaku) as a way of recording and displaying information about the features of a fish?
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.