Montessori Nomenclature Cards of the Five Classes Of Vertebrates

What are Vertebrates?

Vertebrates are a type of chordate, which are animals that have a spinal cord and internal skeleton at some point during their development. This internal skeleton allows vertebrates to grow much larger than most invertebrates. The five primary types of vertebrates, listed in evolutionary order, are:

  • Fish
  • Amphibians
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Mammals

What are the Five Classes of Vertebrates?


Fishes are aquatic vertebrates that breathe through gills. There are three different classes of fish: jawless fish (like the lamprey eel), cartilaginous fish (like sharks), and bony fish (like goldfish). All fish have a special sensory organ called the lateral line, which helps them detect pressure changes in the water.

Most fish have scales, fins, and are cold-blooded; their body temperature is the same as the temperature of their environment. Most fish lay eggs that hatch into larvae. The larvae undergo a rapid metamorphosis (within a few weeks) into miniature adults. Some fish, including most sharks, give birth to live young.

fish class of vertebrates different fishes
Get Montessori 3-part cards of Different Fishes HERE!


Amphibians are vertebrates that live part of their life on land and part in water. They have moist skin and are cold-blooded; their body temperature is the same as the temperature of their environment. Amphibians lay eggs (usually in water) that hatch into larvae or tadpoles. Most young live in water and breathe through gills.

Most adults breathe through their skin. Adults may have land-dwelling (like the red-spotted eft) and aquatic (like the red-spotted newt) stages. Many adult amphibians have glands that produce poison. The poison may be simply distasteful or deadly.

amphibians class of vertebrates different amphibians
Get Montessori 3-part cards of Different Amphibians HERE!


Reptiles are vertebrates with a tough, dry outer skin that is usually scaly. They breathe air and are cold-blooded; their body temperature is the same as the temperature of their environment.

Most reptiles live on land in warm regions. They may hibernate in areas with cool winters. Some reptiles give birth to live young. Most lay eggs.

reptiles class of vertebrates different reptiles
Get Montessori 3-part cards of Different Reptiles HERE!


Birds are warm-blooded vertebrates. They are the only animals that have feathers. Their feathers help them maintain their body temperature. Birds have wings, and their bones are hollow. They have beaks instead of teeth.

Most birds can fly. Birds lay eggs that hatch into young. In some birds, hatchlings have downy feathers and can move around easily only a few hours after hatching. In others, hatchlings are born without feathers, blind, and dependent on their parents for many weeks.

birds class of vertebrates different birds
Get Montessori 3-part cards of Different Birds HERE!


Mammals are warm-blooded vertebrates that feed their young milk produced by the female’s mammary glands.

Most mammals have a covering of hair to help maintain body temperature and give birth to live young. Compared to other vertebrates, mammals have the largest brains (relative to body size).

mammals class of vertebrates different mammals
Get Montessori 3-part cards of Different Mammals HERE!

To get to know the vertebrate animals, Montessori nomenclature cards are used.

Nomenclature refers to a system of terms or symbols, especially in a particular scientific discipline or art. It is used in biology to classify types and groups of animals and plants.

Before introducing the animals under each class, the stories about the biological classifications of vertebrates and invertebrates should be described.

How to Use the Montessori Zoology Nomenclature Cards


A collection of three sets of cards mounted on cardstock or laminated, if desired.

Each set should be color-coded with marking and arranged together based on classification.

The card set, also known as 3-part cards, consist of an image card, a label card, and a control card that displays both the image and label.


  1. Invite 1-3 children to bring 1 packet of the animals under 1 class of vertebrates.
  2. Using the image cards, go through all the animals and see which ones the children know, and isolate the unfamiliar ones.
  3. Ask if you have corresponding 3D objects for the animals, then match.
  4. Give a three-period lesson for the unfamiliar animals.
    • At the end of the second period, shuffle all the cards and pass them out to the children face down. The children pick them up and hold them like playing cards.
    • Ask for cards by the name of their object.
    • The child with the matching card lays it in the middle of the table.
    • In the third period, re-shuffle the cards and pass them out face down. The children keep the cards in a pile in front of them.
    • The children take turns turning over the top card and naming it.
    • If a child does not know, another child or the adult may give the item’s name.
  5. Repeat the presentation for other classes of vertebrates.

Get to know the animals under each class of vertebrates with these nomenclature cards:

You’ll also find the anatomy nomenclature cards and booklet from the link above.

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