MnSTEP Teaching Activity Collection > MnSTEP Activities > Investigating joints: Naming and identifying joints in the human body

Investigating joints: Naming and identifying joints in the human body

Kathy DeCock
Diamond Path Elementary
14455 Diamond Path
Apple Valley, MN 55234
Activity from FOSS Kit, Human Body p.20-21
Author Profile


In this investigation students will use their knowledge of bone structure to study joints. Students will compare mechanical devices to living joint movement to understand how different kinds of joints work (i.e. ball-and-socket, gliding, hinge). Students will also determine where these joints are located in the body. Students will record the information in a science notebook.

Learning Goals

This activity is designed for students to learn about joint names and to practice using their science notebook to record the work they do to understand joints.
  • Students will practice using a notebook to record the information they study to help them understand the importance of how notes can help them understand their observations and to keep their ideas clear.
  • Students will learn how joints move.
  • Students will discover these vocabulary words: ball-and-socket joint, gliding joint, hinge joint and compensate.
  • Students will also determine the location of the different joints.
  • Students will practice using their science notebooks to record all the information.

Context for Use

This activity is designed for cooperative groups. Time: 40 minutes. It is designed for an entire class and could be done in a typical classroom. Students should have already completed the proceeding investigations in the FOSS kit. Materials needed: large skeleton photo, class set of skeleton diagrams, students notebooks, colored pencils, post-it notes, hinge, mallet, spoon.

Subject: Biology:Anatomy & Physiology
Resource Type: Activities:Lab Activity, Classroom Activity
Grade Level: Intermediate (3-5)

Description and Teaching Materials

Activity description:
1. Review tasks from previous investigation (joint immobilization).
Ask: How did it feel to have your joints immobilized?
What tasks were the hardest to do? Were there any you couldn't do?
What did you do to compensate for problems you had? Was the compensation satisfactory?
Do you know anyone who has a disability and may have problems doing every day activities? Do they have to compensate to do every day activities?

2. Focus on joints:
Ask: Are all our joints the same?
What are some things we can do to understand how joints work?

3. Introduce hinge joints: Hinge joints function like a gate or a door hinge. Hold up the gate hinge and show students how it moves back and forth only.
Ask: Can you locate a hinge joint in your hand? Now find hinge joints in other parts of your body.
How do you know they are hinge joints?
Have students record findings in their science notebook using words or pictures.

4. Introduce ball-and-socket joint: Ball-and-socket joints move up and down, back and forth and in a circle. Hold up the spoon and mallet.
Ask: Can you locate a ball-and-socket joint in your hand? Now find a ball-and- socket joint in other parts of your body.
How do you know they are ball-and-socket joints?
Have students record findings in their science notebook using words or pictures.

5. Introduce gliding joints: gliding joints move in 2 directions-but not in a rotation.

6. Working in groups of 3 students will find and label joints on a skeleton drawing. Pass out skeleton drawing and have students glue it into their notebook. Assign groups. To each group assign one or 2 bones. That group must decide what kind of joint is at each end of the bone and label it in their notebook. Students must place labels (post it notes) on the large skeleton poster in the correct positions.

7. Presentations: The groups will each explain their reasoning to the entire group. The students will label their skeleton drawing while students are presenting-students should use a different colored pencil for each type of joint.

8. Closure: Ask: What is a joint? How can you determine a type of joint? If you could have more joints in your skeleton, where would you want them?

Teaching Notes and Tips

This activity is different from the FOSS activity because it is driven by questioning. This activity is also different from the FOSS activity because students are required to use a science notebook. This is something I haven't done in the past. FOSS lessons have graphic organizers, this lesson will allow students to make notes and pictures in their own way to help them understand and remember what they learned. I will require students use the skeleton diagram because it will aid in their accuracy and same them time. According to Benchmarks for Science Literacy students in grades 3-5 should be encouraged to record data clearly in logs and journal, and communicate their results. Students often get confused about types of joints and where they are located in the body. This lesson will help them develop their own understanding of types of joints in the human skeleton and it will also give them the opportunity to discuss their findings.


Students will be assessed on how accurately they filled in their notebook, questions, pictures and observations in their notebook. Students will also be assessed by teacher observation during the group work.


4.I.B.2-scientific inquiry

References and Resources