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White tail spider Capability: Use evidence NoS achievement aims: Understanding about science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 1,2

The White-tailed Spider. Author: Tina Johnson. Ready to Read series, 2010. Guided Reading level: Gold.

This resource illustrates how a Ready to Read book can be used to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to use evidence to support ideas in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Understanding about science

Learn about science as a knowledge system: the features of scientific knowledge and the processes by which it is developed; and learn about the ways in which the work of scientists interacts with society.

L1 & 2:

Appreciate that scientists ask questions about our world that lead to investigations and that open-mindedness is important because there may be more than one explanation.

Investigating in science

Carry out scientific investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things or developing systems.

L1 & 2:

Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions, and discussing simple models.

Living World


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource


Understand the processes that drive change in groups of living things over long periods of time and be able to discuss the implications of these changes.


Recognise that there are lots of living things in the world and that they can be grouped in different ways.

Learning focus

Students use evidence to support their ideas.

Learning activity

This non-fiction book is about the white-tailed spider. It includes written descriptions of white-tailed spiders supported by enlarged photographs, one of which is labelled, as well as life size drawings. 

Adapting the resource

After reading and discussing the book, turn to the centre page. Discuss what features would help students identify a white-tailed spider. Include:

  • features of spiders in general [8 legs, 2 body parts.]
  • features of white-tailed spiders specifically. [Shape, size, length of legs, covering, colour, markings.]

Provide the following sets of cards describing features of some small animals. 

8 legs
2 body parts

6 legs
3 body parts
Brown and grey

8 legs
Very hairy
Round body

8 legs
White stripe
40 mm long
Long body

8 legs
Long body
Grey colour
Orange bands on legs
White patch at end of body

15 mm long
White patch at end of body
Long legs

Ask students to sort into two piles, those that could not be a white-tail spider and those that could.

For the first group (not white-tails) ask:

  • What evidence do you have that makes you think this isn't a white-tail?

For the second group (possibly white-tails) ask:

  • What evidence do you have that makes you think this could be a white-tail?


  • Do you have enough evidence to be sure that any of these descriptions are white-tails?
  • What else could you find out about this spider to be surer that it is a white-tail? (Prompt if necessary to use information from the book.)

What’s important here?

Science is a way of explaining the world. In science, explanations need to be supported by evidence that is based on, or derived from, observations of the natural world.

Developing an appreciation of what counts as evidence in science supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

When students are justifying their decisions, are they using all the relevant evidence needed?

If they think it is a white-tail does it meet all the criteria for whitetails?

If they think it is not a white-tail are they able to describe which criteria it doesn't meet?

Do they understand that if any feature of the spider is different it cannot be a white tail?

Can they identify which observations are useful and which are not for identifying a specific type of spider?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in using evidence to support ideas see Progressions .

Exploring further

This activity could be adapted to any context where students are asked to identify a specific animal or plant.

An Assessment Resource Banks item, Insect or spider (LW0017) , is designed to be used to support students to differentiate between insects and spiders. This is a L3 resource so students may need some support to complete it. Consider using it as the basis for a class discussion. A good beginning point might be deciding what makes a white-tail a spider.

Other resources for this capability

Key words

Ready to Read, spiders