Alive or Not Alive . . . That is the Question?

25 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify the eight characteristics of living things.

Big Idea

What does a tree, a bacteria, and a whale all have in common? Students will review the characteristic necessary to be classified as a living organisms and create a foldable to demonstrate their understanding.

Hook - Is It Alive? You Be The Judge

5 minutes

As the students walk into the classroom they will pick up a class copy of the Characteristics of Living Things Worksheet, and a plastic sheet protector.  Students will place today's worksheet into the protector to preserve the class set for the entire day and hopefully years to come.  This is a classroom procedure that the students are familiar with which helps to save time and money!

Students will use their prior knowledge and experiences to predict whether each of the items shown in the video are alive or not alive.  The 3 minute video clip provides 10 living and nonliving examples for students to observe and contemplate which category the item should be placed.  Students will record their responses by created a "T" chart on their Bell Question Sheet.  In one column students will record all of the living organisms and in the other column the nonliving examples.  After the 3 minute video is complete, each student will hold up the number of fingers that represent each category.  The class will refer back to these lists after the lecture notes to determine accuracy and provide evidence for their reasoning.

Direct Instruction - Living vs. Nonliving . . . How Can We Be Sure?

20 minutes

Students will get out a sheet of paper and title it, "Characteristics of Living Things." The Characteristics of Living Things Lecture Notes will be presented to the class using the LCD projector, as well incorporating the Promethean ActiveSlate to enable annotation over each slide.

Class feedback has indicated students appreciate the annotation over the slides to highlight important concepts, vocabulary terms, or key aspects of diagrams.  The ability to annotate over the slide enables all of the my students, but especially my English Language Learners and mainstreamed Special Education students, to grasp the content easier and the annotations seem to keep the students' attention during the presentation.  The interaction seems to be more like "playing on the computer" rather than listening to lecture notes.

As the power point presentation progresses, students are encouraged to keep in mind the examples that were presented in the video clip at the beginning of the lesson.  Students will revisit these living and nonliving examples in the next section.

Guided Practice - Evaluation Our Own Learning

13 minutes

Students will work with their assigned lab partner to complete this collaborative activity.  In an effort to make transitions simple, students work with their closest neighbor as their assigned lab partner.  

Students are are to get out a sheet of paper and title it, "Charactistics for Living Things".  Using the Characteristics of Living Things Worksheet that was distributed at the beginning of class, students will copy down the data table on their own sheet of paper. Students will work with their lab partners to check off each characteristic that is present in the example. If all eight characteristics are present, then the organism is considered living!  If the object/substance is missing just one of the eight characteristics then the object/substance is considered nonliving.

Student-pairs are to compare their completed data tables from the opening activity.  As students compare responses they will look to identify similarities and differences.  If there are any differences, the students will reference their lecture notes or textbook to resolve the issue.  After each pair has agreed on the answers, the students will reveal their responses by showing a thumbs up for alive and a thumbs down for not alive as the teacher gives the correct classification for each example.  This quick formative assessment allows the teacher to gauge student understanding without having to ask for volunteers or take up additional instruction time.  

Students will then respond to the following prompts on their own paper under their data table.

Evaluation of My Learning:

  • Please explain why you have changed your mind regarding the living/nonliving status for each of these examples compared to our opening activity. 
  • If all of your responses remained the same, please provide your rationale for maintaining your responses.

The students will have 13 minutes to complete their data table and evaluate their information by writing a response to the prompt so they need to work efficiently and remain on task.


Independent Practice - Demonstrating the Characteristics of Living Things

15 minutes

Students will use their lecture notes, data table, and textbook to create a foldable to represent the eight characteristics of living things.  Our class uses the Prentice Hall Biology Book 2007 (the dragonfly book)

To create the foldable project take 4 sheets of copy paper (any color will work) and stagger the edges and fold over the top so that they are offset by an inch a piece.  Label each sheet one of the eight characteristics of living things.  Example of Student Work-labeled tabs.

Each page of the foldable will represent one of the characteristics of living things, provide a written description, and an illustration that represents the characteristic. After lableing each sheet, the students will draw or print an image that depicts each of the eight characteristics of living things.  On the back side of each sheet the students will record the description of each characteristic. from our lecture notes or the textbook. I have the students write the description of each characteristic on the back so the foldable can serve as a study guide for the students when they prepare for assessment.

Students will complete this activity as homework.  The class will share their final projects in small groups at the beginning of tomorrow's lesson. Another Example of Student Work - Foldable Project.

Close - Living Life By Learning

2 minutes

Students will quickly review the eight characteristics of living things in a whole group chorale activity.  Students are also reminded to complete their Foldable Projects for homework and are give the challenge to stump their families with a few of the tricky examples from the class discussion.  For example, are seeds alive?  Students are encouraged to discuss today's lesson with their families as a way to review the curriculum.

The students' conversations with their families will be the opening discussion in tomorrow's lesson.  The family discussions are am invaluable way for the students to bring Biology into their lives outside of school and allow the curriculum to transcend the confines of the classroom!  The parent feedback regarding these home discussions have been very positive!  Family discussions are such a quick and easy way to involve the students' families into the mastery of the Biology curriculum