Sort it Out, Living or Not

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SWBAT use the criteria developed by the class to decide if something is living or not by sorting pictures of living and non-living objects.

Big Idea

Young children can narrow down ideas with support and draw conclusions from what they observe, but they struggle to extend that knowledge to an application level. This lesson requires them to utilize the list of "living"criteria for each object pictured.


5 minutes

To begin this lesson, I go over the charts we created in the other living/non-living lessons. This helps the kids to get thinking about what criteria we deemed important in order to identify something as living or non-living.

For this part of the lesson, the kids are sitting as a group on the floor. We review our criteria poster first and then we review our living and non-living t-chart. I do this by walking through each piece of the posters with the kids. It's not a reteach, just a memory jog. It takes about 5 minutes to do this. It's just enough to get the kids thinking about what makes things alive or not. We practice through the t-chart asking the essential questions of:

Does it breathe?

Does it grow?

Does it eat?

Does it reproduce or make others that look like it?

This step is especially important if you have struggling kids and/or English Language Learners in your classroom. The memory jog brings the vocabulary and concepts back to the working memory and helps those kids tune into what is going to be taught or discussed throughout the lesson.


15 minutes

I tell the kids that they will be using what they've learned to decide whether things are alive or not alive. I explain how the activity will work to the kids while they are still sitting on the carpet in a whole group.

1) The table leaders will come up and get the science journals for each person who sits at their table.

2) I will call the people from each table up to get a sorting sheet once the table leader has taken the journals to the tables.

3) Once you have the sorting page, you will cut out the headings, which are the words, and you will glue one heading on to each page. I demonstrate using my science journal.

4) You will cut out one picture at a time and glue it under the heading that describes it.

I again demonstrate what this looks like.

I call up the table leaders and have them take the journals to their tables.


20 minutes

This exploration is an application of what they've already learned or deduced in previous lessons. The real "inquiry" took place in the previous two lessons, To be living or not to be living! That is the question? and If it's Not Living, Does it Mean it's Dead?.

As the kids cut out the pictures and place them under the correct headings, I roam the room supporting them as needed. I never "give" them an answer. I simply ask questions that assist them in reaching the correct conclusion on their own.

I do this by using probing questions based off of their criteria chart such as, Does it breathe? Does it eat? Does it reproduce?

For kids who seem to working well on their own, I stop and ask them why they placed a certain object under a specific heading.


10 minutes

For the explain section of this lesson, I have the kids share what they know. I have the kids gather back on the floor as a whole group by calling one table at a time to the floor to sit like scientists.

I tell them that scientists share what they've learned with other scientists.

I call on random students by using name sticks drawn from a name stick can. I have them name one item that they really liked in the sort and tell the class whether it is living or non-living and why.

I provide a sentence stem for the kids. This helps support second language learners as well as supports the shy kids and the kids who struggle with bringing concepts together independently.

"I liked the ________. It is alive/not alive because________."

Having the kids share what they've learned supports the goal of getting kids to state and defend what they know based on evidence. This looks very basic in kindergarten, but it can and should be done.

If we encouraged kids to state and defend themselves in scientific argument from a young age, they would have no trouble with it as they get into advanced grades and would learn to be critical thinkers.


5 minutes

As the kids line up for their special area class, I collect the science journals. I ask the kids to keep the journals opened to the current page so I don't have to go hunting for their work.

I quickly scan the sorting jobs to make sure I didn't miss any major concerns while I was roaming the room.

I put the journals of concern to the side so I can meet with those kids in a small group at a time in the near future to reteach or answer questions that clarify any misconceptions.

I do this so that the misconceptions will not negatively impact student performance in the future.

A small group interaction includes reviewing the information followed by having them use "living" independently by explaining to me using multiple objects one at a time. For instance, I would have a child explain to me why a fish, bird, human, frog, puppy are alive. I would give them a list of words to use to explain that includes: eat, drink, breathe, grow, reproduce. The group would ONLY focus on what is alive. Once they fully understand what it means to be alive, anything not meeting the qualifications of being alive would naturally be non-living and they would understand that.