Characteristics of Life Part 2

26 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will be able to pick out the major characteristics of life in case studies of real organisms and compare them to the reading.

Big Idea

Real life forms display the characteristics of life in many and varied ways.

Ready. Set. Engage

3 minutes

Learning Goal:  Understand and recognize the characteristics of life in case studies of real organisms.

Essential Question:  A fire grows, eats, and reproduces.  Why is in not considered alive?

Students come in the room, get ready (get their stuff), get set (get settled in their seats), and engage in writing the learning goal and answering the essential question on the board.


5 minutes

Last week we began an exploration of the characteristics of life using the Characteristics of Life Reading.  This week I want to go further into the concept of life by having students see examples of the different characteristics in real organisms.  I ended last week with having students use the context of fire when reading the article, to determine if they could explain why fire, despite similar surface characteristics to life, isn't alive.

I start this week the same way to refresh, and check-in on their thinking.  I display a picture of a fire on my SMARTBoard and have the students return to the reading to find the BEST evidence that proves fire is not alive.  

This is also the time to start really focusing on becoming learning communities.  To do this, I give the students some sentence frames to use in their discussion.  This not only keeps the discussion on track, but also gives kids a place to start rather than just saying "I don't know."  

Student discussion with frames:

 Student 1. The fire is not alive because __________________________.  The reading says ____________________________ and a fire does __________________ so it is not alive.  

Other students whip around to agree or disagree:

 Student 2.  Another reason the fire is not alive is ________________________.  The reading says __________________________________ and a fire does ___________________________ so it is not alive.  

Other students whip around to agree or disagree.


10 minutes

I start by having the students read the section of the reading about reproduction.  I do a very fast mini-lesson on the difference between sexual and asexual reproduction and have the students draw a simple diagram next to their reading.  Then I show the video*, with a focus on comparing this real life case study with their reading.  

This is the first video we watch and I model how the students are to use the reading to discuss the characteristics.  I deliberately choose to model the one on reproduction so that we cover this important characteristic of life in a managed manner.

*A warning about this video.  This video contains concepts like virgin, copulate, and sex as they relate to aphids.  While I think that this is clearly appropriate in a science class about life, it needs to be handled carefully.  Please make sure you review before using, to determine if this is the right match for your class. 

Following the video, I highlight that the aphids started out reproducing asexually and then as the season changed and colder weather was approaching they begin to reproduce sexually.  Students do NOT need to understand asexual reproduction deeply.  It is intended as a meaningful (and memorable) example of how organisms reproduce.  I do show this video again later in the year when we are talking about the advantages of sexual and asexual reproduction.  On this day, I stay focused on simply comparing what we saw in the video to what was in the reading.  

Guided Practice

5 minutes

The purpose of section is to guide students through the process that I just modeled, which is;

1) Preview the characteristic.

2) Watch the video.

3) Discuss and mark up the text on that characteristic.

I do this through a system of random questioning using name sticks.  The first thing I do is ask the students to read the Characteristic on "Life is made of cells."  Then I ask the question, "What popped out at you about this reading" and pull a stick.  That student answers and is rewarded with a Rock Star Scientist ticket. I've explained the how and why of these practices here in a video.

Then I say, "We are going to watch the video.  As we watch it I want you to mark your text with noticings from the video that relate to the reading.  You can do this using pictures or notes."

As we watch the videos together, I model note taking on the board.  

At the end of the video I pull 2-3 sticks asking the question, "What did you notice in the video that related to the text."  All people who answer are rewarded with a ticket.  

Collaborative Practice

15 minutes

Now students should be familiar enough with the process to do it together.  We follow the same process where I guide them to read about the characteristic, then we watch the film, then the students discuss how it relates to the reading and how they marked their text.  

*Video Note: When using the fish schooling video, I only show about a minute of it during the time when the fish are really displaying responsiveness. This provides enough information for student discussion.  When using the adaptations video, if I am running out of time, I only show one animal, like the camel, rather than all three.  




Independent Practice

7 minutes

On the assessment, I ask students to pick four characteristics, but advanced students may be able to show understanding on all, while students who need more processing time might be able to only show understanding on two to three characteristics.  This choice gives students a place to start that they feel comfortable with. 

My personal focus is on the outcome, to see where students are in their understandings of what we have learned.  I use the work done in independent practice to determine who to pull tomorrow, and what group (i.e. similar misconceptions) to put them in for some targeted instruction.  


2 minutes

I close this lesson by asking students what they will be looking for in the case study tomorrow.  I pull sticks to get answers and will use these to make the anchor that will ground our work for the following lesson.  This lesson is going to involve students reading and investigating their own case study.