Living and Non-Living Safari

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Students will be able to differentiate between things that are living and non-living by completing a scavenger hunt.

Big Idea

Differentiating between living and non-living things is a foundational life science skill. Students will have fun building their knowledge in this interactive lesson.


10 minutes

This lesson is a follow-up to my lesson, "Living 0r Non-Living?".  This concept is a foundational for NGSS Standard K-LS1-1 (Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.).  Students need to understand what a living organism is to identify why it needs to survive.  Although this is a very basic concept and the majority of my students can discern between living and non-living things, it is important that the students can apply the characteristics of living organisms to come to this conclusion and use this information to support why they think something is living or non-living.  This directly supports NGSS Science and Engineering Practice 7, (Engaging in argument from evidence).  The students are building the foundational skills that they will use as scientists during this lesson.

To begin the lesson, we review the characteristics of living things by using some simple SmartBoard slides.  If you have a SmartBoard, the file Living or Non-Living Review can easily be downloaded and opened.  If you have a different type of interactive whiteboard, you can still use this lesson by opening the file in Smart Notebook Express.  Click here to download. There is also a PDF of the slides so you can recreate this part of the lesson for use on a whiteboard or overhead projector.  Click here to access them:  Living or Non-Living Review.

I gather my students in front of the Smartboard.  I have cards with each student's name printed on.  These cards are used for selecting who will come up to the Smartboard.  This helps me spread response opportunities across my entire classroom and eliminates any unintentional bias.

I open the first slide (SmartBoard Slide 1) with the lesson objective written in "student friendly" terms.  There is a content objective and a language objective to help focus on vocabulary expansion for my English Learners (ELs) to be congruent with SIOP instructional techniques (Click here to learn more about SIOP). I read these objectives aloud for my students and then we continue with the lesson. 

Content Objective
I can identify the characteristics of living things. 

Language Objective
I can tell a friend if something is living or not and why. 

We then continue on with the other slides.

Slide 2:  I say to the students, Yesterday, we talked about whether something was living or non-living.  Do you remember the way we can tell if something is living?  All living things have these characteristics. I record the comments that students make, coaching them to come up with our three basic characteristics of living things:  move, grow and change, reproduce.

Slide 3-5:  I review the characteristics of living things and discuss the pictures on the slides with the students again. 

Slide 6:  It is now Turn and Talk time.  We use turn and talk in my classroom to help all of my students, especially those acquiring the English Language, develop their communication skills.  Every student is assigned a partner.  They hold hands with their partner and raise their hands in the air to allow me to check to see if everyone has a partner.  I read the questions from the slide to the students.  Is this living or non-living?  How do you know?  I give the students time to talk and when it is obvious that they are done, I call the class back together.  I call on a student to share.  I encourage the student to phrase her response as a complete sentence, "The table is not living."  I then ask the student to share why.  I coach the students to cover our three characteristics of living things and how they apply to the table.  After we conclude our discussion, the students return to their seats. 


15 minutes

For this part of the lesson, you will need Living Non-Living Safari included as a PDF.  I print the cards with a colored printer and laminate them and cut them apart.  I "hide" the cards in various places around the classroom.   I also make "binoculars for the students by stapling together two toilet paper tubes and then wrapping them with construction paper.  See photos:  binoculars 1 binoculars 2 .  We punch holes on the sides and attach yarn so the students can wear them around their necks. 

I tell the students, You are going to go on a living and non-living safari.  There are cards hidden around the room that have pictures of living and non-living things.  I want you to "travel" around the room and find one living card and one non-living card and bring it back to your spot.  When everyone has found their cards, I will give you further directions.

The students search for the cards.  See Video.  When everyone has their cards, I say to the students, Now, you are going to go around the table and tell what your living thing is.  Then I want you to why it is living.  When everyone has shared their living thing, share about your non-living thing, telling how you know it is non-living. 

The students begin the safari.  I circulate around the room to check on their progress and help point out cards for students who are having difficulty finding them.  During the discussion time, I reinforce the need for students to share the "why" behind their classification.

Independent Practice and Informal Assessment

10 minutes

To wrap up the lesson, I do a quick, informal assessment of the students' understanding of the concept.  I make copies of Living and Non-Living Binocular Sketch included as a PDF with this lesson.  I distribute the activity sheet to the students. I say to them, Now, it is your turn to let me know what you know about living or non-living things.  I want you to draw a picture of something that is living in the first lens of the binoculars.  Then, I want you to draw a picture of something that is non-living in the second lens of the binoculars (I point out where the drawings should go).  When you are done, I want to see your work and find out how you know these things are living or non-living.

The students begin working.  I circulate around the room to observe their progress.  I ask the students questions about what they are putting in the lens and how they know it is living or non-living.

As the students finish their work, I have them share their picture with a partner and tell twhy each thing in their picture is living or non-living. 

Overall, the students did a great job.  There were a few that I could not decipher what the pictures were (see Safari Work Sample 1), so I asked the students and recorded their answers on the sheet.