Is it Living?

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SWBAT define the word organisms and then use that definition to identify things that are either an organisms and not an organism.

Big Idea

Let's do a magazine sort with cool animal photographs! Students will have to find things that can fit into two categories: living and nonliving!

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants and animals. This is called biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

In this unit students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants and animals. In this lesson students will learn that an organism is anything that is living and can function on its own.

Home to School Connection:

In this unit we will be learning animal and plant parts. Students will learn that organisms have external parts that help them survive in nature. The NGSS standards ask students solve a human problem by mimicking how plants and animals survive.  Each a day a student in class will be able to take home the Organisms Bag. In this bag I have included a recording sheet, crayons and pencils, and the book What if You Had Animal Teeth by Sandra Markle.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These are the vocabulary that will be covered in this unit that addresses 1-LS1-1.  You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit.  You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game. 


Living and Nonliving T-Chart

Photographs for above T-Chart

Living Things by Dorothy Avery

Worksheet - Classifying Living and Nonliving Things

Magazines - living and nonliving things

Living and Nonliving Video

Science Journals: Prompt - What is an organism?


15 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations to construct an evidence-based account that plants and animals resemble their offspring.  In this lesson my students observe living and non living things and use that information to define organism. 

I have the students sitting on the carpet in our meeting area and I show them my t-chart labeled living and non-living.  I have a few photographs of living and nonliving things. I hold up one photograph and ask my students tell me where to glue it.  I pass out photographs to my students and ask my students to glue their object under the correct column. I have included photographs of water, stick, and paper in order to encourage a debate on whether or not it is living or non living. 

Image: Living and Nonliving T-Chart

Boys and girls I want you to think about two questions but don't say anything yet.  Please give me a thumbs up when you have an answer. What does it mean to be living?  How do you know if something is living? I wait until most of my students have a thumbs up. Please turn and tell your turn and talk partner.

Video: Turn and Talk - Sharing Thinking

I bring my students back to attention and share what I heard. I heard you say that living things need food, water, air and shelter. Let's write that on our anchor chart under living things. 

I write on our anchor chart: Living things need: food, water, air and shelter. Living things reproduce (make living things like themselves).

I read the book: Living Things by Dorothy Avery

Is there anything we else we should add to our definition of living things? The students raise their hands and share:

Most living things move.

Most living things grow and change.

Most living things have and use their senses.

Boys and girls today you are going to learn a new word. Can you all say organism? An organism is a living thing.  It is anything that is living and can function on its own.


25 minutes

In this next section, I want my students to have an opportunity to explore a new vocabulary word: organisms.  Students will independently cut and glue photos from a magazine into their Worksheet - Classifying Living and Nonliving Things.

It is time for us to classify nonliving and living items. Today you get to hunt for pictures in the magazines in front of you. Please cut out 5 pictures to glue into this "classifying" worksheet.  Are you ready to living and nonliving?  Off you go!

As my students cut and glue their magazine pictures, I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. My goal with this conference is to check in on who understands the new word organism and/or living things.


10 minutes

In the explain section I want my students to share their t-charts with their workshop partners.  Each partnership will engage in accountable talk agreeing or disagreeing with each others photographs.  The purpose for partnership is two-fold.  I want students sharing their observations and explaining their thinking as well as engaging in high levels of student discourse and reasoning.  

Thank you for meeting me on the carpet with your t-charts. I love that you labeled your pictures.  Today you will share your observations with your workshop partner. Your job is to have a thoughtful conversation with your partner about your findings and your partners findings. As your partner shares his or her work with you, I want you to either agree or disagree with your partners observations and tell why. If your partner disagrees with you, I want you to listen carefully to why and then decide if you need to make some changes to your work today.  Are you ready to give this a go?

As my students share I video tape and listen in on their conversations.  I show my students some of the rich conversations and point out the strengths in each conversation.

Did you notice in this video she didn't just say I agree.  She said, I agree with you because I know that plants need food, water and air. So you are right.


10 minutes

The NGSS asks that students learn science by doing science so I take my students outside to go on a nature walk around the school.  We observe and record the different organisms we see in our science journals. For this section my students each get a clipboard, a magnifying glass, a science journal and a pencil.

Boys and girls, we are going to take a nature around our school to observe organisms around our school.  Please draw your observations in your science journal and be sure to label these illustrations.


5 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write the answer to our big question: "What is an organism?"

As the students write I tell them to refer back to their research. I am looking for answers that include both illustrations and words that describe an organism.