Living vs. Non-Living

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SWBAT determine characteristics between living and nonliving things.

Big Idea

Through their own exploration of images and videos, students will differentiate between living and nonliving as a review for the unit.


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: This lesson is designed for students to use their prior knowledge of living things to differentiate between living and nonliving.  It is a review for students to become familiar with the concepts in order to move beyond and study the interactions of living things through biomes and habitats. During this lesson, students will make claims about which is living or not and support it with evidence, addressing SP7 and W6.1a. To prepare for the lesson, you will need a copy of the images for each table. Cut out the images in each copy and paper clip together or place in an envelope for them to sort. 

To begin the lesson, students will start by using their prior knowledge to provide a few examples of living things and nonliving things and explain how they know they are alive or not.  They will spend 3-5 minutes answering the following prompt on their student notes sheet

ENGAGE: Complete the table below using your prior knowledge of living things.

Living Things

Non-Living Things


How do you know they’re living?



How do you know they’re NOT living?

After they have completed the chart, I will ask 1-2 students to share their list. 

Living vs. Nonliving


10 minutes

Next, pass out the EXPLORE images of living and nonliving things to each small group (3-4 students).  They will turn all the images face up and sort them into living and nonliving.  They will decide, as a group, which are living and which are not and will complete the EXPLORE section of their notes sheet individually: 

EXPLORE: Using the information from above, and your prior knowledge, and the input from your group members, sort the images into 2 groups: living and non-living. For each image, explain WHY you put it into the category you chose.


5 minutes

Students now watch a quick video clip showing living and nonliving things and some of their characteristics that distinguish them.  They will complete the EXPLAIN section of the notes sheet while viewing: 

EXPLAIN: Watch The Characteristics of Living Things video and write down the characteristics that distinguish living things from non-living things.


10 minutes

Students now watch a second video that alternates images of living and nonliving things.  After each thing, pause the video, tell students the name of that thing and have them complete the ELABORATE section of their notes sheet.  They will categorize the object in either living or nonliving and will provide a piece of evidence for how they know.

ELABORATE: Watch Is It Alive and categorize the objects into 2 categories, living or non-living. Next to the names of living things, write the characteristic it meets for living things.


5 minutes

Finally, students go back to the images from the EXPLORE section and explain why the object is living or nonliving based on the new list of criteria for living things.

They complete the chart in the EVALUATE section of the lesson. Students should do this independently, however, if some are struggling, open it up to a group work session after about 3-4 minutes.