Living Things

(a K-2 Animals lesson plan)

From the unit: How are animals the same? How are they different?

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Abstract
Students learn about the characteristics and needs of living things.
Standards and Benchmarks
AAAS Benchmarks
  • In doing science, it is often helpful to work with a team and to share findings with others. All team members should reach their own individual conclusions, however, about what the findings mean.
  • Most living things need water, food, and air.
Objectives
  • Students will be able to differentiate between living and non-living things.
  • Students will understand the characteristics and needs of living things.
Class Time Needed
One forty minute class period
Materials
  • Magazines
  • Glue
  • Scissors
Worksheets
Click here to download Worksheet One

Click here to download Worksheet Two
Science Background

What do our classroom pets need to live?
The things around us can be separated into many different categories. Two of those categories are living and non-living. Living things are an important part of the unit because animals are, of course, living. All living things have certain characteristics and needs. The characteristics of living things: made of cells, obtain and use energy, grow and develop, reproduce, respond to their environment, and adapt to their environment. If an object does not exhibit all of these characteristics, like sugar crystals growing on the bottom of a syrup container, it is not living. In order for a living thing to survive, certain resources must be available and consumable. At this young age it is important that students know living things need food, water, and air.

Students' Alternative Ideas

Living and Non-Living

Alternative idea: Many elementary students believe things such as movement, breath, reproduction, and death decide whether things are alive. Therefore, many believe that things such as fire, clouds, and the sun are alive and plants are not alive.

Scientific idea: A living thing has the following characteristics: made of cells, obtain and use energy, grow and develop, reproduce, respond to their environment, and adapt to their environment. If an object does not exhibit all of these characteristics, like sugar crystals growing on the bottom of a syrup container, it is not living. In order for a living thing to survive, certain resources must be available and consumable, like water, air, food, warmth, mates, and other resources make life more comfortable like communication, shelter, transportation, etc. There is a difference between what an organism needs and what it wants. A living thing needs air, water, food, etc., a living thing (human) wants material things, shelter, etc.

Dealing with the alternative idea: Depending on your students' backgrounds and experiences, it might be worth adding in an entire lesson to discuss living and non living things. At the least, try to take some time at the beginning of the unit to find out what your students' ideas about what kinds of things are alive. This lesson is from a 3-5 CASES unit, but it might give you some ideas as you work with your students. Living or Non-Living lesson

Description
1. Pose the following scenario to the class: Suppose a group of aliens just landed on Earth. They see all of the different things around us and become curious about what things are living and what things are not living. In your science journals, answer the following question: How would you explain to the aliens how they can tell the difference between living and non-living things?
[?] Why should my students ask and answer questions in science?
[?] How can I help my students ask and answer questions in science?
Emphasize that there are no right or wrong answers to this question. The goal is to get students thinking about the topic. Students may also want to simply list the things around them that are alive and those that aren't alive. Encourage them to go a step beyond this by explaining how they know whether something is living or not.

2. Facilitate a class discussion students' journal responses.

3. Do not correct any misunderstandings at this point. Use this discussion as an opportunity to learn more about the alternative ideas students might hold. Some students may believe that all living things move or breathe. So, they often think that things such as fire and clouds are alive while plants are not.

4. Place students into groups of 2-4.

5. Explain the task to students: Each group will be given several magazines. They are to work in their groups to cut out three things they think are living and three things they think are non-living. They then paste these on the worksheet (See Worksheet One). Finally, students should explain why they think each thing is living or non-living. The groups should be in agreement about the things they think are living and the things they think are non-living.

6. Once groups have finished, hold a class discussion. Have each group explain two or three of their choices. List the reasons students wrote for why they made the choices they did. If more than one group has the same criterion, put a check by it.

7. Try to steer students toward the following criteria: obtain and use energy, grow, reproduce, respond to their environment, adapt to their environment. Though students might not use the above terms, they should have be able to put these in their own words. Though being made of cells is a criterion, students at this age are too young to understand this abstract concept.

8. Explain that the list created on the board will be the criteria they use to determine whether something is living or not living.

9. Go through the list. Ask students if they want to add anything to the list. Ask students if they disagree with anything that is on the list.

10. Students will probably explain both the characteristics of living things and the needs of living things. Be sure to help students distinguish between these.

[?] Why should students collect evidence to answer questions?
[?] How can I help my students collect evidence?

11. Explain the next part of the lesson to students: They are going to work in groups to determine whether several things are living or non-living using the criteria they developed as a class. Provide students with the second worksheet (See Worksheet Two).

12. Collect both worksheets. Using what they learned from the lesson, have students revise their original journal entries: How would you explain to the aliens how they can tell the difference between living and non-living things?

[?] Why should students communicate and justify their findings?
[?] How can I help my students communicate and justify their findings?
Assessment
Collect students' worksheets and journal entries. You should be looking for whether or not students understand the characteristics and needs of living things.
Images of Inquiry
Click here to find out how you can customize this lesson.

This lesson focuses on Questioning & Predicting and Explanations & Evidence. (more)

How Kayla taught this lesson
One of Kayla's science goals is for students to learn to use evidence to back up their ideas. One of her language arts goals is writing complete thoughts in complete sentences. Kayla decides to scaffold both of these by using a sentence starter. On the board, she writes "I think ----- is/is not living because -----." After she looked at How you could customize this lesson above, she decided to use "I think ---- is/is not living. My evidence for this is ----." for some of her more advanced writers. She asks students to use this sentence starter in their journals and on the worksheet (she considered added in the sentence starters before she printed out the worksheet but decided to ask students to copy the entire sentence). She also encourages them to use this sentence verbally when they share their ideas.

Author(s): CASES Team

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