Being Alive!


This lesson developed by Reach Out!

Recommended Age Group: Early Elementary

Guiding Questions:

1. What is alive?

2. What isn’t alive?







  1. Handout
  2. Pencil


Room Preparation: None

Safety Precautions: None

Procedures and Activity


  Ask the guiding questions:

  1. What is alive?
  2. What isn’t alive?

  Talk about the difference between living and non-living things.

  Write on a chalkboard or a big piece of paper, “Living” and “Not Living.” Share ideas about things that are living and not living and write them down in the appropriate column.

  Take a look at all the living things. Share ideas about what they all have in common. Lead the discussion to identifying principles of all living things including: use food, give off wastes, grow, and can reproduce offspring like themselves.


  1. Pass out the handout. Go over the names of living and non-living things in the left-hand column.

  2. Look at the top of the chart to see the 4 main principles of all living things.

  3. Explain the directions for completing this chart. Think about each thing in the left-hand column. Put a check in the box of every characteristic that it has. You might want to do the first one together.

  4. Work alone or in pairs to complete the chart.


Closing - Original Question

  Ask again:

  1. What is alive?
  2. What isn’t alive?

  Listen as the children share their decisions about classifying things as alive or not alive. Look to see evidence that they understand the underlying principles of all living things.

Extension Ideas

  1. This lesson is a neat springboard for children picking out creatures they are interested in to research and learn more about! Help them use the Web, books, videos, and encyclopedias to gather more information about a living creature. Have them share what they learn with others via a story, presentation, drawing, or paper.

  2. Small groups might enjoy researching and learning more about a particular principle of living creatures. For example, a pair or small group might examine different species’ reproduction cycles to see how very differently living things can reproduce (e.g., mammals/live babies, birds/eggs, marsupials). Or they might look at a variety of creatures and how they move or get around. They can share their research and findings via reports, collages, or presentations.

  3. It is a good thing to help children think about the interdependence of living things. They might take a living creature and research how it relies on or interacts with other living things for food, shelter, warmth, protection, watching each other's young—even friendship!

  4. Check out the University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology’s Animal Diversity Web to see pictures and gain information about many animals.

  5. Visit the National Audubon Society’s Birder Homepage to learn about bird watching, habitats, bird feeders, migration patterns, rare and common birds, and current bird research. You can also link to bird museums, magazines and organizations!

  6. Check the Other Science Resources section of this Web site for a frequently updated listing of similar sites—from Frogland to Whale Net!

Careers Related to Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

Something that has life, can move, grow and die.

When something gets bigger and matures or “grows up.”

When something can create a baby or what we call “offspring.”

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