Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Is It Alive?

Laurie Ayers
Bay District Schools


This is the first lesson of the Unit Plan: Living Things. Students explore living things and their habitats. They create an original It's Alive! book to demonstrate what they have learned.


The student understands that living things need food, water, space, and shelter to survive.

The student knows how to classify things as living and nonliving.

The student understands different ways in which living things can be grouped (for example, plant/animals, edible plants/non-edible plants).


-Chart paper and a pen
-A closable, clear, plastic bag for each student
-Copies of Living/Non-living classifying chart, one per student (in associated file)
-Magazine or computer-generated pictures of living things
-Copies of the student activity My Basic Needs for Day 3, one per student (in associated file)
-White construction paper, two 12x18 pieces per student
-Crayons or water based felt tip markers
-Scissors, one per student
-Glue or glue sticks
-Copies of web, one per student (in associated file)
-Overhead projector
-Overhead transparency of the web for the teacher (in associated file)
-Completed It’s Alive Books
-Overhead transparency of K-W-L chart , if teacher chooses to use the sample K-W-L chart in this way (see extensions)
-Primary nonfiction books, magazines, or other resources about various kinds of plants and animals, one per student
-Copies of Note to Parents to explain the homework activity for Day 1 (in associated file)
-Copy of Summative Assessment 1(see extensions)
-Copy of the Rubric for It's Alive Books (see extensions)
-Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze (see Weblinks)


1. Obtain an example of a living thing, such as a hamster, butterfly, earthworm, bird, garden snake, etc.
2. Create a K-W-L chart on chart paper.
3. Familiarize yourself with the summative assessment and prepare guiding questions to lead class discussions.
4. Gather supplies listed in the Materials list.
5. Download and make copies of the classifying chart, “My Basic Needs,” and web, one copy each per student.
6. Make It’s Alive books following the directions in the Day 1 lesson plan, one per student. Remember to make one to use when modeling the activity.
7. Make overhead transparencies of the web from the associated downloadable file.
8. Download the rubric for the It’s Alive project from the associated file and make an overhead transparency of it.
9. Download and make copies of the “Note to Parents” in associated file.


This lesson plan contains learning activities and assessments for days 1-5 of the Unit Plan: It’s Alive!

Day 1
(Note: Time for the lesson is 30 minutes. The nature walk will be an additional 30 minutes.)

1. To generate interest, display a living creature, possibly a hamster, garden snake, butterfly, or earthworm and ask leading questions to guide students in wanting to determine characteristics of living things. Explain that the purpose of this lesson is to learn more about living and non-living things.

2. The class then creates a K-W-L chart about living/non-living things. A sample K-W-L chart can be found in the Diagnostic Assessment file (see extensions). Use the sample as a model to create a larger chart on the board or on chart paper or download it and make an overhead transparency to complete with the class. It is necessary to look at Summative Assessment 1 (see extensions) to determine questions that will guide discussion along specific lines pertaining to the concepts being taught, i.e., How do we know if something is alive? What do living things need to survive? Can all living things live in the same environment? How do living things adapt to their environments? What is an environment? How are environments alike and different? What is a habitat? What does survive mean? What does adapt mean? What does classify mean? What is climate?

3. Distribute clear, plastic bags to each student and explain that the class will go for a walk. Each student is to collect 10 objects. Discuss safety hazards and precautions. Go for a walk and allow students to explore the environment and collect objects.

4. Upon returning to the class, define the word classify and instruct students to classify or group their objects into living and non-living groups using the downloadable classifying chart. Students discuss and compare their groups with those of a nearby partner.

5. Guide the students in determining that living things breathe, grow, and need food. Non-living things do not.

6. Record these ideas on a piece of chart paper and leave it up for display for the entire length of the unit.

7. In summary, students are encouraged to notice living things at home, in the backyard, on the playground, etc., and bring pictures of them for the next day. The pictures can be drawings, magazine pictures, photographs of pets, computer generated, etc. A “Note to Parents” is sent home to explain this homework activity (See associated file).

8. Reminder: Collect a few extra pictures of living things in case someone forgets.

9. Begin making the It’s Alive books for use on Days 4 and 5. To make an It’s Alive book, you will need two 12”x18” pieces of white construction paper per student. Fold one sheet 6" up from one 12” side. Fold the other piece of construction paper 8” up from the 12” side. Slide the piece that is folded 8” under the piece that is folded 6” until the folds touch. Staple two times at the top. You now have a layered book. Make one per student.

10. Students begin working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze. Note: It is suggested that emerging readers be paired with a more fluent reader to facilitate learning.

Day 2

1. Review characteristics of living/non-living things. Using the pictures collected the previous day, model ways the pictures might be grouped.

2. The students share their pictures of living things. Facilitate the discussion in order to teach as students practice grouping the pictures, according to varying criteria (i.e., plant or animal, if it lives on land, in the sea, or in the air, the number of legs or body parts, how animals move, etc.). As the student places his picture in an appropriate group, he states why he placed it there. Give appropriate formative feedback.

3. Students can be divided into small groups and practice grouping their pictures in various ways. Encourage discussion.

4. Finish making the It’s Alive! books to be used on Days 4 and 5.

5. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 3

1. Review the characteristics of living and non-living things and ways living things can be grouped.

2. Explain that all living things have basic needs.

3. Define basic needs as what living things must have to stay alive (food, water, shelter, and space). Note: To help students understand the concept of space, tape off a square area on the classroom floor big enough for all students to stand in it, but not have any space to move. Invite students to come into the square. Allow a few minutes for them to be in this position. Then ask, "Do you think you could survive if you had to live in this space?" Why? Why not? Lead students in determining their need for personal space. Encourage them to think about the effects of not having enough space. Some examples might be limited movement, altercations with others who get too close to us, not enough food for everyone, not enough homes for everyone, etc.) Discuss overpopulation and how it decreases the amount of personal space, thus threatening existence. Space is important to living things.

4. Discuss similarities and differences of basic needs of plants, animals, and humans and ways they are met.

5. Distribute copies of the cut and paste activity entitled “My Basic Needs” (in associated file), one per student. Also, distribute scissors, crayons, and glue or glue sticks.

6. Tell students that they are to look at each picture at the bottom of the worksheet and think about what basic need it might help humans meet. Then they are to cut out the pictures and match and glue them under the correct basic need word at the top.

7. Students complete the activity. The completed activity is used as a formative assessment to guide future instruction.

8. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 4

1. Review basic needs.

2. Using an overhead projector and the webs (available in the associated file), model how the students can read a non-fiction book about a living thing and use a web to take notes about how the living thing meets its basic needs. (The web in this lesson plan is based on the needs of a rabbit. If you do not have access to a non-fiction book about rabbits, change the subject). Model how the notes on the web can be used to create an It’s Alive book. Show the students examples of completed It’s Alive books. (Non-fiction books will be dificult for students because not many are written at their level. Options for assisting students: First, pre-select appropriate books, one each for small groups of students. Second, tape the books on audiocassettes. Last, allow small groups of students to -read- the books following along with the audiocassette. Another option would be for the teacher and the librarian to preselect about twenty books. Then allow students to choose from the selected books.)

3. Students choose a nonfiction book about a living thing, read it, and complete a web with facts about how it meets its basic needs. Note – Use awareness of student performance and capabilities and provide alternative strategies for students who might have trouble completing the task. Suggestions for this might include pairing a more capable student with a less capable student, dividing the students into small groups and allowing them to read the book in a round robin fashion, or dividing students into small groups and restructuring this activity into a cooperative task, etc.

4. Share the downloadable rubric for assessment of the project and allow time for the students to ask questions (see extensions).

5. Give directions for the project as specified in the assessment file (see extensions).

6. Materials are passed out and students are encouraged to start their projects. Facilitate the activity by observing student performance and facilitating when necessary. Provide specific feedback using criteria from the rubric.

7. The student uses the graphic web to create an It’s Alive book following the format modeled by the teacher and described on the rubric.

8. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.

Day 5
1. Finish It’s Alive books. If some students finish before others, they could be encouraged to complete the Web lesson that correlates with this unit, add more details to their books, or write a creative story about the living thing.

2. While the unit continues, students facilitate a review of the material from Days 1-5 by reading their books each day. This could be done during the Self-Selected Reading component of the Reading Framework.

3. Students continue working in pairs to complete the Student Online Web Lesson, Critter Craze.


Diagnostic Assessment (see extensions) – On the first day of this unit, the teacher and class will create a K-W-L chart about living and non-living things. Look for evidence of knowledge of the characteristics of living and non-living things, ways things can be grouped, and basic needs. The data is then used to guide instruction.

Formative Assessments – Formative assessments will be ongoing throughout the unit and occur at times designated in daily lesson plans.

Summative Assessment 1(see extensions) – This is a performance assessment that will be done on Days 4 – 5. Students create an It’s Alive book to demonstrate knowledge of classifying living/non-living things, understanding of different ways living things can be grouped, and understanding that living things need food, water, space, and shelter to survive. They are to choose something that is alive, name a group it could belong to, and write three sentences about ways it meets its basic needs.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL:
Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

2. Students need previous experience writing sentences.

3. Students need previous experience in reading. If some students have difficulty reading primary books, implement alternate strategies such as those suggested in the lesson plans.

4. Vocabulary could be used as part of the reading framework program and put up on a word wall.

5. Integrate journal writing activities to go along with this unit.

6. The layered book could have an extra page added to it for a title page.

Web Links

This is a Java Game. You will need Netscape 3.0, Internet Explorer 3.0 or higher to play the game.
What Am I?

Web supplement for Is It Alive?
Animal Matching Game

Would need to be read by the teacher
Kratt's Creatures

For links on animals. Click on the following links: Education, Elementary Education, Science, Animals.

An online Student Web Lesson that introduces the concepts of basic needs, grouping, and habitats.
Critter Craze

Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.