This is a quick little unit that teaches children about living and non-living things. I find that most kindergartners can almost always tell you what things are living and what things are non-living, but they cannot tell you why. And there are definitely some tricky ones--for example, most of my kids think that a tree is non-living.
And then there is always the discussion of non-living versus dead. They will sometimes say things like, "The rock is dead." So I explain that in order to be "dead," something had to be alive first. And then, most likely, one of you little angels will shout out, "My grandpa is dead." Don't you just love kindergarten!
Even after we have completed this unit, we continue to discuss living and non-living things and the differences between them. Every time we start a new unit on animals, plants, insects or even rocks--we ask: Are they living or non-living? How do you know?
I start this mini-unit by showing the Is it Living? powerpoint.
It's just a bunch of pictures--of both living and non-living things. I simply show the pictures and ask the kids if each object is living or non-living. I do not correct them right away. I just let them discuss their answers. The kids can pretty easily tell you which ones are living and which are not, but there are a few tricky ones (i.e. the rock and the tree). It's fun to listen to the reasoning behind their answers--the debate can become quite heated at times!
Stop at the slide with the stop sign! Lead your students in a discussion with the following questions:
How can you tell if something is living or non-living?
What are some things that all living things have in common?
Resist the urge to correct any misconceptions they have. I know it's hard, but you can do it! Write down all of their ideas on a big chart. This is the list my class made this year. Yours may be different.
Now, choose an object that all of the kids can agree is absolutely, without a doubt, living--like a puppy! Go through each of the ideas on the chart. If it is true for the puppy, put a check. If it is not true, cross it out:
It has a face. Check! It grows. Check! It can move. Check! It talks. No! Cross it out. Now we know this is not true for all living things. It has a heart. Check! They have ears. Check! They have hands. Debatable...depends on whether or not your definition of hands includes paws!
Now choose another living thing, but this time, choose an object you know will get a few more misconceptions crossed off that list. Butterfly got They have ears crossed off. A sunflower got It has a face and It has a heart crossed off. Keep going until you have all of the misconceptions crossed off and you will have the beginnings of a list of what all living things have in common.
Note: Your kids will most likely want to cross off It can move or It can breathe (or a few others) for a plant or a tree. After all, they do not obviously move or breathe. So you will probably have to have a quick discussion about how plants move and breathe at this point.
Your class will probably not think of all the things living things have in common. You can see we only had It grows and It can move. Finish the rest of the Is it Living PowerPoint. Now you can add the other criteria to your list.
Time for some reading. My favorite books about living/non-living things are:
Are You Living? A Song About Living and Non-Living Things by Laura Purdie Salas
What’s Alive? By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
As you read the books, make an anchor chart listing all of the things living things have in common.
You can also go back and discuss the Challenge questions in the Is it Living PowerPoint. Are the the seeds, egg and an apple living or non-living? Get the students to justify their answers based on the things they learned. Here are my imperfect, but kindergarten appropriate answers:
Seeds are living if they are still viable--or if they can still grow into living things. If they are roasted or in your tummy, they are probably no longer living. The egg is living if it has a baby bird inside. Mommy birds have to take care off eggs that have baby birds inside. The eggs that are in your grocery store do not have baby birds inside and are no longer living. The apple is living if it is still attached to the tree and can still grow and change.
You can also have the kids do a living/non-living sort in their science journals.
Make a chart like the one pictured below with all of the characteristics of living things across the top. Choose different objects and go through each of the characteristics for each one. Then have the kids determine whether that object is living or not.
Finally, have the students pick one (or more) objects and answer the questions on a recording sheet in their science journals. You can print pictures for them, have them cut pictures from a magazine or draw pictures.
Here are some cards you can have the kids sort into living and non-living groups (whole-group or as a center activity).