Title: Living and Non-Living
(Note: This is a one day lesson designed for Mrs.
Carralís 2nd Grade Bilingual class at Grant Elementary School, Trenton, NJ.)
Observation or Question which
initiated this Investigation:
The students went on a walk/field trip in the schoolís playground to
collect living (or once living) and non-living objects for identification and
classification purposes. After collecting the objects, the students
participated in a discussion with our cooperating teacher in which they
distinguished between and identified characteristics of living, once living, and
Goal for Students:
One goal is to identify one or more living (or once living) and non-living
things through the use of observational skills and the five senses. A
secondary goal is to develop descriptive vocabulary for identifying
characteristics of matter. After categorizing items, the students will
need to be able to explain why something falls into that category (e.g. what
makes something alive?).
Technique for introducing the Investigation for the
First, we will show the students two items from the classroom (for example, a
stuffed animal and a leaf or stick) and have them verbally describe
characteristics of those items. We will pass the objects around the
classroom and write and explain the descriptive words on the board.
Rationale behind using this particular approach to
This activity will connect with their prior knowledge and observations about the
living (or once living) and non-living items they found during their walk on the
Basic Observations you have made regarding this
|Why is one rock smooth and the other bumpy/rough?|
|Some things we find outside come from nature (living) and
some are man-made (non-living).|
|There are many differences between living and non-living
List several Questions which could be
addressed by this Investigation:
|Will two different students describe the same object in the
|How many different ways can you describe an object by
touching it? (For example, shape, weight, length, and texture)|
|What are the basic/key characteristics of
living/non-living/once-living things and how can we confirm that something
fits in a given category?|
|Various fruits and vegetables (for example, bananas,
|Items students have previously collected from outside (for
example, leaves, rocks, sticks, flowers, bugs, etc.)|
By using the five senses to describe an object, we will utilize our
observational skills to try to determine what the object is and classify it as
living or non-living.
Methods used in determining the validity of your
Take one object and hold it up for the class to see. Next, have one
volunteer come up and place the object in his/her hand. Using descriptive
vocabulary, the student will explain to the class what he/she feels, sees,
hears, etc. The words that the student uses to describe the object will be
written on the board. When the student cannot describe the object any
further, the rest of the class will be given the opportunity to discuss/analyze
its characteristics (size, shape, movement, reproductive capabilities,
consumption of food, etc.) to determine if it can be classified as living,
non-living, or once living. After students accurately classify each
object, we will write the objectís name in the columns of the table written on
the board as living (or once living) or non-living. Repeat the whole
process using a different object each time.
Variables which need to be controlled:
The students cannot see the objects prior to starting this activity
as that might bias their judgment as to what is being described. In
addition, a good balance of living (or once living) and non-living objects is
needed to ensure that students will have a good idea of what it is like to feel,
describe, and identify by sight living (or once living) and non-living things.
How will you record your Results? (List at least two
ways to produce data in a form which can be discussed and analyzed.)
We will make a table on the board to distinguish between which objects are
living (or once living) and non-living. Also, we will list the descriptive
vocabulary words on the board.
Show your Results:
||Plastic candy wrapper
||Golf ball / ping pong ball
Sharp Light weight
Was your Hypothesis supported, or
How can you tell?
The classroom we are in at Grant School is bilingual and we do not know yet the
extent of their English vocabulary. However, if we see that they are
correctly using the words that have been put on the board we can assess their
understanding. We are confident that the students will grasp the concept
of how to describe, identify, and categorize most of the objects into once
living and non-living things by using all of their five senses.
(Analysis) Discuss what your Data means:
By having students participate in this activity, we will have an opportunity to
assess their observational skills, which is key to the scientific
approach/procedures. The students will learn that in order to classify an
object as living, non-living, or once-living, they need to feel, see, hear, etc.
to describe the object. They may need to dissect it, smell it, compare it
to other objects in a species, etc.
What would be some follow-up Questions which were not
resolved by your experimentation?
What are paper and rubber balls classified as? We know that paper comes
from pulp which in turn comes from a tree. Does that mean paper was once
living? The same question applies to rubber as rubber comes from rubber
What improvements would you make in your Experimental
One improvement would be to find a way to have all students involved throughout
the whole process instead of one student at a time come up and describe the
object. One way to approach this would be to make smaller groups of 4 and
give them a set of their own objects.