Activities for First Graders to Learn About Living & Non-Living Things

Gold fish can help teach first graders about living and non-living things.
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Teaching first graders to understand the difference between living and non-living things can be accomplished by using several types of activities in conjunction with formal lessons. These activities require teacher preparation and involve several basic resources, including picture cards, magazines, construction paper, glue, a fish, fish food, pencils, marker and a white board or chart paper.

1 Fish Activity

Tell the children you will be experimenting to see whether the rock or the fish is a living thing.
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As part of your preparation, obtain a fish in a fish bowl, fish food, a rock, a marker and chart paper. Tell the students that you will be conducting an experiment to determine whether the rock or the fish is a living thing. Feed the fish food to both the rock and the fish, encouraging students to observe and compare the differences as you write their responses on the chart paper. Have the students identify which of the two is a living thing, encouraging them to share why they have come to their conclusion. A white board or chalkboard can be substituted for the chart paper.

2 Magazine Activity

Gather age appropriate magazines.
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You will need to gather several age-appropriate magazines, construction paper, glue and scissors as part of your preparation for this activity. Provide each student with a sheet of construction paper. Have them fold it in half and write "living" on one side and "non-living" on the other. Instruct the students to look through the magazines and to cut pictures of living and non-living things out. Tell the students to label each picture and to glue them to the appropriate side of their sheet of construction paper.

3 Scavenger Hunt Activity

Prepare a worksheet with two columns.
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Prior to this activity, you will need to prepare a worksheet with two columns, one headed "living" the other "non-living." Provide each student with a copy of the worksheet, then lead them on a scavenger hunt around the school looking for examples of living and non-living things. Have the students write their observations in the appropriate column, and review with them once back in the classroom.

4 Cut-Out Activity

Have the students color the shapes and cut them out.
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This activity will require you to prepare two worksheets, one with four large octagons and a large rectangle and another with a list of living and non-living things.

Within each octagon, write the four following phrases: "If I need air...I am LIVING," "If I produce young...I am LIVING," "If I need food...I am LIVING" and "If I need water...I am LIVING." In the rectangle, write "If NOT, I am non-living."

On the second worksheet, create a two-column list of living and non-living things with the words "living" and "non-living" underneath.

Have the students color the shapes and cut them out. Based on the information contained within the shapes, have the students determine whether the items listed on the second worksheet are living or non-living, and instruct them to circle the appropriate word.

5 Picture Card Activity

Separate the children into small groups.
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Prior to this activity, prepare a checklist of living and non-living things based on the set of picture cards that you will provide the students with. Make sure the checklist identifies whether the object is living or non-living. Separate students into small groups and provide each group with a set of picture cards. Have them divide their set of cards into living and non-living things as a group, and then provide each group with a copy of the checklist so the students can verify whether they properly sorted the cards or not.

Lou Martin has been writing professionally since 1992. His work has appeared in the "Los Angeles Times," the "Long Beach Press-Telegram" and the "Deseret Morning News." Martin holds a Bachelor of Science in history and communication.