Characteristics of Life Lesson Plan

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

This lesson plan provides teachers with guidelines on how to teach biology students about the eight characteristics of life. Students will learn the terminology for the criteria that determine whether or not something is considered a living thing.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson students will be able to:

  • use content-specific language to describe the characteristics of life
  • apply the 8 characteristics to differentiate between living/non-living things


This lesson will take approximately 45-60 minutes.



Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins, which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.


Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 9-10 texts and topics.


  • adaptation through evolution
  • cellular organization
  • heredity
  • homeostasis
  • metabolism
  • reproduction
  • response to stimuli


Materials needed: one copy per student of a 3-column by 8-row chart

Activate prior knowledge by having students turn and talk to a partner about what they know about living and non-living things.

Watch the lesson 8 Characteristics of Life in Biology as a class. Pause at 0:55.

Pass out charts to students and tell them to write each of the characteristics in the first column, a definition of the characteristic in the second column, and an example in the third column as they follow along with the video.

Watch the remainder of the video with the students.

Give students the opportunity to review the answers in their chart with a small group.

Briefly review each of the characteristics of life by giving students the opportunity to share their answers with the whole group.

Use the lesson's printable worksheet to check for understanding.

Activity: 8 Characteristics of Life Pictionary

Materials needed: a set of prepared index cards for each group, a mini-whiteboard and dry-erase marker and eraser for each group, timer

Index cards are prepared with one of the 8 characteristics of life on each card.

Divide students into small groups.

Provide each group with a set of cards.

Students in the group take turns choosing a random card from the set of cards.

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