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Living and Nonliving for First Grade

If you are looking for quick, no prep activities for first grade students to learn and write about living and nonliving things then you are in the RIGHT PLACE!

I'm a first grade teachers and let me be honest by saying that planning social studies and science is never top on my priority list!

That was UNTIL I realized there are some hidden gems in the form of golden opportunities when it comes to my science instructions. 

Read this post if you want to learn how to build in intervention time and meaningful writing opportunities while teaching your first grade students about living and nonliving things.

The main things students need to know in first grade are: 

  1. How to classify things based on their needs: 
  • Living animals need:
    • water
    • food
    • shelter
  • Living plants need:
    • air
    • water
    • sunlight
    • space
    • nutrients
  • Nonliving things do not have basic needs

2. Whether or not it produces offspring

  • Animals and plants produce offspring
  • Nonliving things do not

Learning the Facts about Living and Nonliving

Okay, “Guided Research” sounds like a super formal term… but what it really means is that these are the activities that we do together as a class and there is typically a right or wrong answer. 

This is where I introduce new vocabulary using word and picture cards and I am “guiding” students through books or videos to find new information. We are then recording that new information on a simple recording sheet. 

These activities are completed at the beginning of the unit when students are just starting to build their knowledge base, so these activities might seem easy, but remember, they are BUILDING their knowledge on the subject. 

I love using open ended prompts like the one you see on the left on the “Plants are Living Things” worksheet. 

I love the freedom that it gives me as a teacher to lead the discussion where I need it to go, but I also love that it gives students an opportunity to get really creative. 

You can easily differentiate this activity by having students draw, label or even write complete sentences. 

Interactive Plant Journals 

Next up comes cut and paste activities. These are PERFECT for when students are ready to become a little more independent. 

You can still complete these together as a class, OR you can have students complete the activities independent FOR… wait for….

EXTRA INTERVENTION time for math and reading!!


YES! I use my last 30 minutes of the day (for social studies or science) to sneak in a little more intervention time. 

I get my students going on an independent activity such as a cut and paste, then I pull back a group of 3-4 students for extra reading or math intervention rather than having them complete the social studies activity… because what's really more important? 

You can read more here: 

Independent Writing about Living and Nonliving for First Grade

I always love to wrap up my first grade plants unit with independent writing. 

I feel like this is the optimal way for students to show me what they have learned and also improve on their writing skills! 

For students who are pretty independent, I let them work on their own. For students who are struggling a little bit, I write out sentence stems for them to use such as “A plant needs sunlight to___.” 

I always like to encourage students to use real life examples in their writing which is SO easy because living and nonliving things are all around us! 

Living & Nonliving Activities for First Grade

All activities in this blog post can be found in my No Prep Living and Nonliving Unit.

You can purchase it for a week of activities for $3. 

Books about Living and Nonliving

More First Grade Science Favorites:


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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!