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Characteristics of Life

Content objective:

What are we learning? Why are we learning this?

content, procedures, skills

Vocabulary objective

Tier II: High frequency words used across content areas. Key to understanding directions, understanding relationships, and for making inferences.

Tier III: Low frequency, domain specific terms

Building on what we already know

What vocabulary & concepts were learned in earlier grades?
Make connections to prior lessons from this year.
This is where we start building from.


How do we draw the line between life and non-life? This lesson is from

from http://infohost.nmt.edu/~klathrop/7characterisitcs_of_life.htm

The 7 Characteristics of Life:

  1. Living Things are Composed of Cells:

  • Single-cell organisms have everything they need to be self-sufficient.

  • In multicellular organisms, specialization increases until some cells do only certain things.

  1. Living Things Have Different Levels of Organization:

  • Both molecular and cellular organization.

  • Living things must be able to organize simple substances into complex ones.

  • Some living things may organize cells at several levels:

    • Tissue – a group of cells that perform a common function.

    • Organ – a group of tissues that perform a common function.

    • Organ system – a group of organs that perform a common function.

    • Organism – any complete living thing.

  1. Living Things Use Energy:

  • Living things take in energy and use it for maintenance and growth.

  1. Living Things Respond To Their Environment:

  • Living things will make changes in response to a stimulus in their environment.

  • A behavior is a complex set of responses.

  1. Living Things Grow:

  • Cell division – the orderly formation of new cells.

  • Cell enlargement – the increase in size of a cell. Cells grow to a certain size and then divide.

  • An organism gets larger as the number of its cells increases.

  1. Living Things Reproduce:

  • Reproduction is not essential for the survival of individual organisms, but must occur for a species to survive.

  • All living things reproduce in one of the following ways:

    • Asexual repoduction – Producing offspring without the use of gametes.

    • Sexual reproduction – Producing offspring by the joining of sex cells.

  1. Living Things Adapt To Their Environment:

  • Adaptations are traits giving an organism an advantage in a certain environment.

  • Variation of individuals is important for a healthy species.


  1. Do all living things have all of the characteristics of life? If your answer is no, give an example.

  2. Name some non-living thing that uses energy.

  3. Name some non-living thing that grows.

Kurz Gesagt – In a Nutshell has this video on what makes living things different from non-living things:

Learning Standards

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

PreK-LS2-1(MA). Use evidence from animals and plants to define several characteristics of living things that distinguish them from non-living things.

2006 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

Life Science (Biology), Grades PreK–2. Recognize that animals (including humans) and plants are living things that grow, reproduce, and need food, air, and water. Differentiate between living and nonliving things. Group both living and nonliving things according to the characteristics that they share.

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