Teaching sequence

Lesson objective

In this lesson students identify the characteristics of a living versus a non-living organism and identify the reasons for classifying organisms.


Play ‘Celebrity head’ or ’Who am I?’ using images of a variety of animals (include at least one cartoon character) for the students to guess. Suggest there might be an easier/quicker way to identify animals.

Teacher note: For links to images and websites with images for this activity see Background information (PDF, 399 KB).


  1. Complete the activity and worksheet Communicating scientists (Word 394 KB). Discuss the difficulties of early explorers experienced, taking months to travel to new countries to find new plants and animals and writing letters home to describe the animal.
  2. Complete the activity and worksheet Mystery animal (Word, 390 KB). Discuss student responses. (This activity is designed to increase students’ observation skills and science literacy). 
  3. Brainstorm the characteristics of a living organism. Ask what the difference is between non-living and dead (once living).
  4. Complete the activity and worksheet Can I survive? (Word, 401 KB) and discuss student responses.
  5. Complete the activity and worksheet Characteristics of fire (Word, 389 KB).
  6. Select two groups of students to debate the topic ‘Is fire alive?’


Show the students the video clip New dolphin species discovered in Victoria in 2011.

Discuss how the new species was identified and how information about the new species was communicated with other scientists around the world.

Ask students what they would call a new species of animal if they found one.


Lesson Resources


Student activities

Digital resources

New dolphin species discovered in Victoria, ABC News online. Video clip (1:21 min) 


Communicating scientists (Word, 394 KB) 

Mystery animal (Word, 390 KB) 

Can I survive? (Word, 401 KB) 

Characteristics of fire (Word, 389 KB) 

Extension activities

Living or not? (Word, 522 KB)

Useful links

Teaching resources for 7–11 year olds. Species discovery, ARKive. Unit of work 

Top 10 new species 2012, International Institute for Species Exploration. Images and information . (9 December, 2016: Original web page no longer available, this page made available by the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine.)