Teaching about the 5 Kingdoms of Life

After our homeschool science co-op teacher withdrew from teaching due to a family emergency, I had to be creative in setting up a science plan for the rest of our homeschool year.  I decided it was time to focus on living things with my then 7-year-old son. Apparently, to many teachers, lower elementary means learning that living things are plants and animals. I couldn't find hands-on activities for my son that talked about all kinds of life! Teaching about the 5 Kingdoms of Life was fun when we took great picture books and added in relevant hands-on activities.

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What "Alive" Is and How to Classify Living Things

Before we could find the relationship between plants and animals and even microscopic creatures, it was important to learn what makes something alive. How could I pull it all together? 

We turned, of course, to great picture books first. Although my full list of suggested books are included on the annotated list in my full unit, I'll highlight favorites on this blog post in the sidebars. 

What's Alive? by Kathleen Zoehfeld

After reading the picture book, we went on a scavenger hunt to find living things outside. It's always a bonus to be able to get out of the house for our lessons!

My son doesn't need to know about taxonomy of living things at his age. But, we did learn what it means to classify things. We used his toys as an example and sorted them with like characteristics. We can sort vehicles and then classify them even further by air, land, or sea, for example. My son loves sorting and putting things in order, so this was great fun for him!

I also made a more specific set of learning examples for those who are older. I have a file folder activity where kids must determine what level of the cat's taxonomy each of the images are, and a page where students can research their own living thing and find the taxonomy.


Learning about Each Kingdom

The most important part of learning about the kingdoms of life is seeing how they all fit together in the world. We read about how animals use plants for their homes, how dying plants provide food for fungi, the decomposers and so forth. I put together a reader's theater for when we do this unit with a homeschool co-op group. 

Here's a rundown of the other things in our unit: microscope exploration, making bread (watching yeast, a fungus, expand). I also included great books from each of the categories to help teach theses concepts. 

A Log's Life by Wendy Pfeffer

Tiny Creatures by Nicola Davies

Fungus Is Among Us! By Joy Keller

Plants Can't Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsh

A Mammal Is an Animal by Lizzy Rockwell

Get the 5 Kingdoms Unit

My son's favorite part of all of these learning materials was definitely the file folder sort. He watched over my shoulder a little as I was putting together the pages on the computer. 

“Can I help you? Can I do it before I go to bed?” he asked.

“Nope. This is for school tomorrow.” I replied.

“But can we do it first thing tomorrow morning?” he begged.

I love the eagerness. I love the delight he had as we cut, sorted, and put hook-and-loop tape (Velcro) on the backs. He said, “I want to learn more about all of them!”

Learn about Life on Earth

Learn about the 5 kingdoms of life (protists & monera, fungi, plants, and animals) with this set of learning materials. After these books and activities are complete, review with file folder sort and booklets. Included are the following learning materials.

  • PowerPoint presentation about the kingdoms of life, including a narrated version and a video version.
  • A booklet or ebook format of the presentation information.
  • Lesson Ideas for Young Children
  • Lesson Ideas for Middle and Upper Elementary Children
  • Annotated Book List (3 pages long)
  • Living Things. Includes a scavenger hunt at 2 levels.
  • Sort by Similarities (Classification). Includes an activity idea for younger children, and a file folder sort and research page for older children.
  • Ecosystems Activities. Includes a spinner (life cycle of a tree), a reader’s theater, and a writing prompt.
  • Microorganisms. Includes a dirt activity and a microscope activity.
  • Fungi. Includes a recipe for cooking with yeast.
  • Plants. Includes a list of activity Ideas & poster
  • Animals. Includes a list of activity Ideas & poster
  • Review Activities. Includes a file folder living things/kingdom sort, as well as similar pages for an interactive notebook; mini-booklets and larger booklets at three differentiated levels.

This post was originally written and appeared in a different format in May 2014.

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