How to Teach Life Cycles of Plants and Animals

Wondering how to teach life cycles of plants and animals? Begin with the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Then ask kids to create timelines of different organisms’ lives. Finally, have your students compare and analyze to truly understand.

Ms. Sanchez Teaches Life Cycles of Plants and Animals

Ms. Sanchez sat at the back table with her teaching partner. “Let’s continue planning our life science activities,” she said. “Next up: life cycles of plants and animals.

“The activities will address 3-LS1-1.” She read the standard aloud:

Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.

Mr. Jones grinned. “Today,” he said, “I came prepared.” He pulled up a life cycles unit on his laptop, turned it toward Ms. Sanchez, and motioned for her to follow along.

Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

“Before kids dive into specific life cycles of plants and animals,” he said, “the teacher engages them with an age-old question:

Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

“Aha,” said Ms. Sanchez, “that’s a good one.”

“After a bit of discussion, they will naturally come to the conclusion that one cannot exist without the other. As a follow-up, they complete this worksheet.”

To get kids thinking about life cycles of plants and animals, ask, "Which came first, the chicken or the egg?"

The Life Cycle of a Chicken

“Next,” Mr. Jones continued, “they complete this timeline of the life cycle of a chicken.”

“I like the way diagrams are integrated into the science curriculum,” said Ms. Sneed. “Our kids will like cutting and pasting.”

“Right. This also provides a model, which is one of the practices scientists use. I’m making a note to mention this to my kids.”

Kids create a timeline of a chicken's life cycle as guided practice.

Life Cycles of Other Plants and Animals

Mr. Jones scrolled to more life cycles of plants and animals models. “After they’ve explored the chicken,” he said, “we can ask each child to explore one more organism. When they’re done, we’ll hang them up – gallery style.”

“I see. We can save time with a type of jigsaw project. But then all kids can study the other examples.”

For each main type of plants and animals, ask kids to create a timeline of the life cycle.

Comparing Life Cycles of Plants and Animals

“Right,” answered Mr. Jones. “But to seal the deal, we’ll use this worksheet. Kids consider the life stages shared by all organisms, how the processes differ, and more. The final question asks what would happen if an organism died before adulthood.”

Kids compare and analyze life cycles of plants and animals with a culminating worksheet.

Enjoy Teaching

“I love it!” said Ms. Sneed. “Simple, yet complete. Full of critical thinking. This is some seriously fun science. I can’t wait to get started.”

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