Is It Alive?: A Closer Look At Viruses And The Characteristics Of Life

Grade Levels
6th - 8th, Homeschool
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30 pages
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Explore the characteristics of life (and whether or not viruses fit the bill) in this NGSS-aligned 5E lesson bundle that engages students in

  • a picture-based card sort to activate prior knowledge about the characteristics of life
  • four video stations that utilize web resources (videos) to gather evidence about the characteristics of viruses, as well as the defined characteristics of living things
  • a text-based card sort to evaluate information about viruses in light of the characteristics of life
  • a formative assessment C-E-R writing task that asks students to compile evidence collected from all of the activities to answer the question, Are viruses alive? 

To help students complete the writing task, a graphic organizer is provided as well as a rubric designed for student use. 

Learning Targets:

  • Students will identify some characteristics of living things.
  • Students will apply their understanding of the characteristics of life to evaluate whether viruses are living or not.
  • Students will construct an argument based on evidence to support or refute the claim that viruses

This lesson includes:

  • 19 student pages
  • detailed teacher lesson guide (10 pages)
  • answer keys + rubric

*Find a fully digital version of this activity here:

**If you have previously purchased this lesson and would like the digital version for distance learning, please email me at

How can this lesson be used?

  • develop student understanding of viruses and/or the characteristics of living things
  • practice engaging in argument from evidence
  • incorporate literacy (video analysis; argumentative writing) into your science curriculum

How much class time will this take?

  • This activity can be completed in two to three 75-minute class periods. Students that work quickly may be able to complete the first several tasks (the preliminary card sort and the four video stations) in a single class period. The text-based evidence card sort as well as the CER writing task would likely take another full class period.

Is this NGSS-aligned?

This resource is part of a storyline designed to work toward the tagged Next Generation Science Standards. Because Performance Expectations are designed to assess learning by the end of the grade band, unit material may not fully assess every Performance Expectation tagged in the post.

Explorethe complete Body Wars unit here or access through the Spark Subscription.

This activity works toward student mastery of the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and/or Crosscutting Concepts in the tagged Performance Expectations.

This activity engages students in the following Science and Engineering Practices:

  • Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information
  • Engaging in Argument From Evidence

This activity encourages students to think about the following Crosscutting Concepts:

  • Patterns

Can I see an example of how you structure your lessons and student materials?

Download my Let's Talk Trash Anchor Phenomenon freebieHERE</a>!

What if I have questions?

You can email me at with questions about resources or implementation. I'm happy to help!

Check Out These Related Resources

This activity bundle is part of a complete unit storyline that works towards these standards:

  • MS-LS1-1 Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.
  • MS-LS1-2 Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways the parts of cells contribute to the function.
  • MS-LS1-3 Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.

Terms Of Use:

Copyright © 2021 iExploreScience LLC. All pages of this product are copyrighted, and all rights are reserved by the author. You may not create anything to sell or share based on this packet. The product is created for the use of ONE teacher. Please do not share with colleagues. If they like the product, please send them to my TpT store. I appreciate your support with this request! You are permitted to share ONLY the cover image of this product on your blog or via social media as long as you link back to my product on TpT. Failure to comply is a copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Clipart and elements found in this PDF are copyrighted and cannot be extracted and used outside of this file without permission or license. Intended for classroom and personal use ONLY.

*Note: NGSS is a registered trademark of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.

Total Pages
30 pages
Answer Key
Included with rubric
Teaching Duration
3 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells. Emphasis is on developing evidence that living things are made of cells, distinguishing between living and non-living cells, and understanding that living things may be made of one cell or many and varied cells.


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