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Needs of Living Things: Pre-Assessment

Author(s): Nancy P. Moreno, PhD, Barbara Z. Tharp, MS, and Paula H. Cutler, BA.
Needs of Living Things: Pre-Assessment

One reason turtles bask in the sun may be to regulate their body temperature.
© Achiartistul.

  • Grades:
  • K-2
  • Length: 45 Minutes


Students take a pre-assessment to help estimate levels of understanding about the needs of living things.

This activity is from the Living Things and Their Needs Teacher's Guide. Although it is most appropriate for use with students in grades K–2, the lesson is easily adaptable for other grade levels. The guide is also available in print format.

Teacher Background

All living things require certain resources from the environment to live, grow, and survive. While each type of organism may have individualized needs, all living things need a source of energy (food, for example), water, air, and a place to be. The needs of human beings are similar to those of other organisms, especially animals. People need food, water, air, and shelter to survive.

Young students may have difficulty identifying the difference between needs and wants. The activity "Need or Want?" will help students distinguish between these two concepts.

This activity is designed to focus student attention and to help you, the teacher, gauge students’ existing knowledge about living things, including people, and their needs. Results of this activity can be saved and compared to the matching post-assessment to evaluate student learning over the course of the unit.

Objectives and Standards


  • Living things have basic needs.

  • Living things can survive only when their basic needs are met.

Science Skills

  • Recording data

  • Communicating

  • Generalizing

Language Arts Skills

  • Listening

  • Communicating

  • Using descriptive language

  • Following directions

Materials and Setup

Materials per Student

  • Crayons or markers

  • White drawing paper 


  1. Conduct a discussion the with entire class.

  2. Have students work individually.

Procedure and Extensions

  1. Explain to students that they will be observing and learning about living things (also called organisms).  

  2. Distribute sheets of drawing paper and tell students to draw pictures of themselves. Have students create their artwork individually. Wait until later to conduct a class discussion so that you can use their drawings as a pre-assessment of knowledge.

  3. After students have drawn their pictures, ask them to draw on their sheets all the basic things that they, as living things, might need to live, grow, and survive.

  4. As a whole group activity, encourage students to explain their drawings. Help students to conclude that they are living organisms with needs/wants.

  5. Display or save students’ drawings in their portfolios. Explain to students that they will be learning more about living things during the coming days. 

    Note. The drawings can be used to estimate students’ knowledge or misconceptions about the needs of living organisms. Look for representations of basic needs, such as kinds of food, water (drinks), houses (shelter), in their artwork to gain insight into their current levels of understanding.

Handouts and Downloads

Related Content

  • Living Things and Their Needs

    Living Things and Their Needs Teacher Guide

    The Living Things and Their Needs Teacher's Guide provides resources that allow very young students to explore living and nonliving things and learn about the basic needs of plants, animals, and people. (10 activities)

  • Tillena Lou's Day in the Sun

    Tillena Lou’s Day in the Sun Reading

    Tillena Lou and her siblings spend a lazy day imagining what it might be like if they were other types of animals. What would they need to survive?


Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Filling the Gaps: K-6 Science/Health Education
Grant Number: 5R25RR013454