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Life Cycles: The Circle of Life

free lesson plan and resources about animal life cycles

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  • Students will be able to explain that a life cycle is the steps or stages, from beginning to end, in the life of a living thing.

Questions that encompasses the objective:

  • Describe where you are in the human life cycle, where you have been, and where you are headed?

Prepare the Learner: Activating Prior Knowledge. 

How will students prior knowledge be activated?

Warm up by asking students:

  • Ask students to name the stage of life different members of their family or people they know are in?

  • For example, you (the students) are children; your parents and teacher are adults.

    • Babies?

    • Pregnant women?

    • Teenagers?

    • Senior citizens?

Materials and Free Resources to Download for this Lesson: 

What is the most important content in this lesson?
To reach this lesson’s objective, students need to understand:

  • A life cycle is the stages or steps in the life, from beginning to end, of a living thing.

  • Life cycles are the processes that allow a species to continue existing.

  • All living things have their own life cycle. 

How will the learning of this content be facilitated?

  • In this lesson, students will be initially engaged by watching a short, simplified video of the human life cycle. Students will then participate in a guided lesson, working to develop a definition of life cycle.


  • In the next part of the activity, students will use their definition to identify pictures that do and do not show the process of a life cycle.

  • Next, students will work in groups to demonstrate their understanding of life cycles. Students will order and describe the pictures depicting the life cycles of various living things.


  • Finally, the students will answer a written independent assessment question that requires students to apply their understanding of the objective to the real world, Describe where you are now in the human life cycle, where have you been and where are you headed? The word cycle implies that your life will begin again. Explain why it’s called a life cycle yet one day you will die.

3-5 minutes
Guided Introduction

Review the class/ agenda with the students:

  • Guided Mini-Lesson: Let’s Define Life Cycle (15 minutes)

  • Activity Part 1:  Life Cycle: Yes or No?(15 minutes)

  • Activity Part 2:   Let’s Look at Life Cycles (15 minutes)

  • Independent Assessment (10 minutes)

15 minutes

Guided Mini-Lesson: Let’s Define Life Cycle

  1. Inform students they will watch a video and ask that they pay careful attention to what is happening to the stick man throughout the video.

  2. Play the video once through for students to watch. Funny Life Cycle....Thats it by ROYALENFIELD90

  3. Ask students to share what happened to the man throughout the video. Answers should indicate that he is a baby, a child, a teenager, an adult, an old man, and then he dies.

  4. Inform students that this process is called a life cycle and write life cycle on the board.  

  5. Underline the word cycle and ask students what a cycle is, does or means. Prompting leads, if needed, may include think about a bi-cycle, bi means two and cycle refers to the wheels that go round and round. What about the washing machine cycle, it’s the steps the machine goes through to wash your clothes. Recycle means to use again, so here cycle means a process that happens again and again.

  6. Draw a circle around the words life cycle on the board and add arrows to the circle to indicate the cycle.

  7. Ask students to copy what is on the board and write a sentence telling what they think a life cycle is based on the video and class discussion thus far.

  8. Ask students to share their answers. Write down key words and phrases that are appropriate for the definition of life cycle.

  9. Write a final statement defining a life cycle and ask students to copy it down. Your statement must encompass the following idea, but use the words the students use, where appropriate, to make it most relevant to them. A life cycle is the steps or stages, from beginning to end, in the life of a living thing.

15 Minutes

Activity Part 1: Life Cycles: Yes or No?

  1. Inform students that they are going to test the definition that was developed during the last activity by looking at a series of slides in a presentation; some showing life cycles, some not showing life cycles.

  2. Explain to students that as each slide is viewed students are to record the slide number and a yes, if it shows a life cycle and a no, if it does not show a life cycle.

  3. Begin the slideshow - Life Cycles by Jacquelyn Lawrence

  4. Read the first slide aloud for students or ask student volunteers to do so. Be sure to reinforce the key components of the definition, or criteria for a life cycle; it must be a living thing and it must show the steps or stages in its life.

  5. Play each slide, pointing out the number of each. Allow students 30-60 seconds to view each slide and make a decision.

  6. Once completed, replay slides and ask students to share their answers and reasoning.  Answers: #1. Yes, #2. No, because it does not show steps or stages in life, #3. Yes, #4. Yes, #5. No, because a car is not a living thing, #6. Yes, #7. No, because a house is not a living thing.

15 Minutes

Activity Part 1: Let’s Look at Life Cycles

  1. Divide students into five groups.

  2. Explain that each group will be given a set of cards that depict various stages of life for a living thing. Each group will need to arrange these pictures in order from beginning to end and decide if all the pictures together show a life cycle.

  3. Distribute card sets to groups and ask students to begin working.

  4. Circulate and provide assistance as necessary.

  5. Once all groups are completed, ask each group to share their pictures and whether or not they think the pictures depict a life cycle and why. It is expected that all groups will see that their pictures do depict a life cycle.

15 minutes

Independent Assessment:

  • Describe where you are in the human life cycle, where have you been and where are you headed?  The word cycle implies that your life will begin again. Explain why it’s called a life cycle yet one day you will die.

  • Answer: Answers will vary. I am in the childhood stage of the human life cycle. I have been an unborn child inside my mother’s womb, a baby, and a toddler. I will become a teenager and then an adult. As an adult I will have children of my own.

Individualized Instruction/Scaffolding

English Language Learners/Students with IEPS will be supported in this lesson through written repetition of new vocabulary words, and multiple representation of vocabulary words through printed images. In addition, scaffolds such as sentence starters and note-taking graphic organizers should be implemented at the teacher’s discretion.

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