I like to start my class year off with a good introduction to the subject as well as a fun hook. When students walk into my classroom on Day 1, there is a large box sitting on a lab table labeled "DO NOT OPEN WITHOUT TEACHER PERMISSION!" It immediately catches students' eyes and communicates that this class will not be an ordinary class. I don't reference the box at all as I am greeting them, and if any student asks about the box then I solemnly dismiss or defer their question. I like to build the aura of mystery as much as I can. After we make introductions and review the highlights of the syllabus, it is finally time to reveal the mystery box. Inside the box are seven items representing the characteristics of life. Feel free to use mine or to make up your own!
- A lighter or a food item to represent that living things use/possess energy
- A microscope or a slide to represent that living things have cells
- A binder or folder to represent the organization of living things
- A cell phone with a voice assistant to represent the responsiveness of living things to the environment
- A diaper or baby bottle to represent the reproduction of living things
- A balloon that (when inflated) represents the growth of living things
- Something adjustable (like a clamp) to represent adaptation. You could even use a lock/key and talk about organisms "fit" their environment using specific adaptations
At this point I either have students come up with the characteristics on their own using the items as clues, or I give them a list of the characteristics and have them identify which of the mystery items represents what to encourage review and discussion. After the students are comfortable with the characteristics, briefly introduce viruses and then use the original resource to discuss why viruses should or should not be considered living. If you don't have time to introduce viruses, a discussion about which characteristics of life cars possess or whether or not living things in suspended animation (like the Tardigrade) should be considered alive would also make great socrative discussions.
Link to the original resource: https://goopenva.org/courses/are-viruses-alive-sample-socratic-questions/view