Stages of a Cycle

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Students will be able to identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

Big Idea

Putting apple life cycle stages in order helps students recall facts from a nonfiction text.


15 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When the students are seated on the rug I ask them, “Does anyone know what a life cycle is?” I use the Fair Sticks to select a few responses. I do not select all of the students to respond because I do not want to lose my audiences attention this early in the lesson.

Now I open a blank screen on the SMARTBoard and draw the stages of the plant life cycle as I speak.                                                                     

“Those were all good response. A plant life cycle is when you start with a seed, it sprouts into a plant, the plant grows flowers, the flowers get pollinated and grow seeds, and then those seeds get dispersed – or spread – to make new plants and the cycle starts all over again.” In between each stage I draw an arrow so the students can see the cyclical effect. If you are not confident drawing the pictures then I would suggest having some simple pictures of each stage loaded ready to pull from and enter onto the screen.

When I do this lesson I will often find I have one or two students who point out it is like a circle or a wheel. “You are right. The life cycle if just like a circle, it goes round and round and round.”

“Now we are going to read a book about a plant cycle and I want you to think very carefully about what might happen if all the pollinators disappeared.”  


I use this quick simple discussion to give my students some background information and key vocabulary words so they will be better able to make a connection and comprehend the text we are about to read. 


35 minutes


“The title of this book is Life Cycle of an Apple, by Angela Royston. Let’s look at the front cover and also the back cover. Can anyone tell me what they notice about today’s book?” S

I use the fair sticks to select one or two students to answer this question and have them explain their thinking to the rest of the class.

“Sebastian notices this book has real pictures instead of drawings on the cover just like yesterday’s book. What do you think this means?” Hopefully you will have a student or two who recalls the previous lessons discussion and will point out the book is non-fiction. I generally find I have students who say, “The book is real.”

“Yes, you are right the book is real and there is a special word for that. Does anyone recall the word we used yesterday?” I usually have one student who can tell me it is non-fiction, but if not I go ahead and tell the students, “This book is a non-fiction book. That means it is going to give us scientific information and facts. Does anyone recall some of the features we mentioned in another lesson about what a non-fiction book should have?”

 “Your right Bryan a nonfiction book includes a table of contents, an index, a glossary, and bold words. We will look for these features as we read the book.”


Now I go ahead and read the book to the students. While reading I will stop and have discussions about words we do not know; such as twig, prune, stamen, wither, etc. I will also have the students revisit words we learned from previous lessons to see if they can recall the words meanings and give examples. 

I also make a special point of stopping on the pollinator’s page. “What do you think happens if all the pollinators, like bees and butterflies disappear?”

“You are right; the cycle gets broken. And what happens if the cycle gets broken?”

“Your right we will not have any more apples or lots of other foods that come from flowering plants. That is why pollinators are so important in the plant world and for us too. So the next time you see a bee or a butterfly remember to give them plenty of space to do their work and thank them for helping us get the food we eat.”


When the book is over I tell the students they will be making a representation of an apple tree’s life cycle on a paper plate. I explain to the students they will need to put all the stages in order and draw the arrows in between the stages to show it is a life cycle.

I have a quick review with the students by showing them the life cycle I drew on the SMARTBoard and also a quick picture walk through the book. I make sure I point out the fact the book does not start with a seed. “This book starts off with a bud, but how do we get the bud?” I usually find I will have at least one student who will say you need a seed to get the tree to get the bud. If not, I tell the students, “You need a seed to get the tree to get the bud.”

“At the work station you will find all the materials you need to complete this assignment. There are scissors, pencils, glue, and markers to draw your arrows, write your name and the title. The images you will use are on a sheet that looks like this (I hold up a sample for the students to see). It will be up to you to cut out the images, glue them onto your paper plate in the correct order and then label the plate with a title and the stages. If you look carefully the words you need are on the images sheet."

Life Cycle of apple tree pictures

"If you do not want to use the words on the  images page, or you need help getting the labels in the correct order what other resources could you use?"

I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising their hand.

"Well done Susan; I can use the book we just read, a friend or the SMARTBoard as a resource. Those are all good resources to use." 

“At the station what is the first thing you will do when you get your paper plate?”

Once again I select a student who is following the correct classroom procedure of raising their hand. 

“That’s right Adam; you will write your name on the back of the plate.”


I dismiss the students over to integrated work stations one table at a time.

“Table number one, go have some life cycle fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Group of students working on their apple life cycle                   Student at work


Allow 15-20 minutes for this part of the lesson.


Working on this activity helps the students recall the information they have been introduced to over the past two days. They can recall the stages of the apple life cycle from the fictional text, the songs, the videos and the non-fiction text. The students can see how many different forms of media can be used to share the same information.   


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look listen” technique mentioned above. “When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

I remind students to put their completed work in the “completed work” bin and those that are not complete go into the “under construction” bin.  Work that is placed in the "under construction" bin can be worked on throughout the day whenever the student finds they have spare time. 

Lower student sample - you can see the student tried to put the images in order but made no attempt to label the images. 

Middle student sample - this student put the images in order and used the words beneath the images to label, thus not having to write anything themselves.


Once the students are seated I tell them that their exit slip for today is to tell me a stage of the apple life cycle. 

“Boys and girls today your exit ticket is to tell me one stage of the apple life cycle."

I use the fair sticks to determine the order of the students.

Once a student has told me his/her life cycle stage, they are able to use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack.  

If a student is unable to give me an answer, they know they can do one of two things.

  1. They can ask a friend to help, or
  2. They can wait until everyone else has gone and then we will work on coming up with a life cycle stage together.


Using this easy formative assessment tool gives me an opportunity to see if a student can quickly recall the skill they just used to complete the activity. They have just practiced labeling the stages of the apple life cycle and discussed it with their peers. If a student has a hard time coming up with a response I will take note because I need to find out if the student had difficulty because he/she has trouble transferring skill use from one activity to another or perhaps he/she was copying peer work at the table and does not have the skill themselves. Knowing the answer to this question will determine how I handle the situation. 



15 minutes

The next morning I place a copy of the Life Cycle of an Apple Tree worksheet at each student’s seat. As the students come in that morning I tell them to draw each stage of the apple life cycle. I will ask my higher students to label the stages phonetically; others I will ask to use the Apple Life Cycle Word Bank as a resource to label and still other students I want them just to draw; maybe get a beginning sound.   

Once the student has finished recalling the stages of the apple tree life cycle, I use the Life cycle of the apple tree checklist to see if the student has met the objectives set for the assignment. I attach the checklist to the student’s work and place the whole packet in the student’s working portfolio. 

The checklist serves two purposes. The first purpose helps me to stay focused on the objectives that were set for the assignment and checking to see if the student met those objectives. The second purpose is a way to share information with both the student and the parents as to how their child is doing at school. 


Make an apple seed counting book. For this activity I have three apples cut in half. I have three colors of paint available – red, green and yellow. Students place an apple half in the paint color of their choice and then stamp it onto a page I have divided into four quarters with a number in each quarter. Next they get an apple “seed” (really pieces of brown and black construction paper cut into small seed shapes) and place the corresponding number of seeds to match the number in that particular quarter. Usually the wet paint is enough to stick the seeds on, but sometimes the students need to use liquid glue.