Photosynthesis: Pre-Requisite

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Students will be able to learn and understand foundation concepts and vocab of photosynthesis.

Big Idea

Photosynthesis is an important part of a food chain.

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Purpose of Lesson:

 The purpose of this lesson is to make sure that students have the ideas, vocabulary, and connections ready to be successful in the unit.  


Major Strategies to Watch for:

1) Important Prior Knowledge- Lightning Round - This fun, dynamic strategies pulls our prior knowledge and gives a formative check to student understanding.

2) Vocabulary Protocol- In this collaborative protocol, students build knowledge of a term in groups.

3) Concept Map- The creation of a shared concept map leads to connections being made with previous and future learning.

Ready. Set. Engage!

5 minutes

Learning Goal: Understand how food webs, chains, and pyramids connect to photosynthesis.

Opening Question:  Make a food chain.  Where does photosynthesis take place in the food chain?  How do you know?

This question is meant to help students connect the work we did with food chains and food webs to the concept of photosynthesis.  I want them to really understand that we when we label plants as "PRODUCERS" we are stating that they use the process of photosynthesis to produce that food.

Students record their opening question on their learning goal sheet and are ready to start class 3 min after the bell has rung.  I reward students who get started early with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets.  

Follow the links to learn more about the beginning of class strategies and ROCK STAR scientist tickets.   


5 minutes

The purpose of this section is to raise student interest and participation in learning.  

For this, I have students discuss the question, "Where does photosynthesis happen in the food chain?"

I encourage students to use the sentence starters;

  • I think....
  • I agree because...
  • I disagree because...
  • I want to add on...
  • This connects with....

To raise participation and ensure that students are having a meaningful academic discussion, I use ClassDojo to monitor their conversations and hold them accountable to the level of rigor.  Class Dojo is a free app for the computer or tablet that allows the teacher to call out behaviors and have them recognized by the class.  I tend to only call out positive things, because I have found that it is much more motivating to show good examples than bad.  

Important Prior Concepts

10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to give students a chance to review terms and ideas that were important in other units that are connected to the learning in this unit.  

For this section, I want to make sure the students have a firm handle on the terms producer, plant cell, chloroplast, matter, and chemical reaction.  These are all terms the students have studied before, what I'm doing in this lesson isn't so much as teaching them as re-igniting them.  A fun way to do this is to put the words into a bag and then tell the students they are going to get to have lightning round discussions.  

Every time I pull out a word students have 15- 20 seconds to remind their partner what it is about and what is important about it. After the 15 seconds are up I call on random students using name sticks and reward answers with ROCK STAR SCIENTIST tickets. This also serves as a fun formative check.  If you are using this strategy and the room is silent, you know you need to stop and reteach.

Today, I find that the majority of the students understand the terms well but there is a group of students still struggling.  I'm going to work with the instructional coach to put into place a pull-out vocabulary group for these students. Below is a screencast of the types of assignments a pull-out group might do.  

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Vocabulary Activity

10 minutes

Now that students are excited to learn about photosynthesis and know what they are going to learn about, it is a perfect time to introduce some Photosynthesis Vocabulary.  I use a multimodality strategy to introduce only about five to seven words, and do this in collaborative groups of four with each person having an assigned job.  

1- Word person- states what they already know about the word or what the word means to them.

2- Image person- States what they think about the picture and what it means to them.  

3- Definition person- Reads the definition and states what it means to them.

4- Sentence Person- Reads the sentence and states what it means to them.  

I project the presentation on the board or put individual copies at the desks.  

I use a timer and a bell.  Each person gets 15 sec for their role.  In the beginning of the activity the students need to be trained on what to do and it helps to give them some sentence starters, like "This means..."  "When I hear this I think..."

After each person has rotated through their roles for the first word, I give the students 1-2 min of independent time to make their TIP charts (Term, Information, Picture) for that term. Then we move on as a class to the next term.  Later in the year, when students are familiar with the process this can be released to them to manage their time.  But in the beginning I manage the time to keep the class on track.

This work has meaning and purpose. Students keep these homemade glossaries in their folders and can use them on all the work we do in class including tests and quizzes.  This is a great resource for them to use the rest of the year!

Below is a screenshot of the word slide for PRODUCT and a video of the student discussion.



2 minutes

Closing Statement: "We will be using this basic vocabulary of photosynthesis as we start learning how to read chemical equations."

Closing Question: "Try to put as many of your vocabulary words together in a sentence.  What would it sound like?"

Closure depends greatly on timing and is not as easy to plan in advance as opening.  You can find more information about how I manage closure here.