Basic Needs of Plants

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SWBAT identify the basic needs of plants.

Big Idea

Plants need lots of the same things as animals, with one addition - light!


This lesson addresses Essential Standard 1.L.2.1 which states that students will "Summarize the basic needs of a variety of different plants (including air, water, nutrients, and light) for energy and growth. Listen to my Explanations to find out why I teach the Essential Standards.


*Books & magazines about various plants on a variety of reading levels.

*Enough pictures of plants for each partner group to have a choice between 2-3.

*Recording Sheet - 1 per student

*Science journals, pencils

Warm Up

10 minutes

To get students learning right away, we watch and sing along to this video which makes a song out of the basic needs of plants. Then I say,

"We have learned a lot about the basic needs of animals. Now, it's time to learn more about the basic needs of plants. From the video, what are the basic needs of plants?"

I start an anchor chart and list the basic needs as the students tell me what they are.

My goal today is to really focus on the fact that all of the basic needs are the same as animals, except plants need light in addition to the other needs.


20 minutes

My students have had lots of practice working in small groups of 2-4 students. Today, they are going to work with a partner to determine how a specific kind of plant meets its basic needs.

First, I say,

"Today, you are going to do some research to figure out how a specific kind of plants gets its basic needs. You will use the paper that is in your science journals for today to record the information. It is like the Fact Sheets we did for the different animal classes. Work with your partner to find the information in a book or magazine, then we will report back as a class and add the information to the anchor chart. Look at the board to find your partner. Remember to stay focused and be a hard worker!"

Then, as students find their partner, I give each group a choice of 3 different plant pictures. They choose one and start to find a resource that will work for them. I have purposefully chosen books that are around the room that I know will give enough information about the basic needs for the students to answer all of the questions. Some partners need more support than others finding a text with information that they can use on their reading level, so I make sure everyone has what they need as the groups begin to work.

As they work together, I sit with different groups and listen for any partners who need additional assistance finding information. I want the partners to be fairly independent doing this work, so I make sure they have the resources they need to complete this on their own.

This exploration supports Science and Engineering Practice 4 because students are recording information and ideas and Practice 8 as they read grade appropriate texts to obtain scientific information about the natural world.

Even though the partners are working together, I encourage them not to write down the exact same information because they may have different answers or want to express the information differently. This is an ongoing conversation we have all year about writing down what 'you' think, not just what your partner thinks! It works, because in their journals the information is accurate (mostly!) but different. One higher level reader was taking notes in her journal as she was completing the chart - this is her student work. At first glance, I thought she was just copying the text but I asked her what she was writing and she explained all the details, so I knew she was really reading and understanding the text. My average readers were completing the chart with some detail and needed some teacher support - see student work.

The lower level readers and writers have a harder time with this type of assignment because they have to rely more on both the teacher and their partner. However, they still wrote accurate student work! The biggest difference with the work is the level of detail. All of the students are able to express the information during the wrap up, which is more important to me than their written work because it shows that they fully understood the content.

Wrap Up

10 minutes

As students finish their exploration and have gathered their information, I gather them on the carpet with their journals. The focus of this conversation is for students to share their information so that everyone comes to the realization that all plants have the same basic needs although they may get them in different ways. For example, a cactus stores water because it gets rain so infrequently, and a pine tree has a tap root that is really large because it needs lots of water since it is a huge tree. Although I don't expect my students to already have that vocabulary from a quick exploration, this conversation allows me to expand what they found out and give them the vocabulary. I say,

"Who would like to share what they found out?"

As students talk, I take notes on our anchor chart. This anchor chart will be referenced in the following lessons about plants. I interject with those key ideas, like the cactus storing water and the pine tree having a tap root, to add to the depth of the conversation. I also clarify information when students have some inaccurate information or have trouble communicating what they learned, like when a student and I have talked about his plant but he has difficulty expressing his new knowledge - see the Saguaro Cactus Video. The discourse supports Science and Engineering Practice 8 because students are communicating information with others.

After everyone has shared, I say,

"Now that we know that all plants have the same basic needs, we are going to learn about a few more plants with more detail, from some plants that we eat to some that we decorate!"