Types of Consumers

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SWBAT define the four types of consumers and give examples of each type.

Big Idea

Students play a matching game to demonstrate knowledge of consumers.

Rationale and Preparation

The Why Behind Teaching This: 

Unit 3 addresses standards related to the transfer of energy and matter between organisms in an ecosystem.  The unit begins with identifying what solar energy is and what two forms of energy solar energy provides life on Earth.  This is an important foundation for understanding standard 5-PS3-1: Use models to describe that energy in animals' food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.  We build on this knowledge throughout the unit in other lessons related to photosynthesis and how animals use the energy they get from food.  In this unit students will also be conducting experiments to gather evidence to support their belief that plants get the materials they need for growth from either water, air, or the soil.  This is covered in standard 5-LS1-1: Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water. Students will also be creating food chains and food webs to describe the movement of matter among organisms in an ecosystem.  This is covered in standard 5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

I combined these three standards all into unit 3 because teaching them together allows students to see how they are all connected.  The energy that plants get from the sun is stored in their parts until animals consume them.  Plants cannot absorb this energy and reproduce without other materials from the environment such as carbon dioxide from the air, and water and nutrients from the soil.  The animals that consume the plants, use part of the energy for growth, reproduction, etc. but they also store some of the energy.  That energy is then passed on to other animals when they are eaten by other animals.  All of the energy that is available in an ecosystem can ultimately be traced back to the sun.  Teaching all of these standards together, instead of in isolation of each other, makes that connection easier to see.    

This specific lesson builds the foundation for standard 5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.  This lesson teaches students the difference between types of consumers.  They will eventually apply this knowledge to how energy flows through an ecosystem from plants to carnivores (who don't eat plants), and is recycled back into the environment by decomposers. 

Lesson Goal: 

The goal of this lesson is for students to be able to differentiate between herbivores, omnivores carnivores, and decomposers.  

Success Criteria:

Students will demonstrate mastery of this goal by identifying the type of consumer being described in various scenerios at the end of the lesson.  

Preparing for Lesson:

Warm Up:

  • Dictionary for each group 
  • white board and marker for each group 

Guided Practice: 

  •  science notebooks 


Wrap Up: 

  • copies of the consumer cards - exit game for each student.  I copy them in multiple colors so that students cannot just hold up the same color card as everyone else.  I mix the colors so one student would not have 4 cards of the same color. 
  • Copy of types of consumer - exit game questions on the overhead 

Warm Up

10 minutes

Introducing Consumers: 

I provide groups of students with a dictionary and whiteboard and marker.  I begin by asking students what another name for plants is and why (this is review from the previous lesson on photosynthesis). They tell me that plants are also known as producers because they make their own food.  I tell them that animals are also known as consumers (for the purpose of this activity I do not mention decomposers, I just say animals).  I ask them to look up the definition of the word consume and as a group try to figure out why animals might be called consumers.  I allow about 5 minutes for them to discuss with their group and record on the whiteboard.  During this 5 minutes I circulate to listen to conversations.


After about 5 minutes, I ask groups to share their ideas.  Most of them have incorporated the definition by saying animals eat, drink, or ingest something.  Most groups do not mention the purpose behind eating though.  


I expand on what the students have recorded by asking why plants make or produce their own food.  Students tell me for energy for them to live and grow and to provide animals with energy.  I ask them why animals or consumers eat or consume things.  I see the students make the connection as soon as I ask that question.  They eat things in order to get energy.   

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Venn Diagram:

Students take out their science notebooks and I place my notebook on the overhead as a visual for students.  Having the visual is helpful for ESE and ELL students, as well as those who struggle with writing and/or spelling.  Students who are visual learners also benefit from having it projected on the overhead.  I draw a 2 circle Venn Diagram with one circle labeled as Producer and the other labeled as Consumer.  


I like to see what students come up with as similarities and differences between these organisms on their own.  This makes them think about the characteristics of both, consider ideas that others in their group mention, and argue to support their reasoning.  Sometimes they come up with things that I would not have thought of which leads to great conversation and thinking.  I give groups about 5 minutes to complete the Venn Diagram on their whiteboard before we complete it in their notebooks.  I circulate to listen to conversations and make sure students stay focused during discussion.  

After 5 minutes, groups share their Venn Diagrams.  The majority of things groups had the same, however, there were a few differences that led to some great discussion.  Some groups listed "needs sunlight"  under producers, and other groups listed it in the both section where the circles overlap.  When asked to justify their reasoning, the group who had it under producers said that not all consumers need sunlight.  The examples they gave were animals that lived in the ground such as worms, those that live in the deepest parts of the ocean that do not receive light, and those that live inside other organisms such as bacteria.  The group that said both need sunlight agreed with this but said that with sunlight, consumers would not survive because they would not have food because there would be no plants.  Both arguments were true so I let the other groups in the class decide which they thought was best.  They wanted to go with sunlight for both.  

After discussing the diagrams created in groups, we add to the one in our notebooks.  Our lists look like this:

Producer                                             Both                                                               Consumer

make food                                 need food for energy                                               consume food 

  plants                                            Living things                                             animals & decomposer

need Carbon Dioxide               need water, nutrients, light, space                            need oxygen 

                                                      reproduce & grow 


I have students draw the Venn Diagram in their notebooks, but if you do not use notebooks, or prefer to have them glue one in, you can print the Venn Diagram as a worksheet. 



30 minutes

Graphic Organizer: 

After completing the Venn Diagram to compare and contrast producers and consumers, it is time to learn about different types of consumers.  I provide each student with a types of consumers graphic organizer that students complete in their groups.  I provide each group with a laptop and copies of the graphic organizer for each student.  I give them about 15 minutes to look up the information on the graphic organizer and fill it in.  I circulate to make sure my ESE and ELL students are not being left behind while recording information and to ensure that everyone is taking part in the conversation.


After the graphic organizer is complete, I check the answers, and then students glue it into their notebook.  You can refer to the types of consumers graphic organizer answer key as an example of what it should look like but examples at the bottom will vary.  I like to write down some of the interesting examples that were recorded by groups and mention them to the class.  Sometimes students record animals under the wrong section so I have them look them up to prove to me they are correct.  By having them look it up again, they are responsible for their own learning instead of me just telling them the correct answer.  


Matching Game: 

I provide each student with a ziplock bag of consumer matching game cards.  The cards have either the vocabulary word or the definition on it.  Playing the game requires students to be able to read the definition and come up with the correct term to match it, or know what term they have and be able to say the definition they need to match it.  There are sets of modified consumer matching game cards for ESE and ELL students which highlight the important words they should focus on.  

I have all students stand up and when I play music they dance around the room until the music stops.  When the music stops, they freeze, I tell them to either partner up with who is on their right, left, or who is in front of them or behind them.  I find that when I play music to partner up, students will dance along with a friend so that they know they will be close to each other and can partner up.  I like for students to work with a variety of others, not always their friend, so I make sure this happens by saying a position to find their partner.

Once they have their partner, they choose which partner's matching cards to use.  Each partner takes four cards, the remaining cards are placed face down in a pile.  The player whose cards are being used goes first.  That person asks their partner for a card that would match one they have.

Example: If the student has the card that says omnivore, they would ask "do you have the card for  an organism that eats both plants and animals?"

If they have that card, they must give it to the person who asked for it and choose another card from the pile.  The person with the most matches when time is up wins.  I reward the winners with tickets (these are used as an incentive in my classroom).  I then play the music again and students dance around until the music stops and they get a new partner.  They play the game again and winners are rewarded.  I give about 4 minutes for each game, and we do five rotations and games.

In the first Video of students playing the consumer exit game, the two girls are doing a nice job of reading definitions from the card and placing their matches down.  I noticed while rotating that one of the hardest things for the students was remembering to look through their own cards for matches prior to beginning the game.  If they begin with the word "producer" in their hand, and the definition for producer, they are suppose to place that match down before beginning.  If this happens, they have an advantage because they only have two cards remaining.  In the second video of students playing the consumer game the two girls playing have a lot of cards in their hand and no matches down.  The first thing the girl asks for is "an organism that can produce its own food through a process called photosynthesis".  She needs the word "producer" as her match.  If you look closely, she has the word producer in her hand.  Later in the game they run out of cards in the deck, but both have hands full, that should not happen.  That same girl also asks for the definition for the word "Producer" later in the game, still not realizing she has the match in her hand. 

This is a game that can be playing throughout the year, during indoor recess or free time.  The students will get better at it each time they play and it will keep the content fresh in their minds. 

Wrap Up

10 minutes

Formative Assessment: 

I provide each student with a set of consumer cards - exit game.  One card says Herbivore, one says Omnivore, one says Carnivore, and one says decomposer, each in a different color.  I copied them in multiple colors (not all herbivores are the same color, etc.).  I place the scenarios from the types of consumer - exit game on the overhead one at a time and read aloud for them.  I wait five seconds and ask all students to hold up the card they believe matches the description.  By copying the cards on different colors and having them all hold up their card at the same time, students are not able to just look at what others are holding up. 


As students hold up their cards, I scan the room to see which students are struggling and which questions they are struggling with.  The majority of the students were getting all of these correct.  There was no certain one type that students struggled with.  Instead of focusing on which type of consumer students struggled with, I just recorded on a sticky note which students struggled.  There were about four out of twenty that missed several, indicating they do not have a clear understanding of the differences between them.  These students were trying to look around to see what others were holding up before putting something in the air.  Because I had them printed on different color paper, it made it difficult to do this.  Having the same term printed on various colors is a must for this activity!  All of the students who struggled were ESE students.  I will review with them in a small group the following day.