Plant Parts PreAssessment

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SWBAT demonstrate prior knowledge of external parts of plants.

Big Idea

Before planting a garden, we must see what type of soil we have to work with! Do your students know the parts of a seed and plant?

Instructional Notes

Throughout this unit, students will learn the functions of plant parts.  Most students likely come with the knowledge of the basic parts, i.e. the roots, stem, leaves, and flower.  It is not necessary to spend an entire day teaching these vocabulary words; rather, today will be about verifying that indeed students know the basic parts of plants and also creating a word wall for the unit.  This preassessment will not be a traditional paper-and-pencil assessment.  Instead, I have chosen more of a "craftivity" (craft-activity) to engage students with our new unit!

This lesson aligns to the NGSS Life Sciences standards for Structure, Function, and Information Processing.  The standards move towards a culminating engineering design, as you can see in 1-LS1-1. Use materials to design a solution to a human problem by mimicking how plants and/or animals use their external parts to help them survive, grow, and meet their needs.

The first step towards this standard is to define and identify external parts.  

Warm-up: Planting the Seeds

5 minutes

In today's warm-up, I begin by setting the purpose for the craftivity.

Friends, today I want to know what you know about the external parts of plants.  Who can remind us what external means?  Right, the parts on the outside!  To show me the parts that you know, I have all the parts of a plant and labels, but they need to go together!  Can you put the pieces together and label the external parts?

Then, to support lower ability readers, we read the labels together.

Let's read the labels together.  Great!  Hmm, "parts of a plant" did not sound like a label.  What might that be?  Right, the title!  Where do we normally put titles?  (At the top of the page.)  I also have some pieces of brown yarn for you.  One of the parts will be made from brown yarn.  You will have to figure out which one!  Good luck, garden detectives!

Note: my students are very familiar with the vocabulary word "external" from our previous life sciences unit.  If this is the first time you have introduced students to the word external, check out this lesson for ideas!  (Even though my students are familiar with the vocabulary, we still sang, "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" just for fun.)

Working on the craftivity!

Student work #1

Student work showing parts above and below a ground line

Student work with the entire flower circled for its label

Exploration: Tending the Garden

30 minutes

The craftivity will likely take longer than the usual 5 minutes I allot for a warm-up, which is fine!  My students could spend all day making crafts, so if necessary, I don't feel bad about having them clean-up for today.  They can always finish their crafts as morning work the following day!

While students are working, I check to see that they do indeed know the basic parts of a plant.  I also ask questions that delve a bit deeper, like:

  • What do the roots do?
  • Have you seen roots before?
  • Why are roots under the ground?
  • Why do you think leaves are connected to the stem? 
  • What is the job of a flower?

Here are some clips showing what my students had to say!

  • In this group, they were discussing the mystery brown yarn (well, shredded paper because I couldn't find my yarn stash!)  What could the brown paper be for?  Are roots external parts?
  • Digging deeper to plant part functions

Next, I play a transition song and bring children to the rug.  I like students to sit in a circle around the perimeter of the rug in a "Science Circle."  I find that this grouping let's them all see one another, and it leads to students being more likely to build upon one another's ideas.  

I display an enlarged copy of a Schema folder.  Schema folders were created by reading guru Debbie Miller as a way to access prior knowledge.  Here is an adorable version on a first grade blog that I will create our chart to mimic:

Creating a Schema Chart together as a discussion gives all students a chance to contribute to the class anchor chart.  It also allows me to facilitate a discussion and see if many students know a particular fact or just a couple.  My students "make a connection sign," which is a hand gesture, towards one another if they have the same thinking.  Students make a fist, stick out their pinkie and thumb, and move their hand to point from themselves to their friends.

One of the best parts of a schema file is the misconceptions section.  It allows us to "delete" incorrect information right away.

First, I will ask a generic question to elicit responses, "What do we know about plants?"  Then, I will ask the questions above to probe more deeply into what students may already know about the function of plant parts.  The deeper questions will inevitably lead to questions as well!

This year, I made an adjustment to the lesson.  Instead of completing the Schema File as a class discussion, students wrote their schema on post-it's instead.  In this way, all students participate instead of only the ones who get called upon!

Here are some close-up's of our completed chart, including the seeds and roots sections.

Closing: Harvest

5 minutes

In closing, we will revisit the objective.  

Friends, today we figured out what we already know about plants.  

My students also began asking questions, which I address next.

We also began asking some questions.  Where might we start looking for answers to our questions?

I have a classroom science center, and one of the bins includes multiple books about plants and the plant life cycle.  Our district also subscribes to some websites for students to complete research independently or with partners on computers. 

We decide as a class how to post questions and answers.  For example, I post a questioning vine on the back board.  Students may add post-it notes or leaf cut-outs with questions at any time.  They can also choose a question and answer it on their own through research.