Niche Roles

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SWBAT identify the roles of organisms in a habitat (producers, consumers and decomposers).

Big Idea

Students learn vocabulary associated with the roles of organisms by creating a graffiti wall of their own!


5 minutes

Teacher Tip: In order to introduce the various roles organisms can have in their habitat, students will spend time organizing images according to the way they obtain their food (energy), addressing NGSS MS-LS2-1.  They also create a "graffiti board" that helps to reinforce the new information and their own examples of the words.  To prepare for this lesson, you will need to print the images in the EXPLORE section and cut them out for each small group.  Each group will also need markers, glue and paper for the graffiti boards. 

To begin the lesson, students individually address the following prompt in their student notes sheet

ENGAGE: Compare the differences between plants and animals and the way they get food.

Animals get food by…

Plants get food by...

Students share their responses after about 3-4 minutes. They usually say something about animals eating other things and plants using the sun to get food. 


10 minutes

Next, pass out the EXPLORE images to the students, one set per small group (3-4 students).  They will follow the prompt on their notes sheet and complete the table to organize their information: 

EXPLORE: Image Sorting

Sort the pictures into 3 groups according to the way you think they get food.

Students lay out the pictures flat on the table so that they are all face up.  They usually start by putting all of the plants in one group, the insects and the animals.  The fungi almost always gets put into the plant group, despite it not being a plant.  After they sort, they write down how they get food. Plants- from the sun. Animals- eat other things. Insects- eat leaves. They aren't always sure about the insects, see EXPLORE student sample.


5 minutes

Students watch a quick video that shows examples of the three roles and also gives a definition for each.  Students will complete the following prompt on their notes sheet while watching the video: 

EXPLAIN: Watch the Producers, Consumers, and Decomposers video and identify the 3 new vocabulary words below.

Producer- (makes own food using sun)

Consumer- (eats other organisms for energy)

Decomposer- (breaks down dead organisms)

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15 minutes

Next, students work in their small groups to combine the new vocabulary and the images they sorted from the EXPLORE section of the lesson. I use a Graffiti Wall strategy - students take 3 blank sheets of paper and write producer on one, decomposer on one, and consumer on one.  

For each, they sort the images into the correct category, glue the images onto the correct paper, draw their own examples, write the definitions from the EXPLAIN section and any other words that help them to remember what the vocabulary word means. 


5 minutes

As a final wrap-up task, students will individually answer the following prompt on their notes sheet: 

EVALUATE: Provide an example of each organism listed below:




(EVALUATE student sample).