The Root of it All

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SWBAT observe the root system of plants by viewing root vegetables through a root view planter.

Big Idea

Kids learn the importance of a root system through observation.


10 minutes

I call one table at a time to come sit on the floor like scientists. I tell them that today we will be exploring the roots of some plants. 

I engage the kids by first showing them a "root view" garden. It has green onion, carrots and radishes. You can either order one online or you and your students can easily make one yourself.

I have the kids view the roots from the floor and have them visually study one plant at a time. I have them begin with the carrots. They are given 20 seconds to think about what they notice about the carrot plant, then they are given 20 seconds each to tell their floor partner what they notice. I tell them that the partner with the longer hair shares their thoughts first. 

We repeat this for the green onion and the radish. I call on volunteers to share what was discussed with their floor partner. I record what is shared on a chart paper that I have drawn a picture of the root view on. My artwork isn't great, but the kids understand what they are looking at. They have grown a lot since the first day of school.



10 minutes

The kids remain on the floor while I explain the exploration for today. 


root recording sheet, one per student

one root tub per table-

  • potato
  • carrot
  • onion
  • garlic
  • radish
  • turnip
  • parsnip

I have the table leaders come up for the tubs and papers and take them back to their tables. I dismiss one team at a time to sit with their hands in their lap until given instructions. 

I hold up the recording sheet and tell them to match the plant with the root vegetable. Their task is to draw the missing root vegetable on to the appropriate plant. Then they are to color and label the plant. 

The potato is the only plant they see that they do not know what the plant looks like as there are no tops on them. This creates a situation where the students need to use the method of deduction to figure out which plant goes with the potato. 

When they are finished, I have the kids come back to the floor to share their work with their floor partner. I choose three random students by pulling name sticks from a name stick can. Those kids are asked to present their work to the class. I do this for two reasons, 1) it respects class time by not having all students present and 2) The kids know I am going to call people up to present so they do their best work in the time allotted knowing they may be called up. It is very exciting for them. Most of my students want to present and show enthusiasm when their name is called. This is now true for even my shy kids. 


10 minutes

To explain this lesson, I take one of the root tubs and go through them one at a time. I explain that while they are all root plants, they are of different types. 

As I hold them up and talk about each one, I sort them into type piles:

roots -

  • carrot
  • parsnip
  • radish
  • turnip

bulbs - 

  • onion
  • garlic

tuber -

  • potato

I explain to the kids that the carrot, parsnip, radish and turnip are all root vegetables and we eat the actual root stem, but the onion and the potato are a bit different from the others. The onion is a bulb and the roots grow from the bottom of the onion; we do not eat them. 

The potato has roots growing from it, but they grow out from the potato and again we do not eat them. It is also not a bulb because bulbs grow roots straight down from the bottom; potatoes grow them from all around. They are a tuber because they look like  tube and grow roots in all directions. 

I explain these distinctions to the kids so they can understand the difference when explaining their learning to their families. As I explain the differences, I have the kids turn and talk to their floor partner about each type of root plant. If needed, I have them repeat what I say such as, "The onion is a bulb because it has roots that grow straight down from the bottom and we do not eat the roots." "The carrot, parsnip, radish and turnip are root vegetables because we eat the actual roots." The potato is a tuber because it is shaped like a tube and roots grow off of it all around." Research shows that kids who hear information retain 10% while kids who say and do remember much more. Having them hear, see, draw (do) and say reinforces the desired learning.


5 minutes

The evaluation for this lesson is a quick check. As the kids are independently working at their tables, I roam the room and ask each student to quickly tell me about the work they are doing recording the different types of root vegetables in their science journals.

I listen for use of the vocabulary for this lesson and accuracy of information provided. I don't expect them to get everything exact or correct, but I do expect the kids to make a concerted effort to use the words and the new information to the best of their individual abilities.

This means that I expect my high achievers to present more information and use more accurate vocabulary than my students who may be ELL or receive services from our resource teachers. By this time in the year, I know my students and I am aware of what each student is capable of achieving.


10 minutes

I send a mini take home reader with the kids to help them share what they've learned and to reinforce vocabulary as well as reading skills.

They cut and staple the reader in the classroom if there is time at the end of the lesson or as a transition before the next class period. The teacher can have the books prepared in advance if preferred.

Procedure to introduce the reader:

  1. Teacher reads, they they track with finger
  2. Kids read with the teacher, still tracking with finger
  3. Kids read independently to their partner, each partner takes a turn while the other tracks

This take home reader supports learning and serves as a home-school connection piece. It supports learning by extending the lesson and crossing into Language Arts. Most students can read it themselves; those struggling with reading can have assistance at home. 

I tell the kids that the will get a treat in the morning if they read the book to their family and get it signed on the back by a parent after they read it.