Plant Kingdom...Classifying Vascular and Nonvascular Plants

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SWBAT distinguish between vascular and nonvascular plants.

Big Idea

Students construct a diagram that illustrates the similarities and differences between vascular and nonvascular plants.

Lesson Overview

5e Lesson Plan Model

Many of my science lessons are based upon and taught using the 5E lesson plan model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. This lesson plan model allows me to incorporate a variety of learning opportunities and strategies for students.  With multiple learning experiences, students can gain new ideas, demonstrate thinking, draw conclusions, develop critical thinking skills, and interact with peers through discussions and hands-on activities.  With each stage in this lesson model, I select strategies that will serve students best for the concepts and content being delivered to them.  These strategies were selected for this lesson to facilitate peer discussions, participation in a group activity, reflective learning practices, and accountability for learning.

Unit Focus  

The Ecosystems and Interactions unit focuses on students recognizing the interrelationship between organisms and their ecosystems.  It engages students in understanding that organisms have observable characteristics that are fully inherited and can be affected by the climate and/or environment. Students distinguish structures that define classes of animals and plants, and develop an understanding that all organisms go through predictable life cycles. They learn that organisms depend upon one another for growth and development and discover that plants use the sun's energy to produce food for themselves. They observe how the sun's energy is transferred within a food chain from producers to consumers to decomposers.

Lesson Synopsis

In this lesson, Plant Kingdom Classifying Vascular and Nonvascular Plantsstudents examine several images of vascular and nonvascular plants. They note similarities and differences between the images shown which leads them to distinguishing that there are different types of plants. With a powerpoint and guided discussion, they note differences of vascular and nonvascular plants by creating a foldable in their interactive notebook. They use this foldable to as they analyze a mixture of vascular and nonvascular plant images and try to determine which plant does not belong based on their characteristics and features.  At the end of the lesson, I review the images with them to identify which one does not belong. We discuss the features/characteristics that become their evidence to write a claim statement about each one. The lesson wraps up with students constructing a diagram that illustrates the similarities and differences between vascular and nonvascular plants. I use this as a formative assessment for this lesson.

Next Generation Science Standards  

This lesson will indirectly address and support future lessons on the following NGSS Standard(s): 

2-LS4-1. Make observations of plants and animals to compare the diversity of life in different habitats.

5-LS1-1. Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

5-LS2-1. Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

Why Do I Teach this Lesson and Address This Standard?

I teach the Plant Kingdom Classifying Vascular and Nonvascular Plants lesson because many of my students have very limited background in science since the elementary school's within my district do not formally teach science prior to my students entering the 5th grade (the middle school); therefore, they have not been exposed to earlier grade level NGSS standards or other previous state standards pertaining to animals, plants, other living organisms, and ecosystems.  I find it important to expose my students to parts of these earlier standards in order for them to truly develop a thorough understanding of how matter moves among organisms and developing models to describe how animals' food was once energy from the sun in future lessons. Students take part in inquiry based investigations and apply their evidence to explain justify their thinking. Providing my students the opportunity to practice this type of learning will help to facilitate their scientific thinking for future investigations in any lesson.

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering Practices 

4.) Analyzing and Interpreting: Students compare and contrast a variety of vascular and nonvascular plant images and identify the similarities and differences between them. They use their analysis of the features and characteristics to determine which plants are vascular or nonvascular.  

Crosscutting Concepts

The Plant Kingdom Classifying Vascular and Nonvascular Plants lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

6.) Structure and Function:  Students observe and identify different substructures of vascular and nonvascular plants that support their function of obtaining air, water, and sunlight to sustain life. 

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

LS1.A Structure and Function:


Importance of Modeling to Develop Student

Responsibility, Accountability, and Independence 

Depending upon the time of year, this lesson is taught, teachers should consider modeling how groups should work together; establish group norms for activities, class discussions, and partner talks.  In addition, it is important to model think aloud strategies.  This sets up students to be more expressive and develop thinking skills during an activity.  The first half of the year, I model what group work and/or talks “look like and sound like.”  I intervene the moment students are off task with reminders and redirecting.  By the second and last half of the year, I am able to ask students, “Who can give of three reminders for group activities to be successful?” Who can tell us two reminders for partner talks?”  Students take responsibility for becoming successful learners.  Again before teaching this lesson, consider the time of year, it may be necessary to do a lot of front loading to get students to eventually become more independent and transition through the lessons in a timely manner.


15 minutes

To begin, I have students take the handout from the center of their table.  I say to them, "I am about to show you a variety of plants. On each slide, there are two images. I want you to observe them carefully and write similarities and differences on your paper."

I selected this powerpoint because I want them to notice that some of the plants have roots, stems, and leaves and flowers while others do not, rather they appear to growing on other living organisms.

As students work through each image,  I circulate the room observing what they are writing and discussing.   After the last slide, I ask students to turn and talk (using our turn and talk norms) and share the similarities and differences between each image they observed.

I reconvene the groups to the front board and redisplay the images. Here I ask each group to report out the similarities and differences they noted about each one. When all groups have shared, I ask them: "Based on your observations, would you classify these plants into the same group? Why or Why not?"  My intent is for them to classify the plants into at least two groups.  I listen to their thoughts and then say, "Yesterday, we previewed the words vascular and nonvascular."  I post the word meanings and continue saying, "If we use these terms as our categories, which images would you place in each?"  I let them think for a few seconds and then move on, telling them we are going to define these terms more in our notebook.




10 minutes

Setting Our Goal for Today

After distinguishing between the vascular and nonvascular images, I call on a student to read our standard's board aloud to set the goal and expectation for the day. "Today we will distinguish the similarities and differences between vascular and nonvascular plants by examining a variety of plants and identifying their structures that classify them as those plants."

Guided Discussion on Vascular and Nonvascular Plants

To start our discussion, I project a powerpoint which I use throughout the remainder of the discussion, and say: "Let's find out more about these two plant groups. As I go through some slides, we are creating a foldable of notes to keep in our interactive notebook. This foldable helps us distinguish the similarities and difference between them."

foldable outside cover   foldable vascular nonvascular notes inside



30 minutes

Odd One Out- Which Plant Should Not Be Classified with the Others

I direct students' attention to the six stations. I tell students that each station has one photo in the center of the table. Each photo has a variety either vascular or nonvascular plants on it, but not all of them belong with the other plants displayed in the photo. I explain to them, that they need to examine each photo and determine which plant should not be classified with the other plants displayed.  

Then I go on holding up the examine, claim, and support graphic organizer, and direct students to use this as they determine the odd one (plant) out. I instruct students to refer to their vocabulary foldable help them determine which plant is the odd one out. Once they determine the odd one out plant, I have them justify their decision by writing a claim statement.  They write a claim statement using the following sentence frame:  "I claim the ____ does not belong to with the other plants."  Following the claim statement, I tell students each claim must be supported with evidence and tell them to use a sentence frame: "The evidence I have to support my claim is (use observations as your evidence and definitions to help write an explanation to the claim.") 

As students are examining each photo and writing claim statements, I am walking around monitoring groups. I am looking at student observations and descriptions on his or her graphic organizer. In addition, I am observing claim statement written and look to see if written evidence accurately supports the claim. If it does not, I stop and ask guiding questions:

"What do you notice in this picture?"

"Tell me some similarities and differences you observe within this image?"

"Let's look at your foldable and focus on some characteristics about vascular and nonvascular plants.  Based on what you described about the picture, are there characteristics we can use to support a possible explanation?"

With guiding questions, I anticipate students will identify definitions to use as evidence for their claim statement.  I continue walking around the room monitoring and checking in with students.



15 minutes

Applying What We Have Learned

After examining vascular and nonvascular plants, determining which ones don't belong, I tell students they are working with their elbow partner for our next assignment.  I explain that they are creating a diagram that illustrates the similarities and differences between vascular and nonvascular plants.  I point out that they may decide on the type of diagram they wish to use. I show them samples of different diagrams they may use.  I add on, that if they have an idea of their own for a diagram, I am open to the idea of that too. I tell them to run it by me first to verify if it illustrates similarities and differences.

Once students determine a diagram to use, I hand each pair a baggie of characteristics. I explain to them they need to sort through all the characteristics and decide which characteristics belong to vascular plants and nonvascular plants. As the organize the characteristics as similarities and differences, I move throughout the room observing groups and noting student arrangements.

When they finish, I collect the diagrams and use as a formative assessment.