Day 1- Making Food Through Photosynthesis-A Recipe for Plants (Cornerstone Lesson)

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SWBAT recognize the importance of the sun's energy in photosynthesis and explain its role in the photosynthesis process.

Big Idea

Students will sequence and illustrate the process of photosynthesis.

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, Making Food Through Photosynthesis-A Recipe for Plants , students explore the process of photosynthesis by putting on a play that describes the steps in the process.  I then guide students through sequencing the steps of photosynthesis in their interactive notebook and discuss the importance of the sun's energy in sustaining life on Earth. Finally, I engage the students in The Great Photosynthesis Race. This is a team assignment where students work to create a model to illustrate the photosynthesis process. They apply their understanding by following task cards and a self assessment checklist about their model. This is collected and used as a formative assessment on their understanding of photosynthesis.

Next Generation Science Standards  

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

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

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.  

Why Do I Teach this Lesson and Address This Standard?

I teach the Making Food Through Photosynthesis-A Recipe for 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, 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 outcomes and phenomenons. 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.

2.) Developing and Using Models: Students construct a model illustrating the process of photosynthesis. They use this model to explain how photosynthesis is happening in their model.

6.) Constructing an Explanation: Students will write and summarize the process of photosynthesis in the form of a recipe.  Their explanation must show the relationship between the ingredients in order photosynthesis to take place.  They include evidence from the activities in the lesson. 

Crosscutting Concepts

The Making Food Through Photosynthesis-A Recipe for Plants lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

6.) Structure and Function: Students develop and use a model to describe the process of photosynthesis and explain its importance for the functions of living of organisms.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

LS1.A- Structure and Function

LS1.C-Organization for matter and Energy Flow in Organisms

LS2.A- Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems


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.


20 minutes

Reviewing Structures of A Plant

I begin by asking students the main structures of a plant that we have learned so far.  As I list them on the board, I point out that we have explored the job of the roots and stems over the last two days. I direct students to the word leaf and say, "yesterday, we learned some basic parts of a leaf and how leaves help plants make their own food. Today, we are taking a closer look at how a leaf does this." (make their own food.)

I move on and ask a student to read the standards board for today. "Today we will find out how plants make their own food by reading about the process photosynthesis. We will then construct a model to show our understanding of photosynthesis."

Exploring the Term Photosynthesis and Finding Out What it Does

I display the term photosynthesis on the board. I break down the word into two parts: photo- and synthesis.  I ask students to think of what this might mean.  I point out to them that photo- means light and synthesis means to join together. I do this to support their use of academic vocabulary, especially for my English Language Learners and Special Educations students.

With the term displayed on the board, I explain to students that we are reading a play about the process of photosynthesis. I assign each table a role in the play. I hand out props to create a visual replica of the role they are portraying. The sun table receives a sun with sun rays, water receives water droplets, sugar is given sugar cubes, and the chloroplast group receives a leaf with chloroplasts in them. Since oxygen and carbon dioxide are gasses which are invisible, I give the assigned students the element formula that identifies them (O2 for Oxygen, and CO2 for Carbon Dioxide.)

With six tables, the following roles are assigned: 

Sun/Sunlight, Water, Sugar, Carbon Dioxide, Oxygen , Chloroplasts in the Leaf Plant

I selected this play because it provides an interactive way of learning.  Photosynthesis can be a complicated process, especially for students who have limited science background, as many of mine do.  By bring photosynthesis to life, student can visually see and hear the process which helps construct a deeper meaning. 

Bringing Photosynthesis to Life

I hand out the script and explain, "when it is your part, please stand up as a group, hold your prop and read the line of your assigned role together to the class."  I emphasize to them that they are acting and need to become the role. (They have studied plays in ELA and understand what I mean by this.) To allow students to understand their roles, I give them 2 minutes with their group to scan through the play.

Once all groups appear ready, we begin.  I assume the role of the narrator to keep the flow of play and clarify along the way if necessary.


15 minutes

After reading through the photosynthesis play, I instruct students to take out their interactive notebook. We set up two side by side pages, each with a four square on it to create eight blocks.  

Guided Discussion-The Process of Photosynthesis

With our notebooks set-up, I explain to students that we are going to think about all the interactions that took place in the photosynthesis play and sequence them into steps in our notebook.  They are creating an illustration and writing a description in each box that correlates to that steps of the process.  I continue saying, "you can create your illustrations in your own way as we write the details to explain what is going on."  

Then, I project an anchor chart displaying a replica of the photosynthesis process. I keep this posted as a reference point for students as we sequence the steps.

I ask students to think back to the beginning of our play and what the plant needed before the photosynthesis process begins. I have them think back to which ingredient appeared in our play first to help them identify the sun. I explain the sun is our main ingredient because without it, this process cannot happen.  I further explain that the sun's light energy begins this entire process.  Its light energy is absorbed in the chloroplasts of the leaf.

Once there, it ask them the remaining ingredients that combined with it.  They noted that the sun combines with water which has been taken in by the roots of the plant and carbon dioxide that enters the stomata (tiny openings in the leaf)  I guide students through this explanation by illustrating and writing a brief description of each job.

photosynthesis sequenced


We move on to sequencing the remaining steps. I continue explaining and illustrating. "When these ingredients combine, they make to things. Who remembers what these are?"  I call on a student to share. Oxygen and sugar.  I share with them, there are many types of sugars, however, it is the sugar glucose that plants make.  We finish up the remaining squares with illustrations and descriptions.

Photosynthesis sequence-Student Sample



15 minutes

Reinforce the Photosynthesis Process- The Photosynthesis Model-Great Race!

To reinforce the process of photosynthesis, I share with students they will be creating a photosynthesis model with their group. I explain to them the model they create is open to their imagination but must include all the ingredients we discussed.

To add a twist the this, I tell students this is going to be the Great Photosynthesis Race, which implies groups are creating models of photosynthesis quickly. This is a fun way to keep students engaged, working efficiently, and justifying their thinking process. I embed the strategy A.I.R (Analyze, Interpret, Rationalize) as part of this activity.  

I further explain,"while the word race is used, please note there are guidelines for you to follow and one of them includes no running". This activity requires students to work together to create a model of photosynthesis that includes all the ingredients.  Before we begin, I review safety rules, roles of teams members, and the importance of being on task throughout the event.

There are bucket stations set up around the room. Each bucket contain a mixture of ingredients for photosynthesis. Each group member must go to a different station and take one card.  They all report back to their group and turn them over. This is where they analyze the cards they have, interpret the ingredients before them to determine if they are needed for photosynthesis, and together, rationalize together which ingredients are necessary to keep and which ones are not. A student returns the unwanted card to the bucket it was taken from and go to another bucket to select another card.  Each time they keep a card, they place it to the side.  The process continues until students have retrieved all ingredients for photosynthesis  

Once they have all ingredients necessary for the photosynthesis process, they are set to begin their photosynthesis model/diagram.  I let them know that they have tomorrow's class period to work on it.


10 minutes

Wrapping Up the Discussion

I end our discussion by asking students: "Imagine if the sun did not exist? How would this affect life on Earth?

I ask this question because I want them to understand that the sun has both a direct and indirect effect on their lives.  Without it, plants could not make food for themselves, therefore, could not survive. And organisms that depend on plants for their food source would also die which would cause other organisms like people that rely on those animals for food to die too.  In addition, without the sun, plants could not make and release oxygen into the air.  If this happened, all organisms requiring oxygen to live will not survive. It becomes a domino effect to point where life would no longer exist.

They write their answer in their interactive notebook. I collect these and use as a formative assessment.