5 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT classify different leaves and identify how leaves help plants survive!

Big Idea

How do leaves help plants survive? In this lesson my students discover that leaves are very important to plants and to scientist. They will begin to learn how scientist use leaves to help solve human problems?

Setting the Stage:

National Science Education Science Standards Connection:

The National Science Education Standards has said that making observations is key to inquiry-based and discovery-focused learning in science instruction. In order to do this students participate in inquiry-based learning that allows them to solve a problem in science through observation, discourse and using a science journal. Students will then be give a chance to share their findings with their peers and then reflect on their own understanding.

Next Generation Science Standards Connection:

In this unit students will learn that plants have external parts that help them survive in nature and then use that information to help them solve a human problem by mimicking plants. This is called Biomimicry - bio: life, mimicry - to copy. To learn more about Biomimicry check out this Ted Talks.

NGSS Standard asks that student identify that all organisms have external parts. Plants have different parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits) that help them survive and grow. In this lesson students learn that leaves collect sunlight for food and they are the main place where the plants sugars are made.

Classroom Structures:

In order to support a high level of student discourse within my science lessons I have assigned two different student partnerships.  Turn and Talk Partners are discourse partners that work together to share the deep thinking that happens throughout the day.  Workshop Partners are partners who are matched together for the purpose of working during our independent times.  In this lesson students will be engaged in both partnerships.

Vocabulary Cards:

These cards include the vocabulary that it important for this unit on plant life.  The standards covered by this unit are 1-LS1-1, 1-LS1-2, 1-LS3-1. You can choose to use these cards in different ways. I like to print all vocabulary words on card stock and hang them on my science bulletin board as a reference tool throughout the unit. You can also use these cards as flashcards or a concentration matching game.

Vocabulary - Plant Life


KLEWS - How do plants survive and grow?

Class set of leaves (picked that day)

Advanced Prep: 2 weeks before this lesson place two plants in sunlight but put a bag over one of the plants. Give each plant water.

Science Journals:  I just use blank paper in my journals so my students have space and freedom to experiment with graphic organizers, illustrations, etc.

Video: Photosynthesis

Anchor Chart - Plants

Science Journal Prompt: How do leaves help plants survive?

Anchor Chart - Plant Vocabulary


15 minutes

A KLEWS anchor chart is described as a tool that allows students to track their learning throughout an investigation, building up to the understanding of a scientific principle. Our KLEWS chart will track the learning about the plants for our next lessons.

Boys and girls, let's look back at our KLEWS chart. Let's reread our over-arching question: How do plants survive and grow? 

Today we are going to explore leaves. When I say the word leaves, what do you think?  I allow my students to share their ideas.  I confirm their responses. You are right.  Leaves are the part of the plant that is thin and flat and can blow in the wind? Do you have any questions about leaves? Are you wondering why plants have leaves? Are you wondering what they do? After giving my students a few moments to think on this I ask them to share their wonderings with their turn and talk partners.  I allow my students a few moments to share and I listen in on conversations and guide questions to support our investigation. 

My students say things like:

What do leaves do?

How do leaves help plants?

Why do they change colors?

Why do they fall off of trees and then grow back?

I bring my students back together. I am wondering the same thing as all of you?  Will you please take a moment and write your question on this sticky note?  Once you have written your question, you will come over to our KLEWS chart and stick it under the "What -What are you wondering?" column. 

I use different color sticky notes so I know what questions are about leaves.

After the students have placed their sticky notes on the KLEWS chart, I read over the questions in a whole group setting.


25 minutes

The standard addressed in this unit requires students to make observations and identify how different plant structures help them to survive.  They will learn that leaves absorb sunlight and turn it into sugar which is food for the plant. This process is called photosynthesis.

I have set up a few explorations that will allow my students to discover that leaves have special characteristics (shape, color, size).  My students will also discover that leaves need the sun's energy to make food to help plants survive.

EXPLORATION #1 - Leaf Classification:

Prep: Before school starts I collect a bunch of leaves from the plants, trees and bushes on our school grounds.

I give each of my students a leaf from our school grounds in zip lock bag.  I ask each child to draw this leaf in their science journal paying close attention to color, lines and shape.  I give each child a magnifying glass and ask him or her to look closely at the leaf's special characteristics. 

The NGSS asks that students engage in mathematical thinking. Classification is the ability to identify something by finding similar qualities or characteristics.  This practice is used in necessary in both math and science.  I take my students outside to try and classify the plant that goes with their leaf. My students will need to pay close attention to the size, shapes, lines and color varieties in order to be successful.

EXPLORATION #2 - Leaves need sun's energy to make food:

Advanced Prep Work: (2 weeks prior to investigation) I place 2 bean plants in sunlight and place a brown paper bag over one of the plants but keep watering both plants for 2 weeks.  After 2 weeks I remove the bag for this investigation and ask my students to observe which plant looks healthier.

My students record and label their observations in their science journal.

As my students work,  I walk around and confer with each student naming and noticing the smart thinking happening. Conferring is the process of listening and recording the work the student or students are doing and then compliment the work. As I listen, I research a teaching point and then work to provide clarification through questioning, modeling and re-teaching. I ask questions like:

What do leaves do?

How do leaves help plants survive?

How do leaves help people?


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering practice 8 requires our students to obtain, evaluate and communicate information. By students sharing their evidence and explaining results students are allowed to engage in scientific reasoning. After the video, I bring my students to our meeting area and ask them to help me fill in our KLEWS chart.

Evidence: The plant under the bag had wilted leaves. 

Learning: Leaves collect sunlight to make food plants.


15 minutes

Did you say Biomimicry? In this section I ask my students to start thinking about ways that leaves have been used to solve human problems.

In order to develop a culture that encourages student engagement, curiosity and a desire to understand the world through scientific exploration, I elaborate on student learning by allowing them to brainstorm different human inventions created from studying roots. We fill in our Anchor Chart - Plants


10 minutes

The Science and Engineering Practice 4 asks students to analyze data. At the K-2 level this involves students collecting, recording, and sharing observations. In this lesson the students are recording information, thoughts and ideas in their science journals. I send my students back to their science journals and ask them to write the answer to our big question: How do leaves help plants survive?

I encourage my students to include both illustrations and words that tell that leaves use the sun's energy to make food for the plant. I am hopeful that my students may start mentioning Biomimicry in their journals.

We review of Anchor Chart - Plant Vocabulary.


Have     Need     Give 

seeds    water     Roots we eat

roots      soil       Stems we eat

leaves    sun       Leaves we eat