Day 1- What do plants really need?

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SWBAT plan and conduct an investigation to determine what plants need to grow.

Big Idea

Students will use evidence to support an argument that plants obtain nutrients mostly from air and water.

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 Day 1-What Do Plants Really Need lesson, students begin by brainstorming about what plants are, have, and need. Then we compile these ideas and review them as a whole class. We analyze the chart to determine what things we believe help plants grow and develop. With a guided discussion, it is determined that carbon dioxide, sunlight, water, and soil are all needed for a plant to grow, develop, and survive. We use the scientific method to plan and investigate whether or not these things impact the growth and development of a plant. After identifying variables being tested and creating hypothesis for each one, students set up their investigations. We review how the data table that will be used through the investigation to draw conclusions at the end.

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

Scientific & Engineering Practices

Students are engaged in the following scientific and engineering practices:

3.) Planning and Carrying Out Investigations- Students plan out five investigations to produce data in order to determine what plants need for growth. These investigations each have control variables and independent variables to provide clear evidence to support a final explanation of what plants really need.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Day 1-What Do Plants Really Need lesson  lesson will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

2.) Cause and Effect- Students plan and conduct an investigation to determine the effects of plant's growth when one material typically used in growth is removed.

6.) Structure and Function- Student plan and conduct an investigation of materials plants use for growth to determine their basic needs to support their overall growth development and survival.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas within this lesson include:

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.

I have model proper use of chromebooks early in the year. At this point in the lesson, students are familiar with expectations when using them.  They understand the responsibility and accountability factors that allow them to use the chromebooks independently.


15 minutes

I begin the lesson by asking students, "What do plants really need in order to grow, develop, and survive?" I take a few ideas from the students, which include: soil, sun, water, and air. However, I don't get into defining these needs as my students will be designing an investigation to find the answer to this question and use the evidence to construct a claim paragraph at the end.

Activating Prior Knowledge

I draw a 3 column diagram on the board and ask students to create the same one in their interactive notebook.  










Then I move on and say, take a 5 minutes with your group to think and discuss what plants need, have, and are and record your thoughts in your chart. 

As students are discussing, I circulate the room observing their ideas listed on the chart. Once groups are about finished, I hand out a marker to each group.  I tell them each member from the group is going to post an idea from their chart on the board. They can select any idea they have written on their chart. After they have written down an idea, they hand the marker off to another group member. This process continues until a well developed list is generated on the board.  I tell students to add ideas from other groups they did not have on their chart.  This helps them build a stronger background.

I reconvene the class as a whole and review the ideas listed on the board. We look for interesting ideas listed and identify any questionable ones.



15 minutes

Guided Discussion

I ask students to analyze the chart that has been created.

Class chart of plant brainstorm

I tell them to identify ideas that relate to helping the plant grow.  I ask for some students to share a loud.  Many shares included water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, which shows me they recall the lesson on photosynthesis and the ingredients needed for plants to perform it. Other ideas include, roots, stem, and leaves, the basic structures of the plant.  While these are needed to help a plant grow and survive, I guide the discussion by asking students to think about what is needed for those parts to grow and keep the plant alive. They determine plants need water, air, sunlight, soil to grow.

Now that students have identified these as the materials needed for a plant to grow, I ask them to think about taking away one of these materials and consider the affect it may have on a plant's growth.  I tell them to just think about the possible outcomes for now as we are designing an investigation to gather and use evidence to prove what plants really need in order for them to grow, develop, and survive.

Components of Planning an Investigation

Before students plan and carry out their investigation, I bring up the term variable and post it on the board.  I define these terms on the board.

  • variablesomething that may be changed during an experiment. 
  • independent variable:one condition that you change in an experiment.
  • dependent variable: the response to the independent variable; you measure or observe it.
  • control variablesomething that does not change during an experiment.


We discuss how we are planning our investigation around these variables to gather evidence to determine what plants really need to grow, develop, and survive.




30 minutes

Setting Up Our Investigation

At this point, I guide students in setting up our investigation according to the variables we identified. We use our interactive notebook to set up our investigation pages.  First, I hand out an interactive scientific method process recording sheet. I review the sections by pointing out our investigation question, writing a hypothesis based on it, the investigation procedure, and final conclusion.

Next, I hand out a data table.  I explain that we are recording data on this table to help determine if the independent variable affects the plant's growth.  I go over each part, identifying the components that they are gathering data on. These include structures, color, height, and sketch.  I tell them each time we make an observation, we are looking for new and/or changed structures on the plant, color appearances and changes, how tall the plant grows, and any other indications caused by the independent variable.

Writing our Hypothesis  

Once we set up our notebooks, I direct students to their controlled variable investigation page and have them write the Question: Does sunlight, soil, water, and air affect a plant's growth? Then, I guide them through the process of writing a hypothesis in response to the investigation question. I tell them to think about what they already know about plants to help them formulate a statement as to how this particular plant will grow based on their prior knowledge.  I discuss with them that it is ok for a hypothesis to be incorrect.  It is simply our initial idea about the outcome of an investigation and that going through the procedure will provide us the evidence to rationalize and understand why things happened they way that they did.

Then, we review the materials for this particular investigation: soil, seeds, sunlight, water, carbon dioxide, clear container, label. I remind them that since we are setting up our controlled investigation, that all of these materials will be used; however, in the next set ups, one aspect of our set up will change according  an independent variable we are testing.

Planting our Seeds

At this point, students are ready to add soil and plant the seeds in the container. Since this plant is our control variable, it is receiving all ingredients: water, sunlight, and air.  I instruct student to label their container as the control and place it on the windowsill.

Once each group sets up a control, I direct them to follow the same process for the remaining investigation set-ups. I point out each investigation question and remind them their hypothesis for that particular investigation is based on it.

  • Does air affect plant's growth?
  • Does water affect a plant's growth?
  • Does sunlight affect a plant's growth?
  • Does soil affect a plant's growth? 


sample student hypothesis  student sample hypothesis


I instruct them to follow through the remaining procedures and set-up the remaining independent variables. Once all set-ups are complete, I ask students to share their hypothesis.  I want them to listen to a variety of hypotheses so they know it is ok to have a variety of ideas and outcomes during investigations. I explain that all scientists, including them, have different ideas about why things happen.  It is all about finding evidence to understand why it happened.

What I found interesting is they connected all of their hypothesis to photosynthesis. They studied photosynthesis earlier in this unit, so it was good evidence to see they applied their prior knowledge to writing a hypothesis.