Not Your Ordinary Life Cycle...Metamorphosis!

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SWBAT distinguish between incomplete and complete metamorphosis.

Big Idea

Students will research two insects and create a diagram illustrating the stages of its metamorphic life cycle.

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 participate in distinguishing 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, discover that plants use the sun' energy to produce food for themselves, and that it gets transferred within a food chain from producers to consumers to decomposers

Lesson Synopsis

In this lesson, Not Your Ordinary Life Cycle...Metamorphosisstudents read an article on metamorphosis and organisms that have this life cycle. Once they obtain information about it, we reconvene as a whole class, define the term metamorphosis, distinguish between two types: incomplete and complete, and identify organisms that have these kinds of life cycles.  Then, students apply what they have learned by creating a diagram of each kind of metamorphosis about an insect of their choosing. They research their desired insect to find out more details about what the insect looks like at each stage and more specific information about it at that stage. After gathering the information they need, students create their diagrams of complete and incomplete metamorphosis. This assignment is started in class and continued at home for homework.

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-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 Not Your Ordinary Life Cycle...Metamorphosis lesson because my students are unfamiliar with this kind of life cycle. Through conversation and discussions throughout this lesson on biotic things in an ecosystem, I learned they knew living things have a beginning, middle and end, meaning they are born, grow, and die, but unfamiliar with how certain organisms grow and develop.  It is necessary for them to know and understand this because it is typically on the state standardized science test each year. In addition, 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. In addition, life cycles is a topic students are test on during state standardized testing; therefore,  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 

2.) Developing and Using Models:  Students create diagrams that illustrate and describe the two kinds of metamorphosis life cycle processes.

4.) Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information: Students read and to distinguish between incomplete and complete metamorphosis. They summarize information in two diagrams with brief descriptions about stages within each type of metamorphic life cycle processes.

Crosscutting Concepts

The Not Your Ordinary Life Cycle...Metamorphosis will correlate to other interdisciplinary areas.  These Crosscutting Concepts include:

6.) Structure and Function:  Students create a diagram and use it to represent the stages of metamorphosis an organism goes through in that life cycle.

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

Defining Life Cycle

To start I pose the question: "What does the term life cycle mean?"  I engage students in a quick turn and talk with their group. After a minute I call on students to share their thinking. Each group seem to define this term similarly as shares include: "It is when you are born, you grow, get old, and die." and "Life cycle has a beginning, middle, and end. The beginning is when you are born, the middle is when you grow and get bigger, and the end is when you are really old and then die."  After we share and I define the term life cycle on the board: the stages a living organism goes through during its life.

I explain that most animals have a very straightforward life cycle, meaning they are born from their mother, then grow and develop into an adult, and die.  I also state that the young (children) are smaller versions of the adult. "This is important to note, because when some organisms are in the young stage of their life cycle they do not look anything like the adult. In fact, one would never believe the young would ever grow and become that way. These organisms actually go through a series of changes before the adult stage."

After my explanation, I write term metamorphosis on the board and ask my students if it looks familiar. I ask them this because we when studied rocks, we learned about metamorphic rocks and I want to see if they recognize the term.  

Many students quickly pointed out that it is like word metamorphic when we studied rocks. I ask them to think about its meaning when we applied it to rocks.  A few eager students share out: "It when a rock changes form from heat and pressure."  Noting they are familiar with the term, I tell them we are using the same idea about changes only relating it to the way an organism grows and develops."

A Metamorphosis Life Cycle

I say to the students, "So if we have an idea about the terms life cycle and metamorphosis, what do we think a Metamorphosis Life Cycle is?"  I leave this question unanswered and tell them we are going to read and investigate more about it.  At this point, I hand out Kids Discover: Metamorphosis reading packet (this is a free download at Kids Discover) I explain to all the students, "our purpose of reading is to find out what metamorphosis is and what organisms go through this type of life cycle." I add on, "You can mark up the text, highlight main ideas, and/or underline key details."

Here I differentiate a bit by having some students who can read on their own while I take a group (struggling readers and English language learners) to read with me. At different points while I am reading with my group, I give them a task like highlighting main ideas or finding certain words in the text.  I also had them read a paragraph on their own with a question given to them like "Why does a butterfly lay eggs on a leaf?" This type of close reading is beneficial for them to develop some reading skills and allows me to check in with some students reading on their own so I can make sure they are on task, understanding what they are reading, and grasping the main ideas of metamorphosis.



10 minutes

Once we have completed our reading, I reconvene the class as a whole.  I ask them to define the term metamorphosis based on the information they learned from the reading.  I define this on the board: metamorphosis- going through many physical changes before becoming an adult.

After we define the term, I ask the students to name the two kinds we read about in our Kids Discover article.  We identify two types of metamorphosis: complete and incomplete.  Here I direct students to the front where I have a powerpoint projected to guide us through the two kinds of metamorphosis.  As I go through each slide, my students create a t-chart in their interactive notebook and distinguish between the two kinds of metamorphosis be writing facts about the stages.

Metamorphosis T Chart             Metamorphosis T Chart

Once we identify the differences, I tell the students they will use their notes to help them do research on insects with complete metamorphosis and incomplete metamorphosis.



35 minutes

Researching Insects

After reading and distinguishing the differences between incomplete metamorphosis and complete metamorphosis, I explain to my students that they are creating a diagram to illustrate the stages of each kind of metamorphosis. In order to do that, they have to think about an insect they are interested in and use the computers (ipad or chromebooks) to find out what kind of life cycle that insect goes through.  I tell them they can use an insect from the packet we read at the start of class. As research is going on, I am walking around the room checking in with students, making sure they are on task and finding accurate information.

Applying What We've Learned

Once students found information on the insect they would like to illustrate for a life cycle, I hand them a strip of paper and explain that one side represents incomplete metamorphosis and the other side represents incomplete metamorphosis. We set up the paper and they begin.  As they are working, I circulate the room and check in with students making sure they are diagramming each kind of metamorphosis accurately. Incomplete has three stages, an egg, nymph, and adult; whereas the complete metamorphosis has four stages, an egg, larvae, pupa, and adult.  In addition to drawing the appearance of the insect in that stage, they are writing a brief description about how the insect is changing or doing at that stage. Students continue working until finished or the bell. If students do not finish, it is assigned as homework or can be continued the next day.

 Complete Metamorphosis          metamorphosis student sample diagram 

Metamorphosis Student diagram          Metamorphosis student diagram