Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Teaching Photosynthesis for Middle School

The middle school standards for science want students to understand that photosynthesis is the beginning of the flow of energy through the food chain.

NGSS MS-LS1-6. Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms.

Utah SEEd
Plan and conduct an investigation and use the evidence to construct an explanation of how photosynthetic organisms use energy to transform matter. Emphasize molecular and energy transformations during photosynthesis.
Ask questions to obtain, evaluate, and communicate information about how changes to an ecosystem affect the stability of cycling matter and the flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem. Emphasize describing the cycling of matter and flow of energy through the carbon cycle.

Students need to first understand the basics of how photosynthesis works.  Some of the chemistry and specifics will be delved into more deeply when students are in high school.

Students in middle school should understand that:
  • photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts in the leaf

  • Light energy is absorbed by chlorophyll, a green substance found in chloroplasts in some plant cells and algae

    • Absorbed light energy is used to convert carbon dioxide (from the air) and water (from the soil) into a sugar called glucose
    • Oxygen is released as a by-product
    • Photosynthesis is the single most important chemical process on the earth.
    • Almost all plants needs the sun in order to survive.
    • Plants produce oxygen during this process and utilize carbon dioxide.
    • All people and animals need oxygen to survive.
    • photosynthesis takes place in the chloroplasts in the leaf

    I think this is a great opportunity for students to practice some science skills:
    • Setting up fair tests
    • arguing from evidence
    • supporting claims with evidence
    • critical thinking
    • making a model to explain thinking

    Once students understand the basics, the emphasis should be on how energy moves through the food chain starting with the sun and moving into plants and then up the food chain as it is consumed.

    Monday, July 2, 2018

    4th Grade NGSS Lessons and Units

    This post is going to be about how to decipher and plan for the 4th grade NGSS. Some of the standards are really straight forward and easy to plan for.  Other resource require some clever thinking.

    Later I will tell you about some of the resources I have created so that planning work is done for you.

    The first standard I want to tell you about I think is especially difficult to figure out and in doing a google search I could not really find a resource that met this standard fully.  Because of this, and because I enjoy a challenge, I developed my own lesson to meet the standard. 

    The standard I am talking about is:
    4-LS1-2. Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways

    Now it is not that difficult to think about what they want students to understand.  Students need to understand that animals received information in different ways and that the information is processed in their brain so that the animals can respond to the information.  That part is clear.  I had to do a little more thinking to figure out the making a model part.

    In NGSS when they talk about models, they are not referring necessarily to the traditional model of a solar system or model of a volcano, they are referring to making a model to explain your understanding.  This model can be a 3-D model, a flow chart, a graphic organizer, a diagram or something else that demonstrates the concept.

    So, in this lesson first I would present students with a slideshow showing them different animals and how they receive information.

    Next we talk specifically about how the brain processes the information.

    We also discuss how this processing happens almost instantly giving the opportunity for the animal to react to the information.

    Students complete some response pages to the slide show.  

    And finally each student chooses and animal and makes a model.  Here is one student's idea based on learning about the dogs impressive sense of smell. 

    This lesson including the slideshow is part of my life science unit for 4th Grade NGSS Structure and Function Life Science Unit

    Another tricky standard for NGSS 4th grade is 
    NGSS 4-PS4-3 Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.

    I had a lot of fun planning this interesting set of lessons.  I designed 4 lessons and activities that have students creating different patterns to communicate and then comparing them.  
    This resource includes secret messages, Mores code, QR codes and more. 

    In all of my resources I like to include nonfiction reading passages.  I think students are more interested in informational text when they have completed a hands-on activity.
    I also like giving students interactive notebook flaps to record their ideas and practice communicating ideas in writing.

    And of course, students need hands-on activities and labs. I try to create these using easy to find household materials. 

    The NGSS for 4th Grade are not difficult, but they do take some thought and planning for the teachers.  

    If you are a busy 4th grade teacher and want some help with planning some complete units and some ready to teach lessons, you should take a look at my 4th Grade NGSS Bundle at 20% off.  I have combined my 4th grade NGSS resources and discounted them by 20%.  The bundle as a year's worth of resource for teaching ALL the NGSS standards for 4th Grade.
    Take a look at all the resources included in this bundle: 4th Grade NGSS Bundle Save 20%

    All of my resources are available in smaller units and lessons.  Visit my store and see what else I have for 4th grade as well as other grade levels.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope you will share with a 4th Grade teacher that you know. 

    Sunday, July 1, 2018

    Dissecting a Flower to Teach Structure and Function NGSS4-LS1=1 and NGSS 4-LS1-2

    I decided to write a blog post on how to dissect a flower.  Students can learn a lot about the structure and function of different parts of the flower by dissecting one. They can also learn about pollination and pollinators.


    Florists will often donate browning or old flowers, which work fine.  Be sure to tell them you are a teacher!  You can supplement these by purchasing a few new specimens that clearly show the structure of the flower. The best flower types to dissect include lilies, tulips, daffodils, and gladiolus. I used a lily in my example. You need a flower for each group of students.

    If day lilies are plentiful near you, it is possible to get someone to donate a flower for each student.  Day lilies have all the parts we are looking for and the bloom prolifically.

    Background Information: Plants have male and female parts.  (Teachers just ignore the giggles from the kids.  Speak matter of factly about the fact that all living things reproduce and with plants are living things, so they reproduce). 

    Some plants have exclusively male parts.  Some flowers have exclusively female parts. More commonly, plants have both male and female parts.  Plants do not move so they need help moving pollen from male parts to female parts.  Even flowers that have both male and female parts need to cross pollinate with other plants in order to flourish.
    Cross pollination is the transfer of pollen from the male reproductive organ (an anther) of one plant to the female reproductive organ (a stigma) of another plant. Insects and wind are the main agents of cross-pollination.

    1. Have the students find the sepals. (Sepals are the first or outermost tissue you encounter on the stem at the base of the flower. )They protect the flower bud before it opens and support the flower later. They are often the same color as the petals.

    2. Have students identify the petals.
    3. have the students locate the stamen and the pistil. 
    Have them first look closely at the stamen.  It is made up of two parts: The filament and the anther.  The anther has the pollen.   Your students may notice that their flower has more male parts than female parts.  Ask why?  The function of the stamen is to produce pollen.  The more stamens in a flower the more likely an insect will bump against it will gathering nectar and will carry some pollen to another flower.
    5. Now look closely at the pistil.  It is also make up of two parts: the style and the stigma.  Touch the top of the stigma.  Does it feel sticky?  What would be the function of this stickiness?  This stickiness helps the pollen being scattered to stick.  

    6. Have students carefully break open the ovary with a fingernail and look closely for seeds with a magnifying glass.

    Sometimes there are no seeds which probably means the plant has not been pollinated.

    If you have any buds they can also be sliced open. 
    I would also have students record their results on a lab page. 

    This lesson goes nicely with many standards, but I have included it in my 4th Grade Life Science Unit on Structure and Function.  This unit comes with slide shows, a nonfiction article, response pages, lab pages, interactive notebook folds and answer keys. 4th Grade Life Science Unit

    This resource addresses these NGSS Standards: 
    4-LS1-1. Construct an argument that plants and animals have internal and external structures that function to support survival, growth, behavior, and reproduction.
    4-LS1-2. Use a model to describe that animals receive different types of information through their senses, process the information in their brain, and respond to the information in different ways.

    I was especially happy to have come up with a lesson to go with NGSS 4-LS1-2., which I think is an especially difficult standard to address, but I have addressed in fully in the above unit. 

    See related resource on Honey Bees. Honey Bees Reading Passages and Comprehension Questions

    Thank you for visiting my blog.  Hope you will share on social media.

    Wednesday, June 20, 2018

    High Interest Nonfiction Passages for Kids

    Parents and teachers alike have heard that it is important to introduce kids to nonfiction text.  It is common knowledge that how much a child reads is important. Kids who read more will perform better, acquire a greater vocabulary and develop better critical thinking skills. However, what a child reads is also important. Statistics show that kids actually read an average of 25 minutes a day. Of those 25 minutes, just 4 are spent on nonfiction. But is that enough? How can reading nonfiction really help?

    Nonfiction is a great way for kids to develop critical thinking and analytical skills and the ability to read and understand complex texts.

    Find out what each kid is interested in and help them find materials to read.  If they are interested in sports, get a book on their favorite sport or a biography on an athlete from that sport.  

    My children always liked learning about animals.  So I made sure they had plenty of nonfiction books and articles on various animals.

    It does not just have to be books either.  Consider finding articles specifically written for children.  I have created several high interest nonfiction reading units for children.  Take a look at my resources and maybe you will find something that would be interesting for you little reader!

    This one is for grades 3-6 and is all about Honey Bees! This Science Reading Packet comes with comprehension questions and sorting card activities.  Honey Bee Reading Unit

    Sea Turtle Reading Unit    This resource has a high interest passage on sea turtles. It is really interesting and there are lots of fun follow up activities included.

    This darling unit tracks the growth of baby rabbits from day one to day 15 and the bunnies are so adorable!   Great science information about how rabbits live and interact with one another.  

    I have many more nonfiction reading passages in my store.  Please take a look!   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Lynda-R-Williams

    Thanks for visiting! 

    Sunday, May 6, 2018

    What is a QR Code?

    QR Code is an abbreviation for Quick Response Code. It is a special kind of barcode that anybody can scan with a smartphone app that usually directs the user to a website. (You can download any number of free apps for iPhone and Android or for tablets)  QR Codes have gained a lot of popularity in commercial marketing because they are so easy! Rather than typing in an entire web address, the user merely scans the code and they are there! So easy.

    They are free to make using a QR Code Generator likehttps://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/

    They are free to scan using an app like these:

    You just hold up your device with the app. The app reads the QR code with a scanner. The QR code tells your device where on the internet to go.

    Many teachers are using QR codes for research in the classroom.  Students might participate in a scavenger hunt trying to find pieces of information.

    Here are a couple of QR codes that you can scan and see where they take you.

    So what does a QR code do?  It communicates with a device and sends that device to a particular url or website.  A QR code is a way to use patterns to transmit information. 

    Fourth Grade Teachers, this blog post is part of a resource I have designed for NGSS 4th grade standard, NGSS 4-PS4-3 Generate and compare multiple solutions that use patterns to transfer information.

    This blog post is one of the links I have students go to as they are learning about QR codes.  The rest of the unit can be found 

    Lesson for NGSS 4-PS4-3
    This resource includes four exciting hands-on activities to address this tricky standard.

    Students will learn about Mores Code, how it works and how they can use it to send a message. They will also consider why it is no longer being used. Students will create their own simple telegraph machine using a simple electrical circuit and use it to send and receive messages. Materials needed for this include a battery, electrical wire, electrical tape and a light bulb. And of course students will learn about QR codes.  How to make them, what they do, how to scan them and how to use them.