Beginning Plants Unit

Contributor
The Concord Consortium
Type Category
Instructional Materials Assessment Materials
Types
Unit , Instructor Guide/Manual , Interactive Simulation , Animation/Movie , Experiment/Lab Activity , Assessment Item
Note
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be “fully aligned,” the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.

Reviews

Description

This Concord Consortium unit utilizes Science, Math, and ELA lessons to teach students about plants' need for sunlight, air and water. Students take an online pre-test, read a story, reflect on their understanding through writing and graphing, and use a computer simulation while conducting their own investigations using actual plants in the classroom to test variables. Log-ins can be created to allow students to complete work in a digital lab book where they can save answers, collect snapshots of their investigations and activities, and reflect on their understanding of concepts. Some activites allow generation of reports as an anonymous user or can be done on paper. The unit includes a teacher's guide and consists of 10, 45 minute lessons using the 5E model of instruction, plus addtional time to make ongoing observations of plants as they grow in the classroom.

Intended Audience

- none -
Educational Level
  • Upper Elementary
  • Grade 5
  • Grade 4
  • Grade 3
Language
English
Access Restrictions

Free access with user action - The right to view and/or download material without financial barriers but users are required to register or experience some other low-barrier to use.

Performance Expectations

5-LS1-1 Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the idea that plant matter comes mostly from air and water, not from the soil.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this performance expectation, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
The essential question driving this unit is "What do plants eat?" By growing plants in the classroom to generate their own data and through computer simulations, students investigate what happens when the amount of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water are changed.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Students conduct investigations growing plants in the classroom and model similar investigations through computer simulations. For students with high interest, additional investigations could be designed to test other types of plants or test other variables, like temperature, water quality, etc.

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this science and engineering practice, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
Throughout this unit students are focused on the factors that affect plant growth. They generate their own data and analyze data from data tables, graphs and computer models, using it to provide evidence in support of their arguments.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Students are fully engaged in exploring this core idea in a variety of ways throughout the unit. For teachers of older students who want to reinforce their understanding and give them an opportunity to see the misconceptions and partial understandings that adults have about this concept, they could be shown this video from Veritasium - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KZb2_vcNTg

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Extending their understanding of cause and effect from the primary grades, students identify and test cause/effect relationships to explain the sources of changes in the mass of plants as they grow.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: Students make sense of phenomena experienced in literature, classroom plant investigations, and in computer simulations in a series of lessons building toward proficiency in this performance expectation. They engage in multiple science practices, as well as grade-appropriate Math and English Language Arts skills.

  • Instructional Supports: The lessons and activities are based on authentic scenarios with relevance to the lives of typical students. Students have opportunities to express ideas in writing when responding to computer prompts throughout the unit. The teacher should create opportunities for small group and whole class discussion, so students can engage in discourse with peers and the teacher to deepen understanding. A variety of support are provided for ELL students and those struggling with the content. Highlighting text in the introductory story triggers the text to be read aloud. Clicking on highlighted vocabulary prompts the reader to type their predicted definition, and then provides the definition and an opportunity for the student to revise their original prediction. Scaffolding is provided in the form of a question mark icon which gives access to the first level of support. At this level they are given a hint that may lead them to the correct response. If the student is still unable to answer the question, they can click the question mark again for the answer with key words left out and they can fill in the blanks. If they need additional help, they receive a multiple-choice list. The final level of scaffolding offers the student a model response; they are given the answer and asked to provide their own ideas about the response. There is also an Intermediate version of the unit available for use where appropriate. A 21-page teacher guide provides comprehensive support for the teacher - http://udl.concord.org/share/teacher-guides/TG_Plants-Beginning-2010-final.pdf

  • Monitoring Student Progress: Evidence of student engagement in practices can be observed as students conduct their classroom investigations. Formative assessment is embedded throughout the unit, in the form of questions (some multiple choice, some short answer) within each activity that must be answered before the student moves on. A multiple choice pre-test is provided to guide instruction, and this test is given as a post-test (requiring a password from the teacher to access) at the end of the unit for summative purposes.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: The computer guides instruction throughout, records answers and virtual lab notebook screenshots (for classes that are able to create individual student log ins), and provides multiple models and simulations for students to engage in. If setting up individual student accounts is not possible, many of the unit’s activities could be done in the guest user mode or projected for the whole class, but saving data in student lab notebooks from day to day would not be possible. Alternately, the unit could be used for guidance by a teacher seeking a comprehensive unit plan. One activity assumes use of a Verner light sensor (with an embedded link to a support page providing a tutorial for the device), but any light sensor would work, including apps freely available for smart phones/tablets. It takes some time for the teacher to become familiar with the interface and ensure necessary software is accessible. The activities require Java 8 version or newer to run. A technical help document and a link to e-mail for technical advice are available at http://udl.portal.concord.org/support/.