Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Feed Your Cells

Sandi King
Bay District Schools


What happens to the food we eat? How does it help our bodies? In this lesson, students learn about the human digestive system through reading and activities. Study skills are taught and modeled.


The student understands explicit and implicit ideas and information in fourth-grade or higher texts (for example, knowing main idea or essential message, connecting important ideas with corresponding details, making inferences about information, distinguishing between significant and minor details, knowing chronological order of events).

The student reads and organizes information (for example, in outlines, timelines, graphic organizers) throughout a single source for a variety of purposes (for example, discovering models for own writing, making a report, conducting interviews, taking a test, performing a task).

The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of fourth grade or higher level content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student knows that complex animals have specialized organs to carry out life processes.

The student knows the major organ systems of the human body.

The student understands the functions of various body systems.

The student knows that processes needed for life are carried out by the cells.


- Copies of summative assessment #1, I Am Alive, from the unit plan - see Extensions (one copy per student)
- Copies and transparency of the article, The Passage of Food, from associated files (one copy per student plus the demonstration transparency)
- Transparency of the graphic, Digestive System, from the associated file
- Transparency of the graphic organizer, Using Food
- Student science notebooks (made on day one for this unit)
- Overhead projector
- Transparency of the model outline from the associated file
- Copy of the Formative Assessment Checklist (from unit's associated file)
- Vocabulary cards from the associated file
- Vocabulary words written on sentence strips
- One saltine cracker per student
- One gallon, one quart, and one pint size, clear, resealable bag (one with a visible zipper helps you to know it is zipped)
- One tube of saltine crackers
- One cup water
- One cup tea (or other brown liquid)
- One cup orange soda (the fizz represents the acid in bile)
- One coffee filter
- One funnel
- A dictionary


1. Download, print, and duplicate for each student summative assessment #1, I Am Alive, available from the unit's associated files. See the extensions section of this lesson plan for a link to the unit.
2. Download, print, and duplicate and make a transparency of the article, The Passage of Food, from associated files. You need one copy per student plus the demonstration transparency.
3. Download, print, and make a transparency of the graphic, Digestive System, from the associated files.
4. Download, print, and make a transparency of the graphic organizer, Using Food.
5. Secure student science notebooks that were made on day one for this unit.
6. Locate an overhead projector.
7. Download, print, and make a transparency of the model outline from the associated files.
8. Locate the copies of the Formative Assessment Checklist used in previous day’s lessons.
9. Download and print the vocabulary cards from the associated files. Cut the word sections from the definition sections. These will be used by the students when matching words to definitions.
10. Write vocabulary words and definitions on sentence strip for use on the unit word wall.
11. Secure one saltine cracker per student.
12. Secure one-gallon size, one quart, and one pint size, clear, resealable bag. Use one with a visible zipper helps you to know it is zipped.
13. Secure one tube of saltine crackers.
14. Measure and set aside one cup water (saliva).
15. Measure and set aside one cup tea, or other brown liquid (pancreatic juices).
16. Measure and set aside one cup orange soda, or other colored soda besides brown or clear (bile).
17. Locate one coffee filter.
18. Locate one funnel.
19. Locate a dictionary.


This lesson plan is to be used on day 5 of the unit, The Inside Story - Cells, Organs, and Systems of the Human Body This is lesson plan four of twelve included in the unit.

This lesson plan integrates reading, writing, and science.

Summative Assessment #1, I Am Alive
If you are doing this lesson as part of the Beacon Unit, The Inside Story, follow the instructions in the assessment package and administer summative assessment #1. See the Extensions section of this lesson plan for further information.


1. Review previous day’s information about cells, tissue, and organs. Be sure to have students use their science notebooks as a reference as you ask questions about previous day’s activities in science, reading in the content area, and writing in their science notebooks. Specifically, be sure to ask questions from the previous day’s readings to reinforce the new information and to continue checking for comprehension. As you are reviewing, be sure to mark the Formative Assessment Checklist that was begun previously. This checklist is only to be marked for individual formative assessment, not group responses. Give both affirmative, “Yes, striated muscle cells look different than cardiac muscle cells.” and corrective, “Let’s think about that again. We know organs are made of different kinds of tissue, so are they made of different kinds of cells?” oral feedback.

Reading/Science -


2. Give students one saltine cracker with instructions to hold the crackers in their mouths, but not chew or swallow. Wait one minute, then ask students to think about what is happening to the cracker. What does it feel like now as compared to when you put it in your mouth? After another minute, instruct students think about what the cracker feels like as they chew and swallow it. Now that the student’s mouths are empty, ask leading questions as to what happened to the cracker, why did it happen, how did it happen, etc. Let the students know that what just happened to the cracker happens to all food we put in our mouths and that this is the beginning of our bodies breaking down food so it can pass into our cells. This breaking down and passing of food into our cells is called digestion. The organs that work together to make this happen are called the digestive system.

3. Before students read the article, a study of the pronunciation of content words should be done.

*Write these content words: tongue, esophagus, stomach, pancreas, intestines, rectum, anus, villi, digest on the board or chartpaper.

* Use the dictionary as a source for finding the pronunciation of each word. This can be done by individuals, groups of students, or the teacher.

* The words and pronunciations should be written on the board for student reference while reading the article. Since comprehension of these content words should be gained from reading the article, no definition study should be done at this time.

4. As a reading activity, students silently read the article, The Passage of Food. Before reading, alert students that they are reading for a purpose. Today’s purpose is to discover the correct sequence of body organs that the food passes through as it makes its way through our bodies.

* Pass out individual copies of the article, The Passage of Food, and display a large projection of the article using the overhead. Allow about five minutes for students to read the article.

* As students are reading, orally praise any students who have gotten out a piece of paper and are making notes or drawing a graphic organizer of the sequence.

* After students have completed the reading, ask various comprehension questions concerning the article. This can be completed orally or by giving students the question sheet from the associated files. The results of today's summative assessment should help you make the decision of whether an oral or written response is most appropriate for your students. Questions must ask about the sequence, main idea, supporting facts, and details as well as explicit and implicit information gathered from the article.

* Oral formative feedback should be given in response to the students' answers to your questions as you mark the Formative Assessment Checklist from the associated files. Use the checklist to note any students who had problems with the content on previous days and be sure to direct specific questions to these students. Mark your checklist as to their ability to answer today’s questions. Be sure to give corrective and affirmative feedback. Corrective feedback might include responses such as, “No, there is a tube that is between our mouths and stomachs. What is the tube called that passes food from our mouths to our stomachs?” Affirmative feedback might include responses such as, ”You’ve got it! The muscles in our stomach work without us thinking about them, so they are involuntary muscles.”

Writing –

5. Remind students of how they organized the science information in their science notebooks (outline, paragraph, and illustration). Have students put their science notebooks on their desks. On the table of contents page, make the entry “Digestive System – page 9." Have the students turn to page 7 and looking at yesterday’s outline, review the rules of outlining. Turn to page 9 of the science notebook, and using the overhead, model making an outline of today’s information. An example is available from the associated files.

* Elicit entries to the outline from the students. Request that students tell you if the information is a fact or a supporting detail and where it should go on the outline. Students complete their outlines while the teacher is modeling.

* Upon completion of the outline, refer to the rubric that is in the back of the student’s science notebooks. Discuss your model outline in terms of the criteria from the rubric. Make any editing changes that may be necessary in order to receive that excellent rating for today’s outline. Be sure to explain why these changes need to be made. It is important for the teacher to model this editing procedure using the rubric, so as the days of the unit progress, be sure to make some errors in your outline model so that an opportunity arises that editing is necessary.

* Science notebooks are put aside for the next activity, but will be used again after the activity.

Science –

6. Display the transparency, Digestive System. Point to the various organs down the digestive system as you ask questions from the article concerning the sequence of the digestive system and the organs involved. See the associated file, Digestive System Graphic Questions, for sample questions. Keep the graphic displayed throughout the remainder of the science activities to serve as a reference.

7. Pass out the vocabulary cards and definitions, one to each student. Since there are only 26 cards, some cards may be given to a pair of students. Ask for the vocabulary card for the first organ of the digestive system. When that vocabulary card is produced, ask for the definition for that organ. Pair these two as you display them on the board or in a pocket chart. Continue in sequence down the digestive system until all vocabulary cards and definitions have been matched and displayed. The vocabulary cards are added to the unit word wall.

8. Pass It Along
The purpose of this activity is for students to have a hands-on experience with how our digestive systems works. Follow the directions on the Pass It Along Instructions from the associated files.

9. As the students are cleaning up, conduct deskside interviews as a formative assessment of how food is digested including the roles of the various organs of the digestive system. Give corrective and affirmative oral feedback as you are marking the Formative Assessment Checklist.

Writing –

10. Now that students have read about the digestive system, written an outline of the information, and participated in a model to demonstrate the digestive process, they should be ready to complete today’s science notebook entries. Demonstrate, using the overhead, how to write a paragraph about the new science knowledge learned today. Your model should follow the Florida Writes models of main idea, facts, and supporting details.

* The paragraph should contain notes about factual information, as well as comments and observations about what has been learned through today’s activities.

* After your modeling is complete and your example is removed from view, allow about 15 minutes for students to complete their writings. As they are writing, circulate around the room and give formative feedback to individuals. Be sure to give specific praise such as, “I see you have three details to support this fact.” and corrective feedback such as, “You need to add some details to support this fact.” The Formative Assessment Checklist is marked as appropriate.

Science/ Language Arts

11. Display the transparency of the graphic organizer, Using Food. Discuss how this graphic organizer helps us to “see” and understand the sequence of our digestive system.

12. The final activity for today is the illustration that must accompany each day’s entry in the science notebook. The purpose of the illustration is to organize information for a variety of purposes. With the transparency displayed, allow students about ten minutes to complete their illustration (graphic organizer) in their science notebooks. It is important to do the paragraph writing before the illustration since students may use excessive time on the illustration and not keep their focus on the modeling of the writing. Doing the writing first helps students remain focused.

13. Model using the rubric of criteria to self-assess your paragraph and illustration. See the note on #3 above for an explanation of modeling finding errors and modeling the editing process using the rubric.

14. Science notebooks should be collected at this time. With the completion of this day’s entries in the science notebook, a formative assessment should be made of the students' entries in their notebooks. Feedback, guided by the rubric criteria, should be written in the notebook. Be sure to mark the Formative Assessment Checklist. This documentation will assist you in planning your next modeling and discussions as you strive to meet the needs of your students.


1. Formative assessments are integrated in this lesson plan and are described in the procedures section of this lesson plan. Examples of affirmative and corrective oral feedback are also given. A Formative Assessment Checklist is available from the unit's associated files.

The importance of individual formative assessment cannot be overstated. It is this formative assessment that guides teacher planning and individual assistance to assure that all students are successful.

2. Formatively assess the science notebooks using the rubric criteria. This criteria should also generate affirmative and corrective feedback which is written in the notebook. Be sure to mark the checklist for future reference.

3. The first of five summative assessments for this unit is administered before this day’s instructions. Summative assessment #1, I Am Alive, is downloadable from the unit plan. See Extensions for a link.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).
2. The paragraphs can be read orally to assist students with reading problems.
3. Since the intestines of an adult are about 30 feet long (23 feet for the small intestines and 7 feet for the large intestines), students can get a visual of this length in a couple of ways.
* Use measuring skills to measure 30 feet down the hall or playground.
* Students out stretched arms are about 3 feet from finger tip to finger tip, so ten students with arms outstretched will measure about 30 feet.
* A 30 foot piece of robe can be used to help students visualize the length of one adult’s intestine.
4. Displaying any visual aids such as posters may be helpful for visual learners.

Web Links

This is a child oriented site with a graphic and facts about the digestive system and can be used for enrichment or for teacher reference.
The Bundles of Energy, The Digestive System

This site allows students to select the body system they would like to explore and can be used for enrichment or for teacher reference. Site contains a wealth of information, graphics, and animations. Since all systems are represented here, adult supervision is strongly advised. Be sure to preview before allowing students to explore this site.
Inner Learning Online, The Human Anatomy Online

Web Anatomy gives illustrations of the various body systems and can be used for enrichment or for teacher reference. Users select the system and are presented with various illustrations in which to name the organs. Since all systems are represented here, adult supervision is strongly advised. Be sure to preview before allowing students to explore this site.
Web Anatomy

Attached Files

Reading text and associated materials     File Extension: pdf

Graphics and associated materials     File Extension: pdf

Vocabulary     File Extension: pdf

Pass it Along activity     File Extension: pdf

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