Beacon Lesson Plan Library

I Need Air

Sandi King
Bay District Schools


Our cells need oxygen to live, but how do they get the oxygen? In this lesson, students learn about the organs of the respiratory system as they read articles and participate in 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 and transparency of the article, Breathing, from associated files (one copy per student plus the demonstration transparency)
- Copy of the questions that accompany the article, Breathing (one copy per student)
- Transparency of the graphic, Respiratory System, from the associated files
- Copy of the questions that accompany the Respiratory System graphic
- Copy of the instructions for the activity, Floating on Air
- Transparency of the graphic organizer, Getting Oxygen
- Student science notebooks (made on day one for this unit)
- Overhead projector
- Transparency of the model outline from the associated files
- Copy of the Formative Assessment Checklist (see Extensions section of this lesson plan
- Vocabulary cards from the associated files
- Vocabulary words written on sentence strips
- Two tables (or desks) the same size and shape
- One plastic quart bag per student (without seal works best, such as a quart freezer bag)
- One adult volunteer that enjoys activities with the students (principal, PE teacher, etc.)
- A dictionary


1. Download, print, and duplicate copies and transparency of the article, Breathing, from associated files. You need one copy per student plus the demonstration transparency.
2. Download, print, and duplicate copies of the questions that accompany the article, Breathing. You need one copy per student.
3. Download, print, and make a transparency of the graphic, Respiratory System, from the associated files.
4. Download and print a copy of the questions that accompany the Respiratory System graphic.
5. Download and print a copy of the instructions for the activity, Floating on Air.
6. Download, print, and make a transparency of the graphic organizer, Getting Oxygen, from the associated files.
7. Locate student science notebooks that were made on day one of this unit.
8. Locate an overhead projector.
9. Download, print, and make a transparency of the model outline from the associated file.
10. Locate a copy of the Formative Assessment Checklist (see Extensions section of this lesson plan). This is the same checklist that has been being used throughout this unit.
11. Download, print, and cut apart the vocabulary cards from the associated file.
12. Write vocabulary on sentence strip.
13. Locate and clean off two tables (or desks) the same size and shape. If using desks, one must be emptied.
14. Secure one plastic quart bag per student. Bags without seal, such as a quart freezer bag works best.
15. Obtain agreement from one adult volunteer that enjoys activities with the students, such as your principal or PE teacher, that they will visit your classroom at the agreed upon day and time in order to participate in the Floating on Air activity. If this volunteer is a female, she will need to wear slacks. The larger the volunteer, the more the students will enjoy the activity.
16. Locate a dictionary.


This lesson plan is to be used on day 6 of the unit, The Inside Story - Cells, Organs, and Systems of the Human Body. This is lesson plan five of twelve included in the unit.

This lesson plan integrates reading, writing, and science.


1. Review previous information about cells, tissue, organs, and the digestive system. Be sure to have students use their science notebooks as a reference as you ask questions about previous activities in science, reading in the content area, and writing in their science notebooks. Specifically, be sure to ask questions from the previous readings to reinforce the new information and to continue checking for comprehension. As you are reviewing, be sure to check the individual student's understanding and mark the Formative Assessment Checklist that was begun on the first day of this unit. Give individualized feedback, both affirmative, “Yes, the villi are in the small intestines.” and corrective, “Let’s think about that again. We know that the villi allow the broken down food to pass into the blood vessels, but which organ has the villi?”

Reading/Science -


2. Ask the students what part of their bodies can lift the most weight. Confirm that it is not their arms or legs, but is their lungs. Tell students that today they will experience the power of their lungs.

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

* Write these content words: respiratory, larynx, trachea, bronchial, alveoli on the board or chart paper. Use the dictionary as a source for finding the pronunciation of the words. The words and pronunciations should remain 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, Breathing. Before reading, alert students that they are reading for a purpose. Today’s purpose is to discover the correct sequence of body organs that air passes through as it makes its way through our bodies.

* Pass out individual copies of the article, Breathing, 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, students complete the comprehension questions concerning the article. These comprehension questions ask about the sequence, main idea, supporting facts, and details as well as explicit and implicit information gathered from the article.

*As you orally go over the comprehension responses, formative feedback should be given as you mark the Formative Assessment Checklist from the associated files. Use the checklist to note individual 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, our lungs hold air like ballons, but they are not built like balloons. How are our lungs different from balloons?” Affirmative feedback might include responses such as, ”You are exactly right! It is the alveoli in our lungs that hold the air, not the lungs themselves.”

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 “Respiratory System – page 11." Have the students turn to page 9 and looking at yesterday’s outline, review the rules of outlining.

* This will be the students' first attempt to write the outline without seeing your model first, so orally elicit entries to the outline from the students. Orally discuss the main facts that should be included. As the facts are given, elicit details that should be included on the outline.

* After the oral discussion of today’s outline, students turn to page 11 of the science notebook and write their outline independently. Allow about ten minutes for students to write their outlines. As they are writing, circulate around the room giving feedback to students as to the setup of their outlines (proper numbering and indenting) and the correct correlation between the facts and details. Use this is a teaching opportunity by assisting students as needed.

*Upon completion of the outlines, display the sample outline. Point out the various facts and details on the outline. Have students compare the model outline to their outlines as to the setup and content. Add to the model if students explain additions that should be made. Remember the importance of students seeing you edit your work. If students suggest a better or more descriptive word, make the change. If students suggest another fact or detail, make the change. This modeling editing of your work is important for the students to witness. It encourages students to edit their own work.

* Upon completion of the editing, refer to the rubric that is in the back of the students' science notebooks. Discuss your model outline in terms of the criteria from the rubric. Make any editing changes that may still 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 to encourage self-evaluation using the rubric.

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

Science –

6. Display the transparency, Respiratory System. Point to the various organs down the respiratory system as you ask questions from the article concerning the sequence of oxygen entering our cells and the organs involved in this sequence. See the associated files 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 to students. Since there are 40 cards with words or definitions, students will have more than one card. Ask for the vocabulary card for the first organ of the respiratory 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 respiratory system until all vocabulary cards and definitions have been matched and displayed. The vocabulary cards are added to the unit word wall. For the word wall, you may use the printed cards from the associated files, or make ones using sentence strip. The display and size needed will dictate which method to use.

8. Floating on Air
The purpose of this activity is for students to have a hands-on experience with how strong our lungs, the main organ of the respiratory system, are. Follow the directions on the Floating on Air Instructions from the associated files.

9. As the students are cleaning up, circulate around the class and conduct individual, oral, formative assessments of how oxygen enters our cells and how carbon dioxide is removed. Be sure to include the roles of the various organs of the respiratory system. Give corrective and affirmative oral feedback as you are marking the Formative Assessment Checklist.

Writing –

10. Now that students have read about the respiratory system, written an outline of the information, and participated in an activity that demonstrated the abilities of the respiratory system, 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 using the criteria from the rubric, give oral formative feedback to individuals. Be sure students see you using the rubric as your guide. 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, Getting Oxygen. Discuss how this graphic organizer helps us to “see” and understand the sequence of our respiratory 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.

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.


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 article can be read orally to assist students with reading problems.
3. The questions accompanying the article can be done orally or written.
4. The activity can be done whole group or in small groups.
5. Students can lift each other rather than an adult.
6. If reluctant about lifting a person because of liability concerns, weights can be added to the table, such as the entire set of encyclopedias, instead of using a person. The same principles are observed, just in a less fun and memorable way.

Web Links

This is a child oriented site with a graphic and facts about the respiratory system.
The Bundles of Energy, The Respiratory System

This site allows students to select the body system they would like to explore. Sites contain 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. 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

Floating on Air activity     File Extension: pdf

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