Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Fun Photosynthesis

Stephanie Callaway
Marion County Schools


Give your students a chance to be the sun! Creative dramatics are used to internalize knowledge of the process of photosynthesis. Students analyze and predict the relevance of photosynthesis as it relates to the food chain and survival of all organisms.


The student knows that some organisms decompose dead plants and animals into simple minerals and nutrients for use by living things and thereby recycle matter.

The student knows that animals eat plants or other animals to acquire the energy they need for survival.

The student knows that most living things use energy from the Sun to live and grow.

The student knows how to trace the flow of energy in a system (for example, in an ecosystem).


Day 1
-Copy of diagnostic assessment for each student.
-Props used for skit (made out of large colored poster board). All items should be clearly labeled.
One large sun (body size)
One plant stem (body size)
Two large leaves (one per student: body size)
Two plate size circles of yellow (sunís energy)
Two plate size circles of green (plant sugar)
One pair of rabbit ears (may have student wear brown pants and shirt)
One white T-shirt (A student may be instructed to wear one)
One white sign with the word Earthworm printed on it

Day 2
Make sun, plant stem, leaves, and earthworm sign. Hang on students using string (around neck loosely, like a picket sign).

-Class set of sentence strips (see Sentence Strips, associated file):
one class set -- complete sentences
one class set -- sentence mapping (fill in blanks)

Day 3-4
-Name cards (used for think, pair, share)
-White Paper

Day 5
-Construction paper for students to make their own props for small group skits

Day 6
-Class set of summative assessment


Day 1
-Make copies of Diagnostic Assessment for each student. (See unit's attached file by clicking the unit link at the top of this lesson plan. )
-Prepare props for student skit

Day 2
-Create a transparency of the Photosynthesis paragraph (see associated file)
-Create transparency of the Photosynthesis picture
-Copy and cut sentence strips.
-Gather any other related materials that will help students understand the concept of Photosynthesis (science book, videos, etc.)

Days 3-4
-Prepare drawing and writing materials for dissemination.

Day 5
-Prepare materials for student created skits (may be the same as opening skit or smaller).

Day 6
-Copy summative assessment for each student (Unit's associated file).


Day 1, of the unit, Fun Photosynthesis
1. First, administer the diagnostic assessment. (See Extensions for more information.)

2. Then select a group of six students to participate in a skit that will establish what students will be learning in the days ahead. Give students a little time to familiarize themselves with their role. The skit will be presented on Day 2 of the unit.

-Select a group of 6 students. (characters: 1 sun, 2 leaves, 2 plant stems, 1 rabbit, 1 earthworm)
-One student will be the sun and act-out radiating the sunís energy; give labeled, yellow circle to each leaf one at the time.
-Each leaf (two total) shakes around as though they are processing the sunís energy, while putting the yellow circles behind their backs. After shaking around a little, each leaf brings out, with their other hand, a green circle (labeled, plant sugars).
-The plant stem starts out somewhat squatted and slowly rises (simulating growth).
-The rabbit hops into the scene and nibbles on each leaf. Next, one leaf pretends to drop to the ground and wither.
-Finally, the earthworm comes into scene and nibbles the leaf.

3. Use answer key to assess diagnostic assessment. Be sure to note where students have misunderstandings and correct through daily instruction.

Day 2 of the unit, Fun Photosynthesis
1. Before students observe the introductory skit, which demonstrates the process of photosynthesis and flow of energy through decomposers, give students time to create a KWL based on what they know about photosynthesis. Guiding questions may be asked to lead students into examining what they already know. Questions can include- what is photosynthesis? What are decomposers? Etc. (The diagnostic assessment may be used to create additional questions.)

2. Allow students time to fill in what they know and then ask what they would like to know about photosynthesis and the flow of energy. Again, guiding questions can be used to help students explore what they would like to know.

3. Now have the 6 actors come forward and present their skit. Then, give students time to discuss what they just saw. Guide them in understanding that the skit shows the process of photosynthesis and flow of energy through decomposers. See if they want to update the KWL. They can make additions to what they know or what they want to learn. Save the Learned category for later.

4. Next have students participate in direct instruction. Display the following paragraph on overhead--
ďPhotosynthesis. Living things use the sunís energy to live and grow. In photosynthesis, green plants use sunlight to make their own food called plant sugars. The leaves are the part of the plant that is responsible for photosynthesis. Plants use the food they make during photosynthesis to live and grow. Food is stored energy, which can then be used by other living organisms to maintain life and growth. Animals eat plants or other animals to get the energy they need for survival. As plants and animals die, decomposers use them as energy sources.Ē

5. Ask if students need a picture to help them visualize what this paragraph is saying. Display the picture showing, basically, how photosynthesis occurs. Use the terminology from the paragraph above to act as narrative as you show students the stages.

6. Have the 6 actors return to the front of the room. Using the paragraph describing photosynthesis, have students act out their part as the sentence is read. (Additional photos or videos may be useful in illustrating this process. Your science book may also provide helpful information.)

7. Once students have had the photosynthesis process modeled and an opportunity to discuss the process, allow students time to manipulate the first set of sentence strips (complete sentences) and put them in the order viewed during the opening skit (Sentence Strips, see associated file).

8. For additional practice, students may need to explore the photosynthesis process in their science book to help cement understanding.

9. It may be helpful to group students in pairs to discuss the process or allow them to work independently. As students work on the sentence strips, give formative assessment.

10. After all students have been able to demonstrate competency, discuss the correct order of the strips as a group. Show students the picture again and use the paragraph to show the connection between the words and the picture.

11. Finally, as an opportunity for individual formative assessment, students use the second set of sentence strips (incomplete sentences) and fill in all blanks using key terms and vocabulary presented during direct instruction (Sentence Strips, see associated file). Students turn in their work for assessment.

Note- A word wall may be beneficial when helping students learn the vocabulary necessary for this unit.

Day 3 of the unit, Fun Photosynthesis
1. Return student sentence strips from the previous day. Based on problems students still are encountering, review first day activities through whole-group discussion. Be sure to incorporate specific instruction of problematic areas revealed during review of sentence strips.

2. Then, allow students time to Think, Pair, Share. This Think, Pair, Share opportunity requires students to construct a response to a given question independently. Then students discuss their thinking and compare/contrast responses with those of their peers. The final step requires students to provide a response during whole class discussions. As students answer questions, provide guidance and formative assessment to guide student learning. Monitor incorrect responses for reteaching opportunities.

3. The following questions may be used to guide Think, Pair, Share:
-Describe one observation made during the opening skit.
-What was the sun doing?
-What were the leaves doing?
-What was the plant stem doing?
-Identify the labels on the props?
-What was the earthworm doing?
-What was the rabbit doing?
-Why do you think the process of photosynthesis is important to you?
-Describe the process of photosynthesis.
-What does the rabbit need for survival? Why?

2. Next, explain the process of photosynthesis in more depth with specific focus on decomposers. Use pictures, videos or walks around your school to help students make connections to the following information.

The sunís energy directly or indirectly supplies the energy for almost all living things on earth. Plants use the sunís energy directly to make sugars and other energy-rich molecules. These materials are used directly or indirectly by the plant as sources of energy. Plants are a direct food source from some animals; these animals are then eaten by others. As plants and animals die, decomposers use them as energy sources. Decomposers are organisms like bacteria or fungus that feeds on and breaks down dead plants or animal matter.

Animals and humans can't eat sunshine. Plants are the first level in the food chain. They convert sunlight to food for animals (though the plants may not look at it that way).

Nothing is wasted in a community of plants and animals. Animal waste and the remains of dead plants and animals are food for a decomposer. The animal that was a member of a different food chain while alive, now becomes the first link in a decomposer food chain. While animal droppings may appear unpleasant and of no use to us, these scats are highly valuable sources of food (energy) to many living organisms.

Plant material, such as dead branches or fallen leaves, must also be broken down or decomposed and return to the soil for reuse. This plant material is also a source of food for decomposers. Worms, insects, bacteria, yeast, moulds and fungi all use this dead plant material as a source of food.

maple leaf ----> worm ----> robin

The pine branch that is blown to the ground in a wind storm, in time, decomposes and is returned to soil. A northern hardwood forest has many examples of decomposer food chains: dung beetles consume a deer's droppings, a 100 year old rotten pine stump with a yellow birch growing out of it, a woodpecker feeding on grubs that are living in the bark of a dying maple trees.

4. Now, based on the information above and their own ideas, ask students to brainstorm a list of types of decomposers. Ask students, "What types of organisms are decomposers?" As they give answers, have students explain why they are classified as decomposers. Be sure students include information that explains why the decomposers need to eat other plants or animals. (For survival.)

5. For formative assessment, share the criteria for illustration and writing with students. Be sure students understand how they will be assessed. Then, have students draw and label a diagram showing the flow of energy (beginning with sun, to leaf, to rabbit, to decomposer). Students should produce a written description of the process of photosynthesis including the flow of energy through decomposers.

6. Students use their own language while applying the use of new key terms and phrases (Remove visual: photosynthesis explanation. (Criteria for Assessment, associated file)

7. Formative assess student diagrams and written descriptions using the aforementioned assessment keys.

Days 4-5
1. Return student diagrams and written descriptions. Be sure to provide mini-lessons, or direct instruction for those students who still do not seem to grasp the concepts of the unit.

2. Then, students share labeled diagrams with a peer and describe the process represented in the illustration using their written composition. Listen in as students give their descriptions providing guidance and correcting misconceptions.

3. Lead whole class discussion to address the Essential Question: How does photosynthesis relate to the existence of all living things? Ask students to construct a response independently. Solicit responses and lead students to the final conclusion that most living things use energy from the sun, whether directly or indirectly (food chain), to live and grow.

4. Next, in groups of 5, students develop a plan to act-out the process of photosynthesis and the flow of energy. Before students begin writing, provide them the criteria for assessment located in the associated file. Also, prior to students performing skits, provide feedback based on the accuracy of content. Then, allow students time to perform skits for peers (Criteria for Assessment, associated file).

Day 6, Summative Assessment:
1. Students complete summative assessment (See Extensions for more information.)

2. Following the completion of the summative assessment, return to the KWL started at the beginning of the unit. Have students complete the Learned category. Be sure to celebrate what students have learned throughout this unit. Perhaps close the unit by going outside and have students point out examples of photosynthesis and the flow of energy in action!


Formative Assessment included in daily instruction:
-Order the steps of photosynthesis and the flow of energy. (Sentence Strips)
-Complete sentence mapping using vocabulary provided during direct instruction.
-Illustrate the process of photosynthesis using symbols and labels. (criteria for assessment)
-Write a detailed description using new vocabulary of the process of photosynthesis. (criteria for assessment)
-Critically analyze the importance of photosynthesis. (Teacher observation: Beginning of all life, directly or indirectly)
-Using props, students act-out the process of photosynthesis and the flow of energy through decomposers. (criteria for assessment)


1. Strategies used to facilitate student learning in this unit are conducive to accommodating instruction for ESE students (for example, ďthink, pair, share,Ē drawing and labeling, and acting-out in small groups).
2. The unit for this lesson plan can be accessed by clicking the unit link at the top of this lesson plan. It contains the diganostic, unit plan overview and the summative.

Web Links

Why do leaves change color in the Fall? --- I Can Read --- Word Puzzle Learn More About: How plants prepare for winter --- Projects

Photosynthesis basics; Making sugar out of air, water, and sunshine; Carbohydrates; What's a carbon-based life form; Oxygen, carbon, and other things we're made of; What a glucose molecule looks like - sort of.
Introduction to Photosynthesis

Attached Files

Criteria for Formative Assessments     File Extension: pdf

Photosynthesis paragraph     File Extension: pdf

Photosynthesis picture     File Extension: pdf

Sentence Strips     File Extension: pdf

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