ALEX Lesson Plan

Modeling Energy Within the Food Chain

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Erika Shockley
System: Elmore County
School: Eclectic Middle School
Author:Joanne Wells
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
Author:Lori Keel
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
Author:Rhonda (Gaye) Knight
System: Elmore County
School: Elmore County Board Of Education
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35350


Modeling Energy Within the Food Chain


In this lesson, students will demonstrate an understanding of the transfer of matter (energy) in various ecosystems by constructing a model food chain. In the food chain, students must show how an ecosystem provides energy from a producer to the consumers and ending with a decomposer.

The students will begin by working in groups to compete with their peers by sorting food chain picture cards (producers, consumers, decomposers of an ecosystem) in the correct order. Students will be assessed at the conclusion of the lesson with a multiple choice exit ticket quiz.

This unit was created as part of the ALEX Interdisciplinary Resource Development Summit.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
11 ) Create a model to illustrate the transfer of matter among producers; consumers, including scavengers and decomposers; and the environment.

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.5.11- Using a given model, identify a missing part of a simple food chain.

Local/National Standards:

Next Generation Science Standards:

5.LS2-1 Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment. Air, water, decomposed materials in soil is changed by plants into matter that is food.

Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will construct a model food chain to demonstrate the transfer of energy within the given ecosystem.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

The student will demonstrate how energy flows through an ecosystem in one direction, primarily from the Sun, through producers to consumers and then onto decomposers.

The student will correctly classify each item in the food chain as a producer, consumer (primary, secondary, tertiary, or quaternary), or decomposer.

Acceleration Activity Standard

English Language Arts (2015):

22.) Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information. [W.5.1]

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

  1. Sorting card game cards cut out and copied for each group (See attachment)
  2. Art supplies for food chain model: construction paper, scissors, glue, crayons (or any other coloring materials), and one sheet of notebook paper
  3. Exit ticket printed for each student (See attachment)

Technology Resources Needed:

  1. Computers, Laptops, and/or any other handheld Internet-capable device.

**Students may use their internet resources to gain ideas to create their food chain. Students may only research various websites to gain more knowledge about unfamiliar ecosystems. Suggested websites listed below:


Before beginning this lesson, students should be familiar with the following terms:

Ecosystem: The complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit.

Habitat: The place or environment where a plant or animal naturally or normally lives and grows.

Producers: Organisms that produce or make their own food.

Consumers: Organisms that eat other organisms for energy.

Decomposers: An organism, usually a bacterium or fungus, which breaks down the cells of dead plants and animals into simpler substances.

Scavenger: An animal or another organism that feeds on dead organic matter.

Matter: Energy that is transferred between organisms during consumption.

Primary Consumer: (in the food chain) an animal that feeds on plants; a herbivore.

Secondary Consumer: (in the food chain) a carnivore that feeds only upon herbivores.

Tertiary Consumer: a carnivore at the topmost level in a food chain that feeds on other carnivores; an animal that feeds only on secondary consumers.

Quaternary Consumer: a carnivore at the topmost level in a food chain that feeds on other carnivores; an animal that feeds only on secondary consumers.

**Teachers may want to allow students to copy vocabulary prior to the lesson to ensure students are more aware of the information. Teachers must be competent on the levels of the energy pyramid for quick redirection if students are not understanding the content.


Before/ Engage: Food Chain Sorting Game

Estimated Duration: 10-15 minutes

Lesson Material: Sorting cards for the group sorting game.

Students should be divided into groups of four to six members to complete the game. Each group should be given a set of sorting cards. The object of the game is to correctly sort the picture cards into each category (producers- make food from the sun, consumers- eat producers, decomposers- conduct the rotting process). Once the groups correctly sort all the cards, the teacher can choose other categories to sort the game cards, (i.e. - primary, secondary, tertiary, and quaternary).

The picture cards are designed to get students to begin the questioning process. Students may have different opinions of some of the placements of cards. The teacher will be moving from group to group to check work. This creates great classroom dialogue for teacher instruction of the background knowledge. The teacher should make sure that each group can give at least one example of a producer, consumer, decomposer which will ultimately be assessed through the exit ticket at the end of the lesson.

During/ Explore/ Explain: Food Chain Models

Estimated Duration: 20-30 minutes

Web Links: Students may want to use the following websites to gain knowledge about unknown ecosystems to create their food chain model:

Students should have the art supplies listed in the materials needed section. Provide students with a class demonstration of cutting strips of construction paper to glue together to make a paper chain as pictured in an activity seen here. The teacher should perform an informal assessment of students while they complete this activity to ensure students are arranging the images in the correct order. To ensure no confusion, allow students to brainstorm their chain while they are exploring on the web on a sheet of notebook paper. The teacher should use this to check and make sure of understanding and that their arrangement is correct. 

Students should create a chain starting with the producer then onto the primary, secondary, tertiary consumers and end with a decomposer. Each paper chain should have a simple (hand drawn) picture illustrating the organism on the chain and should also be labeled with the level of which the organism belongs to in the food chain, (i.e. a drawing of a sun, labeled as a producer on one chain). Remind students of the examples they discussed in the sorting card game, but explain that they are NOT to use the examples that were already discussed. The goal of this activity is to get them to explore the above links (and beyond) and create a chain that was not discussed. Students can use the links provided to trigger excitement to research other biomes not listed. For students who may need accommodations, allow them to use examples from the class discussion in the sorting card game or the examples seen online through the links.   

**This activity should be used as an informal assessment tool for the teacher. Students are using this time to explore and learn new information, therefore, this is not to be used as a formal assessment tool. 

After/ Explain, Elaborate: Exit Tickets

Estimated Duration: 5-10 minutes

Lesson Materials: Exit ticket quiz worksheet and the answer key for student grading.

Students will be given the exit ticket before the completion of science class. See attachments for the quiz and the answer key.

**Some files will display in a new window. Others will prompt you to download.

Assessment Strategies

Formative Assessment

The teacher should check in with each group frequently throughout this process. The teacher should set meeting times with each group to check their progress, understanding, and help them plan for their next steps.

Summative Assessment

An answer key will be used to determine the student grade of the exit ticket quiz. The answer key is attached to the exit ticket document.


Students who have already achieved the primary learning objective may be asked to write an opinion based paper.  In their opinion, why is it important to have a balanced food chain? What would happen if the food chain became unbalanced and energy was not properly transferred? [W.5.1b]


Small group instruction can be used throughout the lesson to aid learners who are deficient in making connections of the required vocabulary in the food chain models. After the lesson, if a student does not exhibit mastery of stated objectives, intensive, individualized instruction may be needed. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.