ALEX Lesson Plan


Fascinating Photosynthesis

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Kathy Perkins
System: Tuscaloosa City
School: Tuscaloosa City Board Of Education
The event this resource created for:ASTA
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 34857


Fascinating Photosynthesis


In this lesson, students investigate photosynthesis through hands-on experiments, videos, and discussion of text. They work in small groups with picture cards to create a chart showing how plants transform carbon dioxide, water, and light energy into carbohydrates and oxygen. After working collaboratively, students will create their own diagrams of photosynthesis. Because plant observations must occur over time, this lesson will take several days to complete.

This lesson results from a collaboration between the Alabama State Department of Education and ASTA.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
SC2015 (2015)
Grade: 5
9 ) Construct an illustration to explain how plants use light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into a storable fuel, carbohydrates, and a waste product, oxygen, during the process of photosynthesis.

Unpacked Content
Scientific And Engineering Practices:
Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions
Crosscutting Concepts: Energy and Matter
Disciplinary Core Idea: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
Evidence Of Student Attainment:
  • Construct and label an illustration that demonstrates the process of photosynthesis and the conversion of carbon dioxide and water into storable fuel, carbohydrates and oxygen.
Teacher Vocabulary:
  • convert
  • carbohydrates
  • waste product
  • photosynthesis
  • carbon dioxide
  • produces
  • oxygen
Students know:
  • What plants need to survive.
  • Parts of plants and their functions in the process of photosynthesis.
  • The sun is the source of energy.
  • Plants are producers.
Students are able to:
  • Construct an illustration to explain the scientific phenomenon of photosynthesis.
Students understand that:
  • Plants are producers of energy through the process of photosynthesis.
AMSTI Resources:
AMSTI Module:
Dynamics of Ecosystems

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SCI.AAS.5.9- Using a given model, recognize that plants use light energy to make their own food during the process of photosynthesis.

Local/National Standards:


Primary Learning Objective(s):

Students will construct an illustration to explain how plants make their own food through the process of photosynthesis.

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

Greater than 120 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

“A Tree is Like a Hungry Kid” quick read and quiz from Super Teacher Worksheets: (copied for half the class)

“A Plant Puzzle” passage from” (copied for half the class).  Teachers need to create a free ReadWorks account to access the materials on the site.

Picture cards (included in attachments section) printed for each group of 4 students

Chart paper


Student notebooks or journals

For Wonderville experiment (one set for whole-class demonstration):

  • Beaker or glass bowl
  • Short-stemmed Funnel
  • Test tube
  • Water plant such as Elodea or Spirogyra (If you receive the AMSTI Ecosystems kit, water plants are included.)
  • Baking soda
  • Blocks or cubes
  • Water

For Tomatosphere experiment (one set for each small group):

  • Potted plant
  • Aluminum foil
  • Paper clips
  • Scissors
  • Water 

Technology Resources Needed:

Computer with Internet access and projector for showing videos




Green plants create their own food through photosynthesis.  Photosynthesis is the process by which plants use energy from the sun to change carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates and oxygen.  Sugars and starches are all forms of carbohydrates.  Some of these carbohydrates are stored in the plant, and some are used by the plant to grow and survive.  More information on photosynthesis can be found at



Have students create a word web about plants in their science notebooks. Encourage students to categorize information as they create the webs.  A sample web is included in the attachments section.  This web can be used as a pre-assessment of student knowledge about plants and photosynthesis, and students can add to the web as their understanding increases throughout the lesson.

Watch Mr. C’s Photosynthesis song.  Have students add to their word webs following the video.


Conduct two experiments to show the process of photosynthesis:

  1. Photosynthesis experiment from Put a water plant in a beaker or glass bowl of water.  Place an inverted funnel over the plant and place in sunlight.  Observe bubbles of oxygen that are released as photosynthesis occurs.  Put a test the test tube over the funnel and mark the air level in the test tube.  Have students hypothesize what will happen to this air level over time and explain the reasons for their predictions.  Observe the oxygen level after 24 hours and discuss findings.  Repeat procedure in the dark and compare the results. 
  2. Experiment to show how lack of light affects leaves from Give each small group of students a potted plant, aluminum foil, scissors, and paperclips.  Have students cut small shapes from the foil and clip them to the leaves of the plant.  Place the plant in sunlight and water as needed.  After one week, remove the foil and observe what happened to the leaves.  Discuss what the change in color means in terms of photosynthesis.

In between observations, use this NOVA interactive website to explain what happens during photosynthesis.  You may choose to project the interactive for whole-class discussion, or students may access it individually on computers during learning centers.


Discuss results of experiments and watch photosynthesis videos:

Ask probing questions and have students add to the word webs in their notebooks.

  • What do plants need for photosynthesis?
  • Why can green plants photosynthesize but animals cannot?
  • What happens to the carbohydrates and oxygen produced during photosynthesis?

Divide class into groups of four.  Have two students in each group read “A Tree is Like a Hungry Kid” passage while the other two students read “A Plant Puzzle.”  Instruct students to highlight or underline answers to questions as they find them in the passages.  Following the reading, the group of four will share their findings.  Each set of partners will summarize their passage for the partners who read a different passage. 

Compare differences in terminology.  One passage says sugar is produced during photosynthesis, while the other says glucose is produced.  Explain to the students that glucose, sugar, and starch are forms of carbohydrates produced during photosynthesis.  Watch Mr. C’s Photosynthesis song again.  Pause the video when the chemical equation is displayed.  Explain that carbohydrates are molecules composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, but they can vary slightly and have different names depending on the arrangement of the molecules.  Students do not need to memorize the chemical equation, but they should understand that photosynthesis is a change where the inputs (water and carbon dioxide) are rearranged into different molecules (carbohydrates and oxygen) using energy from the sun.


Give each group of four students a set of picture cards (included in Attachments section), a piece of chart paper, and markers.  Have students arrange the picture and word cards on chart paper to show what happens during photosynthesis.  Have students draw arrows and write explanations to explain the process.  A sample card sort is included in the Attachments section.  

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Assessment Strategies

Have each student construct an illustration to explain how plants use light energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into a storable fuel, carbohydrates, and a waste product, oxygen, during the process of photosynthesis. Evaluate students’ illustrations using this rubric.

Students' word webs can also be used to assess an increase in knowledge about plants.



Have students read the advanced article, “Why Humans Can’t Live Off Sunlight” from and explain it to the class.  Students can explain the structures humans lack for photosynthesis in a digital presentation using PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, or Canva.


Assign students strategically in groups, pairing students who need assistance with peer tutors. 

During the reading portion of the lesson, have partners read aloud or in small groups with the teacher to ensure comprehension.

Project and discuss the NOVA interactive rather than having students use the website independently.

Provide models of photosynthesis illustrations:

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.