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Compiled By: Mrs. G

Teaching the concept of photosynthesis can be difficult. Here are some activities teachers have used to make it a little easier to understand.

Posted by: Lorelei

I teach Photosynthesis to my 4th graders and compare it to making sugar cookies. I tell them that they need certain ingredients to make cookies and you need certain ingredients to make Photosynthesis happen. We list the "ingredients" and then I compare the sun (light) for Photo to the heat of the oven (since you need light for Photosynthesis to get going and you need the oven for the cookies to bake.)

So once the cookies bake, you have the final product...well in Photosynthesis once the process takes place the end result is sugar(cookie) and oxygen. I tell the students that when you make cookies you can smell them. The smell eventually goes away...I compare that to Oxygen being made but it is a waste doesn't stay.

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Posted by: love5th

First I have my 5th graders tell me what they ate the night before. We make a list on the board. Then I ask them if they've ever seen a flower or tree eat any of these items. They all laugh and of course say "no". So I ask them how plants get food.

Next I share the "recipe" for photosynthesis. Sun+Water+CO2=photosynthesis You could have them make recipe cards for plants, using their own creative words for the ingredients and directions for plants to make food. I have them draw pictures too. If you want they could do it on paper and then combine them to make a cookbook for your class plants (if you have them like I do)

I find that this just makes it a little more simplistic and puts it in terms they can understand.

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Photosynthesis Play
Posted by: KathyB

When teaching photosynthesis to my fourth grade students I had them perform a play. Students created a name tag (10 x 10 of cardboard) which I put yarn on and they wear. The parts are sun, plant, water, carbon dioxide, energy, oxygen, sugar and a narrator. The sun stands on a stool sending his energy to the plant. The energy, water and carbon dioxide go around the plant and then sit down so that the products of oxygen and sugar can shine. The narrator explains the whole process but each part must also be able to explain his/her role. My students absolutely loved performing and rarely did I have a group that couldn't explin photosynthesis via a diagram or paragraph.

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Posted by: volstate

I begin by teaching about the needs of plants. We then learn about the different plant parts. It is helpful if students can have different plants to look at and practice locating parts like stamen and pistal. I teach photosynthesis through comparing it to a factory. During the learning, students will label an organizer, watch video clips, and complete a photosynthesis comparision page. My students are exposed to the material in a variety of methods so that various learning styles can be addressed. is a creat site to help find ideas on how to teach the content so that is fun and appropriate.

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Posted by: jsfowler

First, I would look for a video to watch (Bill Nye has a good one). When I teach photosynthesis, I use a powerpoint and break everything down into managable pieces. I use a chemical equation:

water and carbon dioxide in the presence of chlorphill and sunlight yields oxygen and glucose

I always teach photosynthesis and respiration together so we can discuss how they are opposite processes. We discuss the carbon dioxide/oxygen cycle and draw diagrams.

My advice for teaching this concept is to use hands-on materials (look at a plant cell under a microscope and identify chloraplasts, observe what happens when a requirement of photosynthesis is deprived, etc.), Bill Nye video, and diagrams (chemical equations, CO2/O2 cycle, venn diagram, etc,) I think the students understand it better when you include respiration as an opposite process.

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Photosynthesis Diagram
Posted by: Mrs. G

After teaching students about the process of photosynthesis have them draw and label a diagram that shows how it works.

Carbon dioxide + water + sunlight = sugar + oxygen

They could draw a picture of a plant showing its roots under the soil. Label the water with an arrow pointing to the roots. They can draw the sun with arrows point toward the plant, carbon dioxide could be shown with an arrow pointing to a leaf, and oxygen with an arrow going away from a leaf.

You could also have a picture pre-made and just have them label using the information above.

Posted by: Mrs. G

Try doing an experiment growing plants in different light. Make sure you start with the same kind of plants about the same size. You want ones with green leaves. Place one plant in a window that gets sunlight, another in a dark place like a closet, and another one in a place that does not get direct sunlight just artificial light in your classroom. Make sure you water all of the plants and take care of them the same. After a few days bring them all together for the students to compare the differences in leaf color and size. The students can journal their observations. Do this every few days for a few weeks. Have students draw conclusions about why plants need light to grow and what kind of light is the best.

Top Secret
Posted by: KT

[Top Secret by John Reynolds Gardiner] is a book about a boy who does a science project about human photosynthesis. I have used it as a read aloud at the end of 3rd grade. If plant studies is any part of your curriculum it would certainly tie in with that and lead to many good discussions. It makes reference to chemistry, and journalism too.

Posted by: gator

I don't have a song, but one of the teachers in my grade level does the "photosynthesis ballet" I am not sure of all the details since my stuff is at school but it goes something like this.

They start out as tiny seeds ( curled up in a ball)
Then they germinate (start growing into a plant)
It rains (use hands)
The sun shines (Hold arms out like sunbathing)
The plant uses the "chlorophil" in it's body to make food and grow (get bigger)

As I said, I think that there is probably more to it, but you get the idea. She had her class perform it each of the other third grade classes so they really remembered it.

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leaf rubbings
Posted by: Mrs. G

Find a variety of leaves with different vein patterns. Then have your students choose one of the leaves and place it under a sheet of copy paper. With a crayon or pencil have them lightly rub over the top of the leaf. You could have them do several different leaves on the same paper.

Once this is done discuss how food travels from the leaves to nourish all parts of the plant. This is a great intro to photosynthesis.

Posted by: cathy

There is a video about photosynthesis using the Series The Magic School Bus. I am not sure what age you have but we watched in 1st grade. We also grew beans but if you are not a green thumb then I would be careful with that. We put beens in a closet and beans in the classroom. Bean do not like direct sun however.