Interactions in Ecosystems: This Week in 5th Grade Science

Life Science is something that I love to teach in Spring because animals and plants are becoming active again. We can teach what students are starting to see in their world around them. Plus, we have more opportunity to tie in natural occurrences to our lessons such as baby animals and plant growth.

This week in 5th grade Science, we are going to talk about Interactions in Ecosystems. This is an often overlooked standard. But it is an assessed standard on the 5th grade Science STAAR test. I expanded the interactions in this lesson to include an introduction to how relationships in ecosystems can be helpful to one or both of the organisms.

I have even added a DIGITAL version of this lesson set, because I am loving all the benefits of digital resources. Whether you are teaching in-person or still having distance learning, I love not having to make copies!!!

Let’s take a look at this week of learning.

As always, I start my lessons with a pre-learning activity to activate prior knowledge and build schema. Students learn better when they have a base understanding to stick that new learning to. For this science lesson, I guide them through a simple ecosystem observation looking for what’s going on and classifying what they saw as living or nonliving. Science Starters are also a great way to start every day of the week to get students thinking on topic. And, don’t forget to “build” their vocabulary understanding through my daily Word Wall Builder activities. I always add in some additional vocabulary resources in case you want that. A word a night would make a simple, but effective homework assignment.

After the intros and basics, I like to give students a base understanding of the concept. This is not a tell-all. I want them to learn from experiencing the topic in a real life or hands-on way as well. For this base understanding, I have a simple informational text with some key words to define based on their reading. A graphic organizer designed specifically for this informational text and a summary writing with key terms will help students process and retain the information from their reading. This is one of the most important teacher input activities. The next teacher input activity I do is the anchor chart. I LOVE to draw big, colorful anchor charts. If you’re like me, you can take my anchor chart example and draw it on chart paper to hang up in the room. If you’re like many of my colleagues who aren’t a fan of drawing, you can print this anchor chart to display on a projector or smart tv. It comes in a completed version and a fill-in-the-blank version in case you want to fill it in as you discuss each section with your students. AND, my favorite part of this is my printable notebook sized anchor charts! The are blackline so students can color them. Plus, they can fill in the writing as you complete your anchor chart. This makes a great teacher input activity for the interactive science notebook, plus a great reference for students to look at when completing homework, studying, or even class work.

A teacher output for your interactive science notebooks is important for students to process this new information and make it meaningful to them in a creative way. For this lesson, I have students illustrate and label interactions they might find in a certain ecosystem.

And, for my favorite part of the lesson, the hands-on or experience learning! For this lesson, I felt a fun game of go fish with an interactions twist would help students think about and see how interactions occur in a variety of ecosystems. If you wanted a more guided stations type exploration on the topic, the digital version has just what you need and it is NO PREP which is an added bonus! I will walk through the digital version at the end of this post.

Following all the teacher input, student output, and exploration stages of learning the science concept, I have three formative assessment and critical thinking activities. The Analyzing Data activity has students explain and classify some interactions they see occurring in the picture. This can work for a formative assessment, or could be a good learning opportunity before the assessment. I also have a project that can be used throughout the week of learning, as an extension to the learning, or as an enrichment for your high achievers. I love the flexibility that having a project for each topic provides for my learners. This project is a research project with a variety of fun and simple presentation templates for student choice on how they want to report their findings. The Claim It! critical thinking activity is absolutely my favorite formative assessment. Students make a claim, support it, and explain it using what they throughout the week. I like that is is open ended so students can tell me what they know and I can see what they might have missed. I give them our guiding question of the week to answer. This is something they have seen all week, but we haven’t explicitly answered yet.

And now for my favorite new type of resource! I LOVE having a digital option for the many times I need or want it. I love that it is a complete week of self-guided work for students to complete with a sub, for distance learning, or make-up work. The slides could also be assigned in the classroom for a tech station in learning – OR- on student devices for a paper-free learning experience. Save some trees and save yourself from fighting the line at the copy machine.

Let’s take a look at how I modify this lesson set for a digital week of learning. The digital week of learning comes in three formats so that you can have what best fits your needs. I provide PowerPoint, Google Slides, and JPG images of slides for use in other platforms such as Seesaw. A pdf teacher file is also provided to give you that Google Slides link, answer sheets, and teacher info.

A self-guiding assignment slide tells students which slides to complete each day. This just makes my sub plans a dream!! Plus, learning from home is a breeze. You can see there is a pre-learning thinking page that also incorporates the first activity of my Word Wall Builder. Informational texts, graphic organizers, and summary writing with key terms are all included to cover the teacher input activities digitally.

The anchor chart is a great tool to use digitally, it even has moveable text boxes so students can see what to write. A digital interactive notebook activity for student output is also included with all the fun vocabulary pages. A BONUS activity is even added in so students can look around their world and see how the concept can be found in real life. I love these because it is a scavenger hunt that can be done at home or at school, and guides them through finding that topic in the real world.

Digital Explorations are amazing for a no prep way to give students their lab at home, or on a sub day! Plus, this works well for days when a lab just isn’t doable in the classroom. And, make up labs have never been so easy! For this lesson, I took the concept of that Interactions in Ecosystems go fish game and made it more of an interactive exploration. Students are guided to go into presentation mode and click on 5 interactions shown in this ocean scene. Each interaction has its own page that will pop up with an explanation of what’s goin on. The exploration report is a place where they can record what they observed in the exploration.

The final slides give you those good formative assessment options with the critical thinking writing and the analyzing data activity. Also, another great opportunity to skip making copies if your students have devices to complete their work! I have added in a blank assignment page in the JPG images of the slides so you can put together your own pace for the week of learning.

I hope this helps you get some ideas for planning your week of learning for Interactions in Ecosystems. Click any image in this post to grab that pre-planned week of learning and save yourself the time of putting it together yourself!!

I have been working for years on collecting each week of learning for 5th, 4th, and 2nd grade science. Plus, I have full years of preschool and resources for Kinder, 1st, and Middle School. For the past year, I have been working to modify each of those lesson sets to have a digital option for each week. If you need these resources for another topic, you can find them in my TPT shop!

Happy Teaching, friend!

-Alicia (Elementary Ali)

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