2.4.1.1 Structure & Function

Grade: 
2
Subject:
Science
Strand:
Life Science
Substrand:
Structure and Function in Living Systems
Standard 2.4.1.1

Living things are diverse with many different observable characteristics.

Benchmark: 2.4.1.1.1 Plant Characteristics

Describe and sort plants into groups in many ways, according to their physical characteristics and behaviors.

Overview

Standard in Lay Terms 

Some plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from each other.  Plants have features that help them live in different environments.

Big Ideas and Essential Understandings 

Big Idea

Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do.  Other plants and animals are very different from one another.  Plants have many different characteristics.  There are many different plants throughout the world.  Not all plants have the same structures (stems, leaves, flowers, roots).

General similarities and differences among plants are easily observed.  Children can focus on any attribute such as size or color, but should be gradually guided to realize that some characteristics are more significant than others. (Paraphrased from 2061 project.)

Understanding and appreciating the diversity of life does not come from students' knowing bits of information or classification categories about many different species; rather it comes from their ability to see in organisms the patterns of similarity and differences that permeate the living world. (AAAS Project 2061; see this page.)

Benchmark Cluster 

MN Standard Benchmarks

2.4.1.1.1  Describe and sort plants into groups in many ways, according to their physical characteristics (e.g. flowers, leaves, needles, stems), location (e.g. water, dirt, air), and behaviors (e.g. do they grow best in sunshine, shade, wet, or dry conditions).

The Essentials

Video links:

Excellent National Geographic overview on plants video (for students).

An overview on plant descriptions/groups.

Correlations 

NSES Standards:

Life Science; Content Standard C: 

As a result of activities in grades K-4, all students should develop understanding of:

  • The characteristics of organisms
  • Life cycles of organisms
  • Organisms and environments.

See this page.

AAAS Atlas:

  • Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another. 5A/P1 (ID: SMS-BMK-0242)
  • Different plants and animals have external features that help them thrive in different kinds of places. 5F/P1 (ID: SMS-BMK-0306)
  • Living things are found almost everywhere in the world.  There are somewhat different kinds in different places. 5D/P2 (ID: SMS-BMK-0284)

See this page.

Benchmarks of Science Literacy:

Some animals and plants are alike in the way they look and in the things they do, and others are very different from one another.  See this page.

Framework for K-12 Science Education


Organisms have characteristics that  can be similar or different. Young animals  are very much, but not exactly, like their parents  and also resemble other  animals  of the same kind. Plants also are very much, but not exactly, like their parents  and resemble other  plants  of the same kind. 2LS3.A

Common Core Standards

The K-2 student...learns best by building understanding from their own actions upon objects and by telling stories about what they did and what they found out.

As they impose their ideas on the world, trying things out to see what will happen (poking, pushing, feeling, etc...), children see the results of their actions and thus come to understand how part of their world works.  If these experiences are connected with language experiences (e.g. talking with students as they explore instead of having a summary discussion after an exploration), primary students will learn how to express what they have learned in clear and accurate terms.

See this page.

Math:

Geometry & Measurement

2.3.1.1

Identify, describe and compare basic shapes according to their geometric attributes.  Describe, compare, and classify two and three dimensional figures according to number of shape of faces, and the number of sides, edges, and vertices (corners).

Misconceptions

Student Misconceptions 
  • Plants, fungi, eggs and seeds are not living.
  • Young children do not recognize trees as living although they understand that seedlings are alive.
  • Behavior and habitat are criteria for classification.
  • Bushes are baby trees.
  • Trees, grass, vegetables, and weeds are not plants.

Berthelsen, B. (1999). Students Naïve Conceptions in Life Science. MSTA Journal, 44(1) (Spring'99), pp. 13-19.

Vignette

Life science in the primary grades centers on students learning about the characteristics of organisms, their life cycles, and their environments.  This lesson attempts to touch on all of these topics as an introduction to life science.  Notice how the teacher works outdoors with his students, has them keep records, and introduces them to the skill of data collection.

In the fall, Mr. D. has groups of students adopt a tree on or near the school site. Throughout the school year, students visit their tree regularly to observe and record visitors and changes.  They collect twigs and leaves, and make bark rubbings.  Simple picture keys are used to identify the trees, and the students read about their tree to find out what kinds of changes to expect and what kinds of animals may visit their tree.

By wrapping a string around the trunk of the tree, the students measure the circumference of the trunk and then make comparisons among their classmates' trees.  They estimate the height of their tree and make drawings of the tree as it changes throughout the year.  A scrapbook is kept by each group where they place their pictures, rubbings, leaves, and other artifacts and information they collect about their tree.

During the winter, they might see a squirrel eating the berries on the tree.  These kinds of events lead them to ask about food sources of squirrels and other animals during the winter.  In the spring, they eagerly anticipate changes in the tree as its buds swell, producing leaves and in some cases flowers and berries.  Mr. D. also has developed tree backpacks that the students take turns taking home throughout the year.  Some backpacks include a book about trees, materials and instructions for making recycled paper, a bird identification guide, and other activities that students can do with their parents.  Other backpacks contain a tree identification guide and instructions for putting together a scrapbook of the leaves that students find in their neighborhood or other research-based publications.

(ref: SciMathMN Minnesota K-12 Science Framework, page 3-39.)

While utilizing the tree is an excellent introduction, choose from the following ideas to extend this concept into the classroom:

  • Present real examples of nonflowering plants or plants without typical features (stem, leaves, roots).
  • Present examples of plants that grow in water without soil.
  • Have students germinate seeds with and without nutrients to observe the importance of nutrients in plant growth.
  • Have students grow plants in light and in darkness to observe the importance of light in plant survival.
  • Allow students to observe a variety of root structures and consider their functions.
  • Help students understand ways that plants are different from humans in form and function.
  • Plants have adaptations to help them survive (live and grow) in different areas. Adaptations are special features that allow a plant or animal to live in a particular place or habitat.  These adaptations might make it very difficult for the plant to survive in a different place.  This explains why certain plants are found in one area, but not in another.  For example, you wouldn't see a cactus living in the Arctic.  Nor would you see lots of really tall trees living in grasslands.  Click on this link to see the different biomes or areas to learn about them and some of the adaptations plants have to live there.

Mindfully use language to promote correct understanding.  For example, avoid the use of words such as "food," "eat," "drink," and "breathe" when discussing plants.

Resources

Instructional Notes 

Suggested Labs and Activities

When selecting/creating lessons for this concept, an effective model to follow is the 5 E method.  Following is a suggestion of how to incorporate this method for this topic.

ENGAGE

Ask students to write the key question in their science notebook and to record their ideas about how plants might be classified by scientists.

EXPLORE: Part 1 

  1. Collect a variety of (plants, plant parts, etc...) for observation. 
  2. Students observe with their eyes and then with a hand lens or microscope. 
  3. Students should make careful drawings in their science notebook.

EXPLAIN: Part 1   

  1. Students suggest various ways of classifying their objects.
  2. Students determine what properties were used for sorting.

EXPLORE AND EXPLAIN: Part 2

  1. Give each group a variety of different objects (related to the topic.)
  2. Students should make careful observations and record the observations in their science notebook.
  3. Groups discuss what they have been observing and think about their function. 

EXTEND AND APPLY

  1. Students walk around their own yard and talk with their parents about the (plants or other objects) growing there.
  2. How can they classify the (plants or other objects) growing in their yard?  Can they find examples of the classifications they came up with?

Biology of Plants

Students can learn about plant biology.  Topics include characteristics of living things, germination and growth, the basic parts of plants, photosynthesis, reproduction, and ecological adaptations of plants.  The information presented can also be ordered as a video.

See this page.

How Do Scientists Classify Plants?  Big Idea 15

Students will classify flowering and non-flowering plants into major groups such as those that produce seeds, or those like ferns and mosses that produce spores, according to their physical characteristics.

Orange County Public Schools, 2009

See this page.

Games and Activities About Plants

Budding Botanists

Students use inquiry skills to explore the anatomy of plants we eat. Brooklyn Children Museum (Copyright @2008 Brooklyn Children's Museum, 145 Brooklyn Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11213)

What Parts Are There to a Plant?

In this lesson, students will identify and sort plant parts through hands-on activities and group discussions and then work with magnifying lenses and tape measures to document their observations on a student sheet. 

Instructional Resources 

Instructional Suggestions/Options

For teachers:

Scientists divide plants into two main groups: seed plants, which produce new plants in seeds, and non-seed plants, which produce new plants without seeds.  Over 300,000 kinds of plants produce seeds in flowers or in cones in order to reproduce themselves.  Angiosperms are plants that produce flowers and fruits.  Their seeds have a protective covering, usually fleshy fruit.  Most fruit, nut, and vegetable plants are angiosperms. 

Gymnosperms are plants which produce uncovered seeds.  Most gymnosperms produce seeds in cones.

One well-known type of gymnosperm is the conifer, which includes pine trees and spruce trees.  You will not see flowers growing from a pine tree.  Pine trees bear seeds between the scales of the female cone.

As cones mature they dry and open, allowing seeds to fly into the wind.

Some common non-seed plants include algae, mosses, and ferns, and they reproduce by means of spores. 

This site contains notes to give teachers the background they may need when teaching these topics on plants.  The vocabulary and words used are botanically correct.  It is always advisable to keep closely to the standard terminology so that pupils have a firm foundation to build on and don't have to 'undo' their learning and vocabulary at a later stage.  However, it is not intended that you pass these notes on to pupils in the form presented here.

This site contains an overview on how to include multiple intelligences in teaching about plant characteristics (for teachers).

New Vocabulary 

Vocabulary/Glossary

Flower: the bloom or blossom of a plant; the reproductive organ of an angiosperm plant.  Context: Flowers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.

Leaves: the main organs of photosynthesis and transpiration in plants.  Context: When you look at a forest in summer, you can see the green leaves of trees.

Needles: the slender needle-shaped leaves of a pine tree.  Context: An adult leaf of a pine tree.

Roots: the usually underground part of a seed plant body.  Context: Roots hold the plant in place.

Seed: a fertilized and mature ovule containing a plant embryo.  Context: A new plant will come from the seed.

Stem: stalk; a slender or elongated structure that supports a plant.  Context: The stem pokes up through the soil.

Technology Connections 

   

Enjoy fun science games for kids while learning more about science and technology.

A Touch of Class: An interactive game where you sort different plants and animals. 

     

See this page.

Plant & Flower Facts: A great visual on parts of the flower.

Welcome to the New Plants Module!  Help Farmer Jane plant your garden, and watch it grow!

Plant-parts salad

This portion of the Cool Science for Curious Kids website asks students to name a tomato, lettuce, asparagus, broccoli, and carrot as a fruit, stem, leaf, root, or flower. Users click on a fruit or vegetable, then click on its plant part name.  When matched correctly, the fruit or vegetable moves into a bowl and an explanation of the plant part appears.

Interactive sites for K-2: Fun for students yet full of useful resources for teachers.

Promethean/SMARTboard Activities:

Plant or Animal? flipchart

Comparing and contrasting plants and animals and their characteristics as well as key vocabulary are discussed. A writing section for children is integrated.

Sorting Plants and Animals flipchart

Students will observe and recognize some simple characteristics of animals and plants. They will group them according to observable similarities and differences.

Plant and Animal Habitats

This lesson explains plant and animal habitats with brilliant pictures and photos.  It also includes discussion and non-Activote questions.

Sonoran Desert

This flipchart is an introduction/review of the climate, the plant life and the animals of the Sonoran Desert.  Students will use Activotes, the eraser tool, and the pen tool to answer questions about how animals and plants adapt to life in the desert.

Sorting Plants and Animals Activlesson

Students observe and recognize some simple characteristics of animals and plants. They group them according to observable similarities and differences.

Plant or Animal?

Comparing and contrasting plants and animals and their characteristics as well as key vocabulary are discussed. A writing section for children is integrated.

Comparing Plants (SMART Table activity pack)

Students will complete activities in which they describe similarities and differences between the appearance and characteristics of plants.

Desert Plant and Animal Adaptations (SMART Notebook lesson)

This lesson is meant to be taught after students have learned about the needs of both plants and animals.  In this lesson, students are introduced to the word "adaptation" and to how plants and animals have adapted to the desert.

Plant Adaptations (SMART Table activity)

Recognize that some plants and animals must adapt to extreme conditions to meet their basic needs.  Includes simple adaptations that plants show in extreme conditions.

All About Plants (SMART Notebook)

A review of plant parts and their jobs, needs, life cycle, deciduous or evergreen, plant products, and plants and animals as partners.

Assessment

Assessment of Student

Written Assessment:

A formative assessment for this learning experience will include having students sort plants by two or more characteristics (Physical, Location, Behaviors) and explain the characteristic used for sorting.

Directions:

Using any of the following categories:

  • Physical characteristics: flowers, leaves, needles, stems
  • Location: water, moss, dirt, air
  • Behaviors: (grow best in sunshine, shade, wet, or dry conditions)

Describe and categorize the characteristics of plants.

The scoring rubric follows:

4: The student states a characteristic used for sorting and groups the plants correctly.

3: The student states a characteristic used for the sorting but does not group all the plants correctly.

2: With teacher prompting, the student states a characteristic used for sorting and groups the plants correctly.

1: The student is unable to correctly identify a characteristic for sorting.

Alternative online assessment: Plant WebQuest Evaluation

Through this lesson, students have had several experiences with plant parts.  Because there were not several different kinds of plants (all were vegetables), it was easier for students to identify similarities and differences between plant parts.  One way to assess how well students understand the concept of like and difference among plants and plant parts is to add a variable.  Introduce one other type of plant.  Ask students:

  • Do you see a root on this plant?
  • How is it the same or different from some of the other roots we have seen?

(Repeat these two questions for stem and leaf.)

After discussing these questions, give students the More Plant Parts student sheet.  It may be important to review their student sheets and use their responses to facilitate another group discussion about what they have discovered about plants and plant parts.  You can also display these student sheets around the classroom (anonymously) so that students can learn from other students' observations as well.

Assessment of Teachers

  1. A student's understanding and appreciation of the diversity of life comes from what? Why is this is important for you to understand?
  2. Name one common misconception that students often have about plants. How would you address this misconception?
  3. What is the main purpose for plants having different features?

Differentiation

Struggling Learners 

Struggling and At-Risk:

The following example introduces students to a book about discovering plants:

1.  Introduce and discuss the following preselected terms:

flowers

leaves

water

gardens

weeds

forests

air

trees

sunlight

soil

roots

stems

2.  Then, ask students to sort the terms according to the following categories OR ask the students to sort the cards in a way that is meaningful to them and follow-up to check their understanding of the concepts.

  • Types of plants
  • Parts of a plant
  • Where plants grow
  • What plants need to grow
English Language Learners 

No special lesson changes are required.

"Inquiry science provides shared experiences.  In other words, it offers an arena in which ELLs can try out their maturing ideas about scientific phenomena using their expanding second-language skills.  What is learning is science through English remains as part of one's understanding of the universe and represents a step in one's growth into a second language.  Thus the student who plans, plants, observes and records...in English brings purpose and significance to both life science and English language development (ELD) skills."

Fathman, Ann K. and Crowther, David T. Science for English Language Learners: K-12 Classroom Strategies.

Extending the Learning 

Have gifted students set up a school garden.  They can use their garden to experiment, changing variables like the amount of water, light, and nutrients that the plants are given.  Then, they can reflect on what they observe and record the information they gather in a journal just as real-world scientists do.  Use the content of the data journal to assess the learning that has taken place during this time.

See this page.

  1. Provide any of the following extensions for your students:
  2. Present real examples of nonflowering plants or plants without typical features (stem, leaves, roots).
  3. Present examples of plants that grow in water without soil.
  4. Have students germinate seeds with and without nutrients to observe the importance of nutrients in plant growth.
  5. Have students grow plants in light and in darkness to observe the importance of light in plant survival.
  6. Allow students to observe a variety of root structures and consider their functions.
  7. Help students understand ways that plants are different from humans in form and function.
Multi-Cultural 

Educators have often overlooked cultural beliefs and perspectives in science education, however recent research emphasizes the importance of recognizing diversity in the science classroom.  Recognizing diversity facilitates a more active learning experience for the student because it emphasizes understanding in terms of different perspectives rather than just learning the facts.

The Multicultural Resource Center has a variety of resources available to support multicultural science instruction.  Consider borrowing our musical instruments to investigate the study of sound, using sand paintings and sculptures to illustrate geological properties, and butterfly paintings for biology.  See this page.

The multiple uses of plants - food, rituals, dyes, clothing, etc. - can be documented and demonstrated by Indian students.

PRESENT DIVERSITY USING FOOD!  Offer authentic ethnic foods!  Many kids have tasted egg rolls, tacos, and spaghetti; why not try something from Ethiopia, Thailand, India, Israel or Germany?  Help kids make connections between a culture and its food.

Special Education 

Students who may need help sorting the plants could have access to a completed table without the headings.  They could then sort photographs according to the table and determine which heading matched which sort.  Teachers may decide to focus on animals first and then complete a separate sort for plants.

Parents/Admin

Classroom Observation 

Administrators

An administrator observing a lesson on this standard might expect to see students categorizing plants by a wide variety of different characteristics including, but not limited to, physical characteristics (e.g. flowers, leaves, needles, stems), location (water, dirt, air) and behaviors (e.g. do they grow best in sunshine, shade, wet or dry conditions?).

Parents 

A blog for teachers (and parents, too!) who support young science learners.  Find information on developmental research, activities, and posts from guest experts on a range of topics related to teaching science: Let's Get Growing | The Learning Lab | Sid The Science Kid | PBS ..

Books:

  • Hands-On Nature: Information and Activities for Exploring the Environment with Children. Edited by Jenepher Lingelbach. Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 1986.
  • Ideas for Environmental Education in the Elementary Classroom. Kath Murdoch. Heinemann, 1993.
  • Teaching Kids to Love the Earth. Marina Lachecki, et. al. University of Minnesota Press, 1991.