Explaining the life cycle of plants to first-graders isn't difficult, but it is an important concept for children to understand in the overall science class. Add variety to your classroom by using different teaching methods to help students better understand the steps in the life cycle, and what each step looks like.
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Life Cycle Explanation
Introduce students to the concept by showing them a chart of the life cycle of a plant, such as a bean. You'll need to show steps such as the seed, a seed with roots, a seed sprouting leaves, a flowering plant and a mature plant. Using a chart with sketches or actual plant photos helps visual learners better comprehend the concept, and shows the progression from one stage to another.
Explain the conditions that plants need in order to sprout --- water and soil --- and make sure to introduce appropriate terms to the class, such as plant parts like the root, stem, leaf and flower. Bring several live plants into the class to point out how plants are similar and how they differ. For example, the leaves on a tulip look very different from the leaves on a rose.
Make a Book
Print out the pages for the Sprouting Bean Shape Book from enchantedlearning.com and pass them out to each student in the class. As the kids colour each page, they'll become familiar with each stage in the life cycle, what the stage looks like, and the terms associated with it. Cut out the papers and bind them to make a book. Not only will they be filling out craft time by making the book, but they'll be creating a study tool to help them better understand the life cycle.
Plant a Seed
Show students the life cycle of plants by letting them plant their own beans in clear plastic cups filled with soil. Plant several beans in each cup, with at least one near the side of the cup so they can see what the seed looks like as it sprouts and grows roots. Write each student's name on a small piece of masking tape and attach it to the cup so you can determine which cup belongs to whom. Water the beans over the next several weeks until the seeds sprout.
Consider showing students time-lapse video clips of plants forming roots or sprouting from the soil. While students can observe the plants growing over time, seeing the time-lapsed footage gives them a better understanding of the process.
What's the Order?
Pass out a worksheet that requires students to put the steps of the life cycle of a bean in order, such as the handout from the Enchanted Learning website. Let students colour the pictures, then cut them out and attach them to a long strip to look like a comic book. If studying the life cycle at the end of the school year --- when students have better writing and vocabulary skills --- let first-graders write explanations of what is happening at each step.
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