Photosynthesis: Modeling Activity and Guided Notes Lessons

Rated 4.9 out of 5, based on 146 reviews
146 Ratings
Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching
Grade Levels
5th - 8th
Formats Included
  • PDF
10 pages
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Kerry Tracy Feel-Good Teaching


Give your students hands-on experience modeling the complex process of photosynthesis!

It took me several years to find an easy way to teach my 4th - 7th grade students to really understand what was happening during photosynthesis.

They needed a hands-on way to see how the leaves were taking molecules of water and carbon dioxide, breaking them apart, and reorganizing to form glucose and oxygen gas.

I developed this activity and follow-up notes for 4th-5th graders, but I found my 7th graders really benefitted from the review. You'll also note in the comments below that many teachers have found that even younger students can grasp photosynthesis using this activity!

There is nothing better than that chorus of, "Ohhhh......!" toward the end of the activity that lets you know they "got" it! If your school uses Thinking Maps, these notes easily fit the flow map.

This download contains print & paperless options:

  • 1 hands-on printable activity wherein students use paper "atoms" to model what goes on in a leaf during photosynthesis. It includes full directions and suggested script. I also provide a cooking analogy that makes the abstract content much easier to understand.
  • 1 follow up guided notes lesson where students draw out the steps and write notes for the steps of photosynthesis. I made two versions on the student notes. One copy is blank; students fill in pictures and notes. The other has the information typed; the students need only fill in the pictures.
  • A Google Slides™ version of the student activity (drag & drop) and notes is also included. See the video preview at the top of the listing to see it in action.

*The free download shows the completed student notes.

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Total Pages
10 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 days
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Develop a model to describe how food is rearranged through chemical reactions forming new molecules that support growth and/or release energy as this matter moves through an organism. Emphasis is on describing that molecules are broken apart and put back together and that in this process, energy is released. Assessment does not include details of the chemical reactions for photosynthesis or respiration.
Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for the role of photosynthesis in the cycling of matter and flow of energy into and out of organisms. Emphasis is on tracing movement of matter and flow of energy. Assessment does not include the biochemical mechanisms of photosynthesis.
Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water. Emphasis is on the idea that plant matter comes mostly from air and water, not from the soil.


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