I have been teaching 5th graders about photosynthesis for a long time. When I first began, I taught from the science text book. When the students weren’t very successful understanding the process, I began to offer an oral test at my desk using a diagram. More were successful with this method, but they still stressed about it and I felt like I was pulling the answers out of them rather than the students feeling comfortable with what they knew. I still wasn’t satisfied with their level of understanding.
Then I wrote a script and a rap (to open the show). The very next year I added some fact cards to be read at the end of the play to lend understanding to the true importance of photosynthesis to human beings. Recently I added a section between the rap and the play which kind of explains to the audience how tiny a place a chloroplast is and how many there are in each cell and how all the chloroplasts in all the cells are housing the miracle of photosynthesis all the time.
The other clever thing I’ve done is to have three different casts. Instead of six students (speaking parts and a director) memorizing the process of photosynthesis, there are now 18! And the rest participate in watching the show in rehearsals and performances (of which there are 12 – each cast performs 4 times). The students are very excited about performing so many times … until we are at the 9th and 10th show and they are getting a bit bored with it. That’s when we talk about digging deeper. Each audience deserves the best show a cast can give. We refer back to this moment often during the year because having to dig deeper happens lots in life.
The final thoughts have to be … so how well do the students understand photosynthesis now? Well, I gave them a written test today. Here are the results:
52% earned a score of 100
22% earned a score of 94
17% earned a score of 88
4% earned a score of 81
4% earned a score of 75