Sunday, March 31, 2013

Human Body Systems-Ready to Teach!

When we return from break, we will be learning about human body systems. We have to learn about the respiratory, circulatory, muscular, skeletal, nervous, and digestive systems. This is new in our curriculum this year, which means  I get to learn new stuff too and figure out how best to teach it. Unfortunately, I feel like I have struggled all year to teach science in truly meaningful ways. Mainly, I feel like our new curriculum is shallow and widespread (we went from 4 goals/units to 7 domains). I'm not trying to be a baby (maybe I am) but I didn't like science to begin with when I became a teacher and then as I became a 5th grade expert on my science content areas, I began to like it more. I even got over my hatred of sand all over my room when we were learning about erosion, deposition, and weathering (no more landforms in 5th grade :( )

Now, with no {real} training or investment from our district, we got to start from scratch on a number of these units. We get the impression that no one is interested in investing in these standards because we will be transitioning to Next Generation standards in another year. (So, why didn't we just leave our old standards the hell alone as we also transitioned to the common core? In addition, we also have a 5th grade science EOG...on new it! That's education for you.) Discovery Ed's science tech-book was the only new resource we were given, which I'm also not that big of a fan of because it's pretty basic. Maybe I will appreciate it more next year when we are 1-1 and I can more easily assign components of the units to my students.

Okay, now that I have (somewhat) vented, I wanted to share my plans for the Human Body Systems with you. I'm actually kind-of excited about this unit.

We are going to start with nonfiction-based research in reader's workshop. I am going to try to embed as many nonfiction review lessons as I can, probably spending a majority of my lessons focusing on how author's signal vocabulary words and provide us with definitions (aka-context clues). Dedicating about two weeks for this in reader's workshop, we will still have a few weeks for looking at "Test Talk" for the reading EOG.

To hold all of my students' research together and to help them learn the important parts of the Human Body Systems content, I created a Human Body Systems Student Encyclopedia.

This is meant to be a down and dirty science unit. (Did I mention I will also be teaching FORCE and MOTION at the same time during our science block? Phew! Maybe I could have taught all of these standards if  I totally ignored social studies all year. How sad! :( )

During reader's workshop, I will start with a minilesson (probably a video, a journal question for students to respond to, or some other type of engagement activity, and a nonfiction-reading based review lesson), then students will move to articles that I have placed around the room. (I am getting articles from Discover Ed,,, and, and I will be pulling books from the library.) I included links from readworks in the Human Body Systems research project. If you don't know about yet, you should really check it out for decent nonfiction--free--and lexiled. (You can check out the list here and go to to search for them.)

Another great resource I found was You can see below that you put a body part in place, then click on BRIGHT PAPERS on the RIGHT to learn more about the body part. I will either print off the Bright Papers for more research and/or head to the lab at the end of our 6 body systems reader's workshop cycle and let them click around to learn more and add info to their encyclopedias. We will also be using

Each day, we will focus on a different body system. The research sections for each body system include: coverpage/labeling diagram, structure/description/function chart for body parts, a more detailed diagram for labeling or other extension graphic organizer, a chart for students to list "Top 5 Ways to Keep this System Healthy" and "Illnesses and Syndromes that Can Affect this System," lastly, students complete a page where they try to find connections between different systems.

Then, in our writer's workshop block (since I plan for this to turn into a mini-writing project), we will do some sort of science activity to help students better understand the parts of the systems. When we are ready for the mini-writing project, I hope to have students focus on how to take care of one body system by doing more detailed research to understand how a specific disease or ailment affects a system (or multiple systems). I am hoping to make this unit deeper by providing a healthy living spin on it.

Human Body Systems now includes an answer key to help teachers provide feedback and help your students complete their research booklets! This was the most requested change to the Human Body Systems product and I'm so thankful for all the love sent through feedback and everyone's patience! If you have already purchased this product, please re-download for the updates! In addition the answer key, I included a page of the suggested activities that are listed in this blog post.

As I was planning this unit, I also showed some "love" to a few other TpT sellers. I purchased these posters from Mrs. Bell at Tangled with Teaching. It will make a great bulletin board and I will probably copy a set to place around the room when students are rotating to read their articles (it will provide a short break from longer articles and maybe reinforce something they have read. The posters come in two versions.
The human body systems clip art I used for my encyclopedia's came from Teachers Clipart and I found a great packet to use for my language/word study block from Mark Aaron, a FREE set of lessons for Human Body!

Here are a few activity ideas: (you can also find these by following my Science Ideas pinterest board)
Make a Spinal Cord (
Make a Skeleton (post includes possible read alouds--I would use toothpicks instead of chalk)
Make a Model of  Lung
Digestive System Activities
Importance of Cerebrospinal Fluid w/ an Egg (cool!)
Edible Bone Model (yum!)
Ideas for Cardiovascular System Activities

Phew! Long post, but I hope you found some ideas you can use :) Oh yeah, do you have any favorite activities you do with HBS? Other ideas? Feel free to let us know in the comments section!


  1. Those are GREAT worksheets! I wish I would have had those when we covered those systems.

  2. Great blog with wonderful resources and ideas. I am a reading interventionist supporting a 5th grade team that is studying human bodies. Do you have any below level books you'd suggest? One resource I've found is, Magic School Bus (chapter book) level P - Mystery of the Missing Bones. Thanks!

    1. Hi! The read works passages are leveled. I was able to find multiple passages on the same topic, so I had a lower-level and grade level passage. I would suggest that students who struggle with reading start with a lower level passage then read a longer one. During this unit, I focused on one body system each day. I pulled our texts off of the internet and focused on nonfiction reading. Students read as many of the nonfiction texts as they could for that body system during our reading block. Hope this helps!



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