Who eats what?
Have students begin by making a list of all the things they ate the previous day. Ask students to identify if each item was a plant or animal. Have students share their ideas with partners. Pose the question, "Why do we need to eat?" Students can get their ideas down in a circle (thinking map) to get all of their ideas out.
2 Direct Instruction
Have a discussion about why we need to eat (to get energy, to survive, etc.) Be sure that students understand that when we eat food, we get energy from that food. So the energy is transferred from the item we eat to us. Introduce the terms carnivore, herbivore and omnivore. Discuss how different animals/people eat different things depending on what is available. Tell students that today they will learn about how an ecosystem transfers energy from one thing to the next and how each animal in an ecosystem is dependent upon their food source. Watch the BrainPop video "Food Chains". Discuss the terms producer, consumer and decomposer. You may want to start a word wall with these vocabulary terms (you could also use quizlet here). Explain that a producer gets it's energy from the food it creates for itself from sunlight. Explain that if an organism does not make its own food from sunlight, it is a consumer. Explain that anything that lives off of something that is dead is a decomposer. Explain that a decomposer helps to restart the cycle.
3 Guided Practice
Separate students into groups of 4 or 5. Give each student a different organism within a food chain from a specific ecosystem. Have students use the Britannica School website to find information about what their organism eats and what eats their organism. Have students create an index card with a drawing of their organism and the information from the Britannica website. Have students identify if their organism is herbivore, carnivore or omnivore and whether they are a producer or consumer. Once this is completed, students should come together to create a food chain with all of the index cards from their group on their desks.Then, have students discuss what would be a decomposer for their ecosystem and use Britannica School to check their thinking. Then, have students individually create their food chain in a digital document on Google Draw. Be sure to check to make sure that the producer is always at the bottom of the food chain. Explain that when you draw a food chain, the arrows show the flow of energy from one organism into the next.
4 Independent Practice
Have student play the GameUp "The Food Chain Game" on BrainPop. This game will keep track of how many errors the students make as they play. You can have them raise their hand and show you their score when they are finished.
As an extension, they can start to play with food webs after they have a full understanding of a food chain. Students will notice throughout their investigation that certain animals can eat more than one thing or be eaten by more than one thing. Having students play "Build a Food Web" will help them to further investigate this idea.