Teachers’ Guide for Tell Me Why. Tell Me How: How Do
Teachers’ Guide for
Tell Me Why, Tell Me How: How Do
Students will understand these
what things plants need to grow
what the important parts of a plant are
how plants make food for themselves
how plants are pollinated and grow
ask and answer questions
build content vocabulary
create a life cycle diagram for plant growth, using text and
design simple experiments testing what affects plant
The title of the book presents a focusing question for
inquiry-based learning. Students can attempt to predict the answer to the
question before reading. They can then identify important information to help
them answer the question as they read.
Content vocabulary words are often directly explained in the
text. Tell students that they can often read ahead or reread to find such
context clues using the example of "species, or kinds" from page 5.
Explain that if there aren’t clues, or if they still don’t
understand boldfaced words like
looking at context clues, they can look at the glossary definitions at the back
of the book. You may choose to preview the glossary with students before reading
and help them use the words in sentences to develop content vocabulary.
Show students the table of contents before reading and
explain that this page allows them to predict the topics they will learn about.
Say that after reading, you can return to this page to remember the important
topics from the book and where you can find discussions of those topics. Point
to the heading "What Plants Need to Grow" and then explain that this
chapter lists the main things plants need before they can grow.
Before reading, point out one of the "Now I Know"
boxes, such as the one at the bottom of page 7. Explain to students that they
can use these boxes to quiz themselves and make sure they understood certain
facts that they read about. Read the question in the box on page 7 and explain
to students that they will learn whether grass is a kind of plant in the
chapter. They will then be able to use this "Now I Know!" box to check
Several of the scientific concepts that are described in the
text are challenging to understand, especially on an initial reading. Encourage
students to monitor their reading. Give them strategies to clarify their
understandings, such as rereading, reading ahead, and flagging with sticky notes
what they simply can’t figure out. After they read, ask what students did
to self-correct their own understandings of difficult vocabulary and concepts.
Help them with the concepts they could not understand on their own.
ELLs and other students may need help understanding certain
similes, idioms, and content vocabulary that this book uses. Use direct
explanations, drawings, or gestures to explain challenging words and phrases.
For example, a plant cell is compared to a tiny house on page 13, with different
functions happening inside the different "rooms." To help students
visualize this, draw on the board a simple diagram (cutaway or top view) of a
house next to a simple diagram of a cell (similar to the photograph on page 13).
Draw different rooms within the house and guide students to say aloud what
happens in the different rooms. Then discuss as a group what happens in
different parts of the plant cell. The cell parts and functions are discussed on
pages 14–15 and again on pages 18–19; they include storing food,
water, and waste; collecting energy; and so on). Point to pictures in the book
or create your own visuals for other vocabulary and concepts, such as using the
dramatic photograph on page 12 to discuss the leaves, branches, trunk, and roots
of a tree.
Arts, Grades 3–6: 1, 2, 3, 8, 12
Grades 3–6: C (Life Science)
State Science Standards
Grades 3–5: 3 (Life Science)
The book also addresses the following Maryland science
topics and indicators, for Grades 3, 5 and 6:
Make a K-W-L chart on the board or on chart paper by writing
these headings at the tops of three columns: "Know," "Want to
know," and "Learned." Discuss what students already know about
plants and how they grow. Write students’ ideas in the first column on the
chart. Then give students copies of the book and allow them to preview the
pictures. Ask if this reminds them of anything else they know. Ask if it makes
them think of questions they want to know about plants. Write additional ideas
in the first two columns of the K-W-L chart and explain that you will discuss
what students learned from the book after reading.
Provide students with sticky notes to record additional
questions and facts that they learn when they read. Say that you will discuss
what they write down after they read.
Review any predictions students made before reading about
how plants grow. Ask students what information they didn’t predict.
Review the K-W-L chart that you and the group made before
reading. Point to the middle column and ask students if they learned what they
wanted to know about plants from the book. If not, ask how they might find
answers to their questions in other places. Then work with students to fill in
the third column on the chart with facts that students learned from the book
about plant growth. Encourage students to refer to the sticky notes they wrote
on while reading so they remember facts that stood out for them.
Clarify any challenging vocabulary or concepts that students
could not figure out on their own. Make sure to discuss the central scientific
concepts, such as what things plants need to grow, what the important parts of a
plant are, how plants make food for themselves, and how plants are pollinated
and grow. You might choose to review these topics with students by opening a
book to the contents page and reviewing the different chapter topics and what
students remember from each chapter.
Review the last chapter in the book with students. Although
it does not say so explicitly, the text is describing the life cycle of a plant
in this chapter (from flowering and pollination to the creation of fruits with
seeds, to the spread of seeds to the sprouting and growth of a plant, and back
to the flowering and creation of fruit). Show examples of simple life cycle
diagrams or have students find examples online. A couple of examples
Have pairs of students create their own life cycle diagrams
for plants, filling in quoted lines from the book that tell about different
stages and listing the page numbers for each quote. Encourage students to draw
pictures that would accompany the text at each stage of a plant’s life
cycle. Have pairs share their diagrams with one another to see if the stages in
their cycles were the same. Students may notice some variation in the placement
of the stages, which is fine so long as the important stages are
included—point out that a diagram of a cycle doesn’t really need to
start or end anywhere, because the process keeps on going.
See pages 26–27 of the book for an activity that
involves growing bush beans and changing several of the variables that affect
The activity in the book involves measurements of sprouting
and growth times, and what happens to plants a) with or without light, b) with
petroleum jelly blocking air from entering their leaves, and c) with or without
water. Have students expand on this activity to test some other thing that
may affect plant growth. Encourage them to reread the book for ideas, or consult
Web sites. Ask students what they could do if they had a "plant lab"
with different materials for affecting plant growth. If necessary, prompt
students to think about such topics as:
Whether different-colored light would affect growth,
Whether a strong lightbulb would work as well as the
What different soils could change about plant growth,
Whether the seeds for different plants sprout and grow
How a small plant would grow if a tall plant was near
How well plants grow if they are planted close together,
How plants would grow differently if insects and birds could
get to them.
Have teams of students write or draw designs for their
experiments and what results they predict. Explain why they need to include
"controls" to their experiments, which allow them to compare growth
with certain things changed and growth without those changes in variables.
Remind them to change just one variable at a time, so if there are results, they
know that it was what they changed that caused the results. To connect their
experiments to everyday life, ask why people such as farmers might like to know
the results of their experiments. When students are finished designing
experiments, have the teams discuss their designs with one another to think
about ideas for improvements. Finally, if the time and materials are
available, have the groups perform their experiment and record its