Monster Plants Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 3–5
The book begins with a welcome by Professor Barry to the murderous, shocking, nightmarish world of monster plants. After an overview of plant basics, the author guides readers on a plant safari. Readers first encounter carnivorous plants that eat meat for nourishment. They get an up-close look at ravenous Venus flytraps, hundred-mouthed bladderworts, and bug-eating pitcher plants.
The guided tour continues with plant vampires that live off other plants. Readers also face plants that use horrific odors to draw attention, plants that can overtake neighborhoods, and more.
Monster Plants uses lively language to engage—and horrify—young readers. The text includes attention-getting headings, descriptions of “strange but true” plant adaptations, and call-outs of bizarre facts. Close-up photographs capture carnivorous plants at work while diagrams and a timeline help bring sequential information alive. Throughout the book, Professor Barry appears in sidebars to share special insight or recount his adventures in the field.
The book ends with suggestions for a field expedition. Rice guides readers on how to survey plants like a real botanist. It also includes a glossary, highlighting key science curriculum vocabulary.
Teaching the Book
Monster Plants is written by Barry Rice, a botanist with a special interest in plants that take extreme measures to survive. In this book, he shares his knowledge and enthusiasm about unusual plants with young readers. The book provides an opportunity to teach cause and-effect relationships in nature, the story structure of an illustrated guide, and content area vocabulary. Activities will engage students in the scientific process and writing informational text.
Genre Focus: Science Nonfiction, Illustrated Guide
Comprehension Focus: Cause & Effect
Language Focus: Content Area Vocabulary
Get Ready to Read
True or False?
Many students will not have background knowledge about carnivorous or invasive plant species. Engage their interest and probe their prior knowledge with the following true or false questions.
- Some plants can eat animals. True or False? (True)
- A plant in South America can capture a human and suck all its blood. True or False? (False)
- One plant called a sticky trap hunter captures its prey with sticky glue. True or False? (True)
- A murderous tree in a tropical forest strangles other plants to death. True or False? (True)
- A plant called kudzu can creep into houses and steal away children. True or False? (False)
You may want to tally and record students’ answers on chart paper or the whiteboard to return to after reading the book.
Preview and Predict
Have students study the cover of Monster Plants. Ask them to describe what they think is happening in the photo. Then have them infer what the book is about based on the image and the title on the cover.
Content Area Words
The book contains key science vocabulary words that are aligned with state and national science standards. Have students turn to the last page of the book, which has an extensive glossary of scientific terms used in the book. Remind them to check the glossary for the meanings of unfamiliar words they encounter in the text.
Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- invasive species
Words to Know
Content Area Vocabulary
Give students the following meanings for the vocabulary words, one at a time. Have them hold up the vocabulary card that matches each meaning. Then ask them for an example from the book that helps them understand each word. Have them write their own sentence using the word or create a graphic that represents the word.
- 1. meat eating (carnivorous)
- 2. a special green pigment that plants use in photosynthesis (chlorophyll)
- 3. a kind of molecule that can dissolve tissues in a process called digestion (enzyme)
- 4. an organism that feeds parasites (host)
- 5. an organism introduced from a foreign territory that outcompetes native plants and animals for survival (invasive species)
- 6. a kind of organism that feeds on other organisms without killing them first (parasite)
- 7. the process that plants use to turn sunlight, nutrients, water, and carbon dioxide into food (photosynthesis)
- 8. a mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms (symbiosis)
As You Read
Reading the Book
Read the Table of Contents with students for an overview of the book. Ask them which chapters intrigue them the most. Then model a fluent reading of pages 4-5. Point out the features of an illustrated guide: text chunks with heads, sidebars, and photos that illustrate the text.
Chunk the book into three to six reading sessions, depending on the amount of time students have to read during each session. At the end of a section, prompt students to ask questions to clarify parts of the text. At the beginning of a new section, lead students in a preview and predict routine.
Cause and Effect Relationships
Explain to students that science books like Monster Plants are full of cause-and-effect relationships. A cause is the reason that something happens. An effect is the result of the cause. Recognizing cause-and-effect relationships helps readers understand the meaning of a text.
Use the graphic organizer on Resource #2: Cause and Effect to model for students how to identify cause and effect. Project the page on a whiteboard or pass out copies to students. Then model how to identify the cause and effect in the passage about Venus Flytraps on p. 11 of the book.
The text reads: “But if the bug touches two separate trigger hairs—or one trigger hair twice—the trap snaps shut and cages the prey.” First, I’ll look for the cause. A cause is the reason something happens. So I’ll write in the Cause box: “The bug touches two separate trigger hairs—or one trigger hair twice” An effect is the result of the cause. So I’ll write in the Effect box: “The trap snaps shut and cages the prey.”
Have students volunteer the rest of the cause-and-effect relationships listed on the organizer.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about the following questions as they read and to be ready to answer it when they've finished the book. Write the question on chart paper or have students write it in their reading journals. How do monster plants compete in nature's survival of the fittest?
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
1. Illustrated Guide
How does the author use illustrations to help explain the monster plants? Find an example that you especially liked. (Sample answer: The photos of the strangler fig on p. 21 show each step of how the plant takes over a tree.)
2. Cause and Effect
Find a cause-and-effect relationship on page 27, “Dead Meat.” How does a carrion flower fool insects? (They smell like dead meat.) What is the result? (The insects follow the smell of dead meat to a carrion flower and lay their maggots on it.)
3. Content Area Vocabulary
The author describes the relationship between Bullhorn acacia trees and ants (on p. 22). This relationship is an example of symbiosis. Ask students to define the word symbiosis (a mutually beneficial relationship between two organisms) and provide examples of how each organism in this example benefits from the relationship.
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
1. Text to Self
Which do you think is the most disgusting monster plant in the book? Explain what you think is gross about it.
2. Text to World
List ten plants that you have seen in your environment. Which do you think is most strange? Are there any monster plants?
3. Text to Text
The book uses type in an interesting way. Find an example of words that are designed to look different than the rest of the type in the book. How does the way they look influence how you react to these words? How does the type make a point about a plant?
Content Area Connections
On p. 14, Professor Barry describes record-breaking pitcher plants that have pitchers up to 3 feet tall. Challenge students to research other record-breaking plants, such as the Giant Redwood tree—the tallest tree species on Earth.
The Scientific Method
List the steps of the scientific method.
1. Ask a question.
2. Do background research.
3. Construct a hypothesis.
4. Test the hypothesis by doing an experiment.
5. Analyze the data and draw a conclusion.
Ask students to describe an example of how Professor Barry Rice uses the scientific method to study plants.
Ask students if they have ever seen signs at an airport warning people not to bring in plants from other countries. Using what they know about invasive plant species, have them explain the reasons for this rule.
Encourage students to investigate the world of nature photography, especially photographs of plants. A good site that provides a search tool for finding different varieties of plants in different locations is http://plants.usda.gov/gallery.html. Have students share photographs that they especially like.
Illustrated Guide to Monster Plants
Challenge students to choose one monster plant and create on the computer their own illustrated guide to it. Guide them to use photos, call-outs, special typefaces, and engaging heads to make their guide fun and easy to read. Post everyone’s end product in the classroom.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell them there is no one right answer. How do monster plants compete in nature’s survival of the fittest?
The Field Guide to Monster Plants
On page 30, Professor Barry Rice describes how botanists work in the field. He explains how scientists keep track of specimens they collect. Direct students to create a “monster plant record.” Make copies of the printable Big Activity: A Field Guide to Monster Plants and distribute to students. Read the directions and answer questions to clarify the activity.
About the Author
Barry Rice admits to being obsessed with monster plants. He is the senior editor of the Carnivorous Plant Newsletter, published by The International Carnivorous Plant Society. He has also worked with the Nature Conservancy on invasive plant species. In addition to being a botanist, Rice has a PhD in astronomy. His hobbies including martial arts (black belt in karate) and photography. Read more about Rice at http://www.sarracenia.com/.
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