Target Grade Level / Age Range:

3rd grade


75-90 minutes     

Virtual Learning:

Use this document to convert the lesson into a virtual learning module for your students. Use the steps outlined to create the different elements of a Google Classroom or other online learning platform. You can also send the steps directly to students in a PDF, present them in a virtual meeting, or plug them into any other virtual learning module system. 


This lesson is designed to reinforce 3rd-grade reading, writing, and comprehension skills while reviewing the lifecycle of a soybean plant and what farmers do throughout the year. 


Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Suggested Companion Resources


  • Soybeans in the Story of Agriculture by Susan Anderson and JoAnne Buggey


  • Aphids: an insect that is harmful to soybeans and other crops
  • Combine: a machine that harvests crops
  • Crops: plants raised for food
  • Crop scouting: checking crops for damage caused by harmful insects    
  • Drone: Remote controlled, flying robots with cameras; also called UAVs, or unmanned aerial vehicles
  • Farmer: someone who raises plants and animals for food, fiber, or fuel
  • Flowers: plant parts need for pollination.
  • GPS: global positioning system; a network of satellites that communicate with receivers on the ground to determine exact locations on Earth
  • Grain bin: a place where soybeans and other crops are stored after harvest 
  • Harvest: gathering crops
  • Livestock: farm animals, including cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, poultry and others
  • Leaves: Plant parts that collect sunlight and make food for the plant 
  • Planter: A machine that a farmer uses to plant seeds in fields   
  • Pod: The part of a soybean plant that contains seeds
  • Processor: A business that makes soybeans into food, fuel and other things
  • Nutrients: something that plants, animals and people need to live and grow
  • Roots: plant parts that anchor the plant in the ground and absorb water and nutrients
  • Soil: a natural resource that holds water and nutrients for plants’ roots to absorb
  • Soybean: the seed of the soybean plant
  • Sprout: when a plant begins to grow
  • Sunlight: a natural resource that provides energy for plants to grow and make food
  • Tractor: a farm machine that powers and pulls other machines, such a planter
  • Wagon: a machine used to transport soybeans and other crops from the field
  • Water: a natural resource that needed for seeds to sprout and grow

Background – Agricultural Connections

Iowa farmers plant soybeans in late April and May.  They monitor the crops throughout the summer and sometimes spray insecticides, fungicides, or herbicides to protect the plants from insects, diseases, or weeds.  When the seeds have matured in the fall, the upright plant begins to shrivel and the leaves fall away.  All harvesting is done by machines. Farmers use combines that cut the stalk, thresh the plant residue, and separate the beans from the pod. After harvesting the beans, farmers either transport their crops to a commercial grain elevator or store the beans in their own grain bins to sell later.  After the soybeans are sold, they are transported to processing plants or sold to other countries.

Soybeans are used to make many products that we eat or use every day.  Some of these products include feed for animals, food products, biodiesel, vegetable oils, cleaning products, and crayons.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Ask the students the following questions:

  • Do you know any farmers? 
  • What crops do they grow? 
  • What tasks do they do in spring, summer, and fall to care for the crops? 


Activity 1: Key Details
  1. Read My Family’s Soybean Farm or Pod to Plate: The Life Cycle of Soybeans aloud as a class, or in small groups. 
  2. After reading ask, “What was the book about?”
    • Students may say soybeans or Alexander and Isaac’s farm. 
    • Soybeans is the overall topic of the book, but there are many things that happened during the story.
      1. Next, ask them for more specific things that happened during the story and what time of year these things took place? Develop a list on the board.  As a class, identify 2-4 main events that took place in each season.   
      2. Distribute the What Happened? worksheet or ask them to write “Spring, Summer, and Fall” on three pages in a science journal or notebook. 
      3. Give them a few minutes to think about and list details that they remember about each event on the worksheet.  Ask students big-picture questions, like those below, to help recall details. 
        • How did the soybean plants change in each season?
        • What did the farmer do in each season?
        • What happened to the soybeans after harvest?  
      4. Display the My Family's Soybean Farm or Pod to Plate vocabulary list and ask the students to try to add those words in their description of the events. 
      5. Display the Seasons Pictures document Showing one season at a time, ask the students to use the pictures to help recall more detail about the events in the story.  
      6. Display the My Family's Soybean Farmor Pod to Plate vocabulary definitions to help the students expand and refine their descriptions.
Activity 2:   Creative Writing  
  1. Ask the students to re-write all or one season of the story from the perspective of a soybean. 
    • Encourage them to use their notes from Activity 1, and include at least 15 of the vocabulary words in their story. You may display or distribute the vocabulary sheet.
    • Ask them to include language that pertains to time, sequence and cause/effect (first, before, next, then, and last, etc.). 

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Iowa is the top soybean producing state in the U.S.
  • Soybeans are used in many common household items, including plastic, crayons, inks, and more.
  • Soybeans are used to make a protein-rich feed for livestock, such as pigs, turkeys, and chickens.
  • Most school buses in Iowa run on biodiesel, a renewable fuel made from soybeans. 

Extension Activities

  • Ask students to read their creative writing pieces aloud to the class.
  • Post the creative writing pieces around the room and do a ‘gallery walk’ and ask each student to read at least three other stories.
  • Ask students to take their writing pieces home and read them to a parent or family member. Have the students interview their family member about the way that soybeans are grown and harvested.
  • Ask students to draw a picture of their soybean plant and happens during one season of the year. The picture should reflect their creative writing piece.
  • Plant and grow soybeans as a class.


Cindy Hall

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation     

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Agriculture and the Environment:
    • T1.3-5.b:  Explain how the interaction of the sun, soil, water, and weather in plant and animal growth impacts agricultural production
    • T1.3-5.e:  Recognize the natural resources used in agricultural practices to produce food, feed, clothing, landscaping plants, and fuel (e.g., soil, water, air, plants, animals, and minerals)
  • Plants and Animals for Food Fiber and Energy:
    • T2.3-5.3:  Understand the concept of stewardship and identify ways farmers/ranchers care for soil, water, plants, and animals
  • Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Outcomes:  
    • T4.3-5.a:  Compare simple tools to complex modern machines used in agricultural systems to improve efficiency and reduce labor
    • T4.3-5.b:  Describe how technology helps farmers/ranchers increase their outputs (crop and livestock yields) with fewer inputs (less water, fertilizer, and land) while using the same amount of space
    • T4.3-5.d:  Provide examples of science being applied in farming for food, clothing, and shelter products

Education Content Standards

  • Science:
    • 3-LS1-1:  Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have a common birth, growth, reproduction, and death. Common Core Connections
  • English Language Arts:
    • RI.3.2:  Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
    • RI.3.3:  Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to sequence, and cause/effect. 
    • RI.3.4:  Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
    • RI.3.5:  Use text features and search tools (e.g., keywords, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
    • RI.3.7:  Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
    • RI.3.8:  Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
    • RI.3.9:  Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
    • RI.3.9: By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational text, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
    • RF: 3.4:  Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words. 

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