Lesson Objectives

By the end of this lesson, students should be able to:
  • Explain how the circulatory system helps the body.
  • Identify and describe the parts of the heart, arteries, veins, and capillaries by their shape and function.
  • Trace the path that blood travels through the heart, lungs, and body.
  • Explain the relationship between heart rate and activities that increase or decrease the body’s need for oxygen.


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Engage: Activate Prior Knowledge; Generate Interest

Activate Prior Knowledge

Prior to class, open the Discovery Education animation Cardiovascular System.and let it play

through to the end to display the image of the cardiovascular system so that is what the students see when they enter.

Begin a K-W-L chart (what I Know – what I Want to know – what I Learned) with things that students know and want to know about the heart and circulatory system.

Have students watch The Wonder of the Heart and Circulatory System, which introduces the heart and circulatory system as an amazing machine, and then add to their KWL charts.

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Stimulate Interest

Ask students to squeeze one hand into a fist, and then open it again. Instruct them to repeat the action as fast as they can for a full minute. Have students call out how their hand feels as they repeat the motion (tired, achy). Keep encouraging them to last through the minute!

When they are done, explain that the heart beats about 70 to 80 times per minute, every minute of their lives, without getting tired.

Next, have students recall how it felt to stop squeezing their hands. Ask if it was easy or difficult to stop (easy). Then ask students to try telling their hearts to stop beating. Students should report that they can’t do it.

Explain that the heartbeat is autonomic which means that it controls its own beating. (Students may know that the heart rate can be increased or decreased by exercise or emotions, which are communicated to the heart through the nervous system or hormones; however, the heart autonomously maintains some beat all the time.)


Explore: Allowing Students to Experience Content
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Post the essential questions that constitute what students will be learning. Students may read them or you may wish to read them aloud together.

  • How does the circulatory system help the body?
  • How does blood travel through your body?

Have students record the essential questions in their journal.
Have students read the passage The Body's Highways and use information gained from the passage to answer the essential questions in their journals. An eBook version is also available.

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Next, have students complete the Explorations, The Beat Goes On and The Cardiovascular System Students should answer the questions from the student guides for each in their journals.

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Explain: Firm Up Understanding; Allow Students to Explain What They Know


Begin by reviewing the K-W-L chart from yesterday, as well as the essential questions: How does the cardiovascular system help the body? How does blood travel through the body?



Tell students that they will be making a How-To book with instructions for the blood to help it travel through the body. Explain that for each place the blood goes, they will need to explain how that organ is shaped, what the organ is doing, and what the blood is doing. Note: This “book” can be turned into a more formal project or simply used as a strategy for guided note-taking during the exploration.



Have students take out three pieces of notebook paper and fold them in half horizontally. Then have them make the front of the first sheet into a cover page with their names and the title, “The Cardiovascular System”. On the inside, have them label the sections “How the Cardiovascular System Helps the Body,” “Diagram,” “Heart (Right Side),” “Lungs,” “Heart (Left Side),” “Arteries,” “Capillaries,” “Veins,” and “Heart Rate.” Explain that, in the Diagram box, they’ll need to make a diagram with labels for all of the parts of the cardiovascular system with arrows to show how the blood moves.The first and last sections are not parts of the pathway that the body follows, but are instead important to provide an introduction and add more useful information.

Students can use what they learned as they explored the concepts earlier, plus information they collect as they review the interactive glossary terms below:
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Elaborate: Allow Students to Apply What They Know

Virtual Labs, in addition to being an inquiry instructional tool, can be used to assess students’ skills in science investigation. For this concept, the virtual lab On Your Mark, Get Set . . . Start Your Heart! is particularly appropriate. Before assigning the lab to students, however, you may need to model the appropriate process. The Teacher Guide for this lab will help you achieve this.

In this lab, students choose the frequency, duration, and pace of exercise for ideal heart health. Doctors recommend that normal, healthy people achieve this by exercising 30–40 minutes, 4–5 times/week at varied paces. Any results that are one choice away from the ideal result (e.g., exercising 6–7 times/week) will result in the person coming third in the race. Anything with two wrong choices means the person will not finish the race. Obviously, genuine champion athletes train hard and often, so reinforce that the goal of the "race" is ideal heart health for normal healthy people as judged by a low heart rate, not winning a race of distance. If students have learned about symbolism in Language Arts, you might mention that the person winning the bicycle race symbolizes how healthy their hearts would be.

As with all Virtual Labs, use the Teacher’s Guide to help students plan a controlled exploration before they begin to experiment.

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Project Ideas: To help your students apply their understanding of the cardiovascular system, you may wish to have them complete some or all of the following projects. The time required to complete each project will vary; some may require students to work outside the classroom.
  • Enlist the support of parents and other teachers to have students record their heart rates at several times during the day for a few days. Include first thing in the morning, traveling to school, at the end of recess, right after dinner, and right before sleeping. Have students graph their results and explain the patterns they see.
  • Work with the gym teacher to have students monitor their heart health during several weeks of doing the same activity (e.g., running, playing soccer, jumping rope, etc.) Students’ heart rates should be lower by the end of the unit even though they are doing just as much activity because their hearts will become stronger and more efficient.
  • If students made informal “books” during the Explore section, have them expand these into more professional-looking books with one page for each topic and a writing style appropriate for a non-fiction book.


Evaluate: Check for Understanding

Have students complete the Brief Constructed Response (BCR) item titled Cardiovascular System. 2-8-2012_6-04-29_PM.jpg
You may also wish to assign the online concept assessment and use the results in the student reports to guide you in assigning any remediation to students.