5 Helpful Tips for Teaching Photosynthesis

Photosynthesis… there was something about it that stumped me as a teacher. It was important to me that my kids understood the big picture and were able to answer their questions, but teaching it didn’t come naturally, because, well… photosynthesis. For you life science and bio teachers out there my BIGGEST piece of advice would be to focus on the “big picture”. Do not teach light reactions, followed by dark reactions. Teach them together, and then go back and fill in the details where you can.

I’ve compiled 5 helpful tips for teaching photosynthesis:

1. Photosynthesis can be a complex subject for students to learn. Scaffolding will provide optimal success: start off with the big picture and then work your way into the nooks and crannies.

2. Students should be able to comprehend energy flow in photosynthesis, from sunlight to sugar, and everything in between. Use my Mouse Trap game analogy to help!

3. Dark reactions and light reactions are dependent on each other through the ATP –> ADP and NADPH –> NADP pathway.

4. Teach the basic steps of the electron transport chain. There are two separate ones, each associated with a photosystem: one for ATP (indirectly through hydrogen ions) and one for NADPH.

5. Visuals. Visuals. Visuals. Keep the diagrams simple at first! Labs will help all learner types, too!

Tips for teaching photosynthesis in life science or biology

To help with this, I’m offering a free Photosynthesis Graphic Organizer!


And if you are looking for some resources to help you and your students, please leave the planning to me! I offer a wide range of activities for photosynthesis, which follow my own advice 😉


What is the mouse trap analogy referenced in #2? Just like in the game “Mouse Trap”, each step depends directly on the previous step. If one of the processes stopped, the next step would not be able to go on (energy flow). Ask your students what they think the marble and the foot that kicks the marble out of the bucket represent!
See the video:

Stay Science Classy,

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