At the end of this comprehensive ecological succession lesson plan, students will be able to observe, record, and describe the role of ecological succession in a habitat. Each lesson is designed using the 5E method of instruction to ensure maximum comprehension by the students.

The following post will walk you through each of the steps and activities from the succession lesson plan.


Objective Introduction

At the beginning of the lesson, the class will do a Think-Pair-Share to discuss the objective.

Class Activity

The teacher will show students a slide of Mt. St. Helens using the provided PowerPoint. The teacher will ask students to share differences in the surrounding area since the eruption.

Student Activity

The teacher will show a YouTube video using the provided link about the eruption of Mt. St. Helens. Students will be asked what changes have occurred since the eruption in 1980. Let students know that this ecological process is called succession.The teacher will help to clear any misconceptions about succession. A major misconception is student’s don’t understand the reasons why ecosystems undergo changes.

Estimated Class Time for the Engagement: 20-30 minutes


This student-centered station lab is set up so students can begin to explore succession. Four of the stations are considered input stations where students are learning new information about succession, and four of the stations are output stations where students will be demonstrating their mastery of the input stations.  Each of the stations is differentiated to challenge students using a different learning style.  You can read more about how I set up the station labs here.


Students will be working in pairs to analyze succession. Students will analyze a set of cards and place them in order by stages of primary succession. Each Explore It card will ask students to place cards in order and then answer a question based on the image on that card.


At this station, students will be watching a six-minute video describing the stages of succession and how a forest area recovers after a disaster. Students will then answer questions related to the video and record their answers on their lab station sheet. For example, what are some observations over the first 5 years of photos at the beginning of the video, describe the process of succession using the 6 steps from the video, and what is the difference between primary succession and secondary succession?


The research station will allow students to explore an interactive website demonstrating primary and secondary succession.


This station will provide students with a one page reading about lichen and mosses. In the reading, students will discover how these pioneer species are key to the breaking down of rock into soil. These organisms are responsible for the start of primary succession. There are 4 follow-up questions that the students will answer to show reading comprehension of the subject.


The assess it station is where students will go to prove mastery over the concepts they learned in the lab.  The questions are set up in a standardized format with multiple choice answers.  Some questions include: After a forest fire, what pioneer species would move into the area first? What type of succession will occur if a parking lot is abandoned for 1000 years? What role do lichen and mosses play in succession? Finally, which event could begin the process of succession?


Students who can answer open-ended questions about the lab truly understand the concepts that are being taught.  At this station, the students will be answering three questions to explain why it is important to study ecological succession. They will explain, in their own words, what ecological succession is. Explain why primary ecological succession takes a lot longer than secondary succession. Finally, the students will imagine a raised garden bed that has not been taken care of for 5 years and then 100 years. What would the bed look like?


Your visual students will love this station. Students will draw images depicting both primary and secondary succession. Images will have labels on both diagrams.


The organize it station allows your students to place cards describing primary and secondary succession into the 2 different columns. Each column is representing the type of succession that the card takes place in.

Estimated Class Time for the Exploration: 1-2, 45 minute class periods


The explanation activities will become much more engaging for the class once they have completed the exploration station lab.  During the explanation piece, the teacher will be clearing up any misconceptions about succession with an interactive PowerPoint, anchor charts, and interactive notebook activities. The succession lesson includes a PowerPoint with activities scattered throughout to keep the students engaged.

The students will also be interacting with their journals using INB templates for succession.  Each INB activity is designed to help students compartmentalize information for a greater understanding of the concept.  The organism relationships INB templates allow students to focus their notes on identifying the different stages of primary and secondary succession.Succession 5E LessonEstimated Class Time for the Exploration: 2-3, 45 minute class periods


The elaboration section of the 5E method of instruction is intended to give students choice on how they can prove mastery of the concept.  When students are given choice the ‘buy-in’ is much greater than when the teacher tells them the project they will have to create.  The elaboration project will allow students to create a presentation to teach about succession.Succession 5E LessonEstimated Class Time for the Elaboration: 2-3, 45 minute class periods (can also be used as an at-home project)


The final piece of the 5E model is to evaluate student comprehension.  Included in every 5E lesson is a homework assignment, assessment, and modified assessment.  Research has shown that homework needs to be meaningful and applicable to real-world activities in order to be effective.  When possible, I like to give open-ended assessments to truly gauge the student’s comprehension.

Estimated Class Time for the Elaboration: 1, 45 minute class period


The full lesson is available for download from my TpT store.  Save yourself a ton of time and grab it now.