Respiratory System


Respiratory System introduces students to the parts and functions of the body system responsible for breathing. Students will discover how these parts work together to ensure we receive oxygen and release carbon dioxide. 

The “Options for Lesson” section contains several ideas and activities that you can incorporate into the lesson if you want to or have time. One idea is to allow students to complete one of the other three activity options as extra credit. You could also allow them to research more information online that they can include in the activity.

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What our Respiratory System lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Respiratory System teaches students about the parts of the body responsible for helping us breathe properly. Students will discover the functions of these various parts and be able to explain how they work together. They will learn how these parts help ensure blood absorbs oxygen and carbon dioxide leaves the body. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. Students will be able to choose which activity option they complete, so review the “Prepare Ahead of Time” section for instructions on prepping for the activity portion of the lesson.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section of the classroom procedure page list several ideas or activities to add to the lesson if you want to extend it or have extra time. Several of these relate to the worksheets. One idea is to use the practice page as an additional assignment for homework. For the activity, students could work in pairs rather than alone. You could also allow students to complete other activity options as extra credit. Allow students to research more information online to include in the activity. After all the students finish their activities, they can vote on the best story, drawing, game, or presentation. Another option is to assign students to complete a report about smoking, asthma, or other related topic and its effects on the respiratory system.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page provides an extra paragraph of information to help guide the lesson. It suggests you focus on helping students fully understand the system and its part in the human body. There are additional lessons on parts of the system that you could teach at the same time as this one. You can use the blank lines on the page to write down any other ideas or thoughts you have about the topic as you prepare.


Respiratory System and the Lungs

The Respiratory System lesson plan contains three content pages. To start off, the lesson explains that as students read through this lesson, they are inhaling (inspiring) and exhaling (expiring). The respiratory system is responsible for this exchange of gases between our bodies and the environment around us. Its main purpose is to bring in oxygen so that we can survive.

Living things need oxygen to survive. Some organisms simply obtain that oxygen in a different way. Humans and other animals have a respiratory system that takes in oxygen. Amphibians exchange gases through moist skin. Fish use gills, and so on. The main parts of this system include the nose, mouth, pharynx, trachea, and lungs. The respiratory system does interact a little with the circulatory system inside the lungs.

Lungs allow us to take in oxygen, get rid of bad air, and talk. The more active we are, the more oxygen our body needs. The body has two lungs that take up most of the space in the chest, and our ribs protect them. On the outside, lungs are pink, spongelike, and kind of squishy. The left lung is smaller than the right one since it has to make room for the heart.

Students will learn that yawning is a sign that the lungs need oxygen. When we get sleepy or drowsy, we end up losing some of the oxygen we need. The brain will send a particular signal, and we will yawn as a result. That way, the body can take in more oxygen to make up for the shortage.

Diaphragm and Trachea

Another component of the respiratory system is the diaphragm, a muscle beneath the lungs that helps us breathe. This dome-shaped muscle works with the lungs to allow a person to inhale and exhale. Breathing in causes the diaphragm to contract or tighten and flatten out. It moves down so the lungs have more room to fill with air.

At the same time, the ribs move up and out to likewise provide more space for the lungs to expand. Once we exhale and release the air, the chest returns to its normal size. The diaphragm muscle allows all of this movement to occur. Sudden movements of the diaphragm might be the source of hiccups, an involuntary reaction. This could happen if we eat too quickly or if the diaphragm is irritated in some way.

When we inhale, we can do so through the mouth or the nose. If we breathe through the nose, the air gets filtered by tiny hairs called cilia. These hairs line the passageways of the nose to filter out dust and other substances that might enter. The air travels down the trachea, or windpipe, which is also lined with cilia. The cilia inside the trachea remove fluids and other unneeded substances so that they don’t enter the lungs.

Pharynx and Other Components

The pharynx is the scientific name for the throat. It is part of both the respiratory and digestive systems. When we inhale through the mouth and nose, air travels to the pharynx, which carries food and air divided into two pathways. The esophagus is for food and leads to the stomach. Air travels through the larynx (voice box) that leads to the trachea.

At the back of the mouth or throat area is a flap of tissue called an epiglottis. The epiglottis covers the air-only passage when we swallow to keep food or drink out of the windpipe. Once air leaves the trachea, it travels through a series of branches in the lungs. The bronchi are two air tubes a the end of the trachea that are responsible for carrying air into the lungs.

Each tube leads to either the left or right lung. As the branches extend further, they turn into thousands of tinier and tinier tubes called bronchioles. A bronchiole is about the same thickness as a hair on a person’s head. At that point, the air ends up in air sacs called alveoli, which exist throughout the lungs.

This is where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place. Blood removes carbon dioxide by pumping it through the heart. Then it gets released when a person exhales. This exchange of gases is what we call respiration. The red blood cells around the alveoli absorb the oxygen we breathe in. Capillaries that cover the alveoli allow oxygen to pass into the blood. About 600 million alveoli inside our lungs help with this process.


The Respiratory System lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. They will all help reinforce the concepts from the lesson and allow them to demonstrate their knowledge. The guide on the classroom procedure page describes when to distribute the worksheets throughout the lesson.


Students can choose one of four activity options. The first option is to write a creative story involving a molecule of air that must travel through each part of the respiratory system. Students must describe the functions of these parts in the story.

The second option students can choose is to draw a picture or cartoon strip that depicts a character traveling through the system. Students should be creative and add cartoon characters with word bubbles for text. Like the story, the cartoon must clearly depict and explain the respiratory system parts and functions.

Another option is to create a PowerPoint or other slideshow presentation. Students can include embedded links, narration, and other information to hep the viewer fully understand how the system works.

Finally, students can choose to build a board game that includes game play instructions. The game cannot be one that only lasts a few minutes. The physical construction of the game should be sturdy and include images and diagrams. Other game pieces could include die, spinner, and cards.


There are two parts on the practice worksheet. For the first part, students will label a diagram using the terms in the word bank. The second part requires them to color parts of the lungs different colors according to the legend on the right-hand side of the page.


For the homework assignment, students will complete a crossword puzzle. The puzzle contains a total of 24 clues for students to solve. You can choose whether or not to allow them to refer to the content pages for assistance in completing this assignment.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last page of the PDF document is an answer key for the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits this page. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep this as reference for yourself when grading the assignment.

Additional information




4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

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Respiratory System

Accurate and clear. Used with ELLs.

Turkey Turkey

Helped me a lot!

It tells you detailed parts of the respiratory system in a way my students could understand clearly

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Complete and accurate

Easy and well organized.

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Easy to teach lesson plan

this was a useful lesson plan and my student loved it!

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