Speaking and Listening: Getting to Know our Mission | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:M1:U1:L1

Speaking and Listening: Getting to Know our Mission

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These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • SL.1.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
  • W.1.2: Write informative/explanatory texts in which they name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure. 

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can participate in conversations with my classmates. (SL.1.1)
  • I can show what I know about tools through drawing and writing. (W.1.2)

Ongoing Assessment

  • During the Closing, circulate and listen for what students already know about tools.
  • Collect students' What Do You Know about Tools? response sheet from Work Time B to gather baseline assessment information about what students already know about tools as well as evidence on W.1.2 to help inform instruction in subsequent lessons.


AgendaTeaching Notes

1. Opening

A. Asking and Answering Questions: Mission Letter #1 (10 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Introducing Learning Targets: "The Magic Bow" (10 minutes)

B. Structured Discussion: Noticing and Wondering about Pictures (15 minutes)

C. Independent Writing: Showing What I Know about Tools (15 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Sharing Our Writing (5 minutes)

B. Building Vocabulary: "Tools" Song (5 minutes)  

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards:

  • In this lesson, students are introduced to the module topic (tools) and the performance task through a compelling letter, which reveals a special "mission" to students. This letter invites students to accept the mission of creating an object needed for their classroom. They will receive challenges along the way to help them accomplish this mission.
  • In Work Time A, students listen to the story "The Magic Bow" to introduce the learning targets. This story and the poem within the story will be revisited throughout the unit. Note: The character in the story uses a bow (rhymes with row) and arrow. Students may confuse this bow with another bow (rhymes with cow). Clarify correct pronunciation as necessary.
  • During Work Time B, students examine photographs of tools and engage in a discussion about what they notice and wonder about these pictures. They then move on to activate their prior knowledge by drawing and writing what they already know about tools.
  • In almost all lessons, students hear complex texts read aloud. Primary learners need to hear a large number of texts read aloud in order to build their word and world knowledge. When possible, display the text when reading aloud. And when doing a first read-aloud of a given text, please read fluently with expression and without interruption. For additional information, refer to the Module Overview.

How this lesson builds on previous work: 

  • This lesson introduces many simple routines. Consider how this lesson might build on instructional routines already in place in your classroom or school. Examples: learning targets, drawing and writing to communicate ideas, transitions, and use of materials. Modify this lesson as needed, based on what students have experienced during the first few weeks of first grade.
  • This lesson introduces the Think-Pair-Share protocol, which will be used in subsequent lessons.

Looking ahead to future lessons: 

  • This lesson introduces students to the topic of tools and the Unit 1 Guiding Question: "Why do we need tools?" Throughout the unit, students will answer this question by engaging in tool challenges, read-alouds of various texts, and classroom conversations.
  • Songs and poems will be used throughout all modules as a way to build vocabulary, develop content knowledge, and promote student engagement. Once a song or poem is introduced, it can be revisited during other times of the day (e.g., during transitions).
  • In this lesson, students are introduced to a mission for the unit (see supporting materials). To complete this mission, students will be presented with three tool challenges (one challenge in each of the next three lessons). These challenges provide students with hands-on experiences using a variety of tools, and challenge students to select the best tool for a job.

In Advance

  • Prepare:
    • A location for students to gather whole group (e.g., a large rug or floor area)
    • A sealed envelope labeled "Mission #1," containing Mission Letter #1 and tool puzzle pieces (see supporting materials)
    • Tool puzzle pieces (Each student will receive a puzzle piece, which is half of a picture of a tool. Make sure to cut the puzzle pieces below in advance of the lesson. Students will find their match, so be sure to have matching puzzle pieces and make adjustments for an odd number of students.)
    • Think-Pair-Share anchor chart, "Tools" song, and "Learning Target" poem
  • Determine elbow partners for the Think-Pair-Share protocol. Make sure students get the same tool puzzle piece as their elbow partner, so they end up with their elbow partner for the Think-Pair-Share protocol.
  • Set up a document camera to read Mission Letter #1 and to show the What Do You Know about Tools? response sheet students will use later in the lesson.
  • Distribute pencils and the What Do You Know about Tools? response sheets forms at students'workspaces. Doing this in advance helps ensure a smooth transition during Work Time C.
  • Review the Think-Pair-Share protocol. (Refer to the Classroom Protocols document for the full version of the protocol.)
  • Be aware that the Think-Pair-Share protocol (e.g., partnering with the opposite gender) may be uncomfortable and inappropriate for some students. If necessary, modify the protocol according to students' cultural traditions.
  • Post: Learning targets, Mission Letter #1, Think-Pair-Share anchor chart, "Learning Target" poem 

Tech and Multimedia

Consider using an interactive whiteboard or document camera to display lesson materials.

  • Work Time A: The Mission Letter #1 could be an email. 
  • Work Time B: Create the Think-Pair-Share anchor chart in an online format, for example a Google Doc, to display.
  • Closing and Assessment B: Record the whole group singing the "Tools" song and post it on a teacher webpage or on a portfolio app like Seesaw for students to listen to at home with families. Most devices (cell phones, tablets, laptop computers) come equipped with free video and audio recording apps or software. 

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 1.I.A.1, 1.I.B.5, and 1.I.C.10

Important points in the lesson itself 

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs by providing essential context for the entire unit. This will help students prepare for the tasks they will complete throughout the unit.
  • This lesson may be challenging for ELLs because it contains a lot of listening and discussion on the rug with limited visual support. Clarify the meanings of potentially difficult words and phrases such as far and wide and take up the bow. Introduce the story, and check for comprehension both during and after the reading. Consider acting out parts of the story. Whenever possible, use visuals and hand gestures to make some of the more abstract ideas concrete.
  • Be aware that the examples of tools during this lesson might be culturally specific. To activate all students' prior knowledge of tools, emphasize that although the class will learn about only a few tools, there are many types of tools all over the world, and everyone uses tools. Example: Bring in a fork and a picture of chopsticks. Say:

"These are tools people use to eat. Some people even use different tools for the same job. There are lots of different tools around the world. Think about which ones you can teach the class about."

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • To reinforce the Think-Pair-Share protocol, identify a pair of intermediate or advanced proficiency students who are demonstrating effective conversation. Commend them and invite them to model the protocol for the class.

For heavier support:

  • Pre-teach the vocabulary words found in this lesson using visual representations: participate, conversation, tools, mission, challenge, bow and arrow. Before the lesson, reassure students that they might hear many unfamiliar words and ideas throughout the lesson, but it is okay if they don't understand everything completely because they will return to all of them throughout the unit. 

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): In this lesson, students continue to practice the Think-Pair-Share protocol. This protocol is still new and some students may need additional support remembering what the steps of the protocol look like and sound like. Invite a few students to demonstrate the steps before beginning the protocol with the entire class.
  • Multiple Means of Action & Expression (MMAE): This lesson introduces students to writing and drawing routines. Consider alternative writing tools (examples: pencil grips, slant boards) and scaffolds (examples: dictation, writing prompts) that will support all students in becoming successful writers.
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): In this lesson, students are introduced to the unit topic: tools. Students may be very excited about studying this topic and may need support knowing how to express this feeling. Facilitate personal coping and self-regulation skills by modeling socially appropriate ways to express enthusiasm in first grade. 


Key: Lesson-Specific Vocabulary (L); Text-Specific Vocabulary (T)

  • challenges, complete, create, drawing, headquarters, mission, object, participate, writing (L)


  • Mission Envelope (one; for Mission Letter #1 and tool puzzle pieces; see Teaching Notes)
    • Mission Letter #1 (one to display)
    • Tool puzzle pieces (one piece per student)
  • Document camera (optional)
  • "The Magic Bow" (one for teacher read-aloud)
  • "Learning Target" poem (written on chart paper; one to display)
  • Think-Pair-Share anchor chart (new; teacher-created; see supporting materials)
  • What Do You Know about Tools? response sheet (one per student and one to display)
  • "Tools" song (written on chart paper; one to display)


Each unit in the K-2 Language Arts Curriculum has one standards-based assessment built in. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize their understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.


OpeningMeeting Students' Needs

A. Asking and Answering Questions: Mission Letter #1 (10 minutes)

  • Gather students together whole group.
  • With excitement, tell students that the class has received a very big envelope with the word "Mission" written on it.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"Do you know what a mission is?" (a job or task that someone is given to do)

  • Slowly and dramatically, open the Mission Envelope and display Mission Letter #1.
  • Tell students you are going to read the letter aloud once without stopping and that they should follow along as you read.
  • Tell students they will now go back and reread a few parts of the letter to make sure they really understand it.
  • Reread the second sentence.
  • Tell students that a thumbs-up in front of their chest will be the signal they will use when they are ready. Invite students to put a thumbs-up in front of their chest when they have an answer to the following question:

"What is our mission?" (to create or make an object or thing that is needed for the classroom)

  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"Can you think of another word for create?" (make, build)

"Does anybody know how to say create in the language you speak at home?" (chuangjian in Chinese)

  • Invite students to give a thumbs-up in front of their chest if they want to share. Call on student volunteers to share. Ask other students to choose one translation to silently repeat. Invite students to say their chosen translation out loud when you give the signal. Choral repeat the translations and the word in English.  
  • Reread the third and fourth sentence of Mission Letter #1.
  • Tell students that the letter says they will have to "complete challenges along the way," or do a job that is given to them.
  • Invite students to say the word challenges with you again in an exciting way: "Challenges!"
  • Tell students that it sounds like they are going to receive some challenges, or hard tasks, to do so that they can learn how to build an object that is needed for the classroom.
  • Reread the fifth sentence.
  • Invite students to put a thumbs-up in front of their chest when they have an answer to the following question:

"What is the first thing we need to do today?" (Look closely at pictures that are inside the Mission Envelope.)

  • Say:

"It sounds like a place called Headquarters is going to check in on us as we work to accomplish our mission. Headquarters sounds like a place that is keeping track of the work we are doing, and making sure we are completing challenges to help us accomplish our mission. It sounds like an important place."

  • Designating partner roles provides a structure for students to discuss and share their thinking.
  • If students struggle to remember their partner designation, consider giving them an index card with an A or a B. (Numbers or colors could also be used.)
  • For ELLs: Mini Language Dive. Ask students about the sentence from Mission Letter #1: Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to create an object that is needed for our classroom. Examples:
    • "What does this sentence mean?" (Responses will vary.)
    • "Look at the words your mission." Whose mission is the letter talking about? (our mission; the whole class's mission)
    • What does it mean to choose to accept something? (to try it; to say yes) Ask: "When somebody wants you to try new food, do you choose to accept it, or not?"
    • "What does it mean to create an object?" (to make something) "What do you like to create?"
    • "What is needed? Who needs it? How do you know?" (The object we will make is needed. Our classroom needs it. We need to use it in the classroom. I know because it says it is for our classroom.)
    • "Now what do you think this sentence means?" (Our mission, if we want to say yes, is to make something we need for our class.) 
  • As you read and discuss Mission Letter #1, offer alternatives for auditory information by scribing the key words (examples: mission, create, challenges) and writing a one- to three-word definition (example: "mission = job or task") on chart paper or a whiteboard. (MMR)
  • As you discuss the word create, support strategy development by modeling a think-aloud for how to generate synonyms. (Example: "I know when I create a drawing, I make a picture. I think another word for create might be make.") (MMAE)
  • As you introduce the mission for this unit, facilitate self-regulation skills by modeling socially appropriate ways to express enthusiasm and excitement (examples: silent cheer, give yourself a hug, take a deep breath and smile). (MME) 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Introducing Learning Targets: "The Magic Bow" (10 minutes) 

  • Tell students that along with the missions, they will also be thinking about how they are doing with their learning. Share that you have a fun story to read to them called "The Magic Bow." Read the story aloud, fluently, and without interruption.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What was this story mostly about?" (focusing on learning something new)

"What do you do when you want to learn something new?" (practice, try hard)

  • Tell students they will be learning and doing a lot of amazing things this year. Sometimes it will help to think of this story and its poem about learning new things.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets, and read the first one aloud:

"I can participate in conversations with my classmates."

  • Draw students' attention to the word participate. Explain that to participate means to take part in or join a group activity.
  • Draw students' attention to the word conversation. Explain that when you have a conversation, you talk to others.
  • Display the "Learning Target" poem and read it aloud.
  • Invite students to take out their "magic bows" and take aim at the learning target.
  • For ELLs: There is challenging language in "The Magic Bow" and no visual support. Display a picture of a bow before reading the story. Model pretending to shoot an arrow. After readinghe story, check for comprehension. Ask students to describe what happened first, next, and last in the story. (MMR)
  • Before reading "The Magic Bow," activate or supply background knowledge by introducing a picture of a bow and demonstrating how it is used. (MMR)
  • For ELLs: It is possible the students may have experience with a bow and arrow as a weapon. Explain that although some people do use a bow and arrow to hunt animals for food, the class is using it for target practice. (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Consider using hand gestures to illustrate the concepts participate and conversation. Example: Move a finger in a circle to indicate participate and move a hand back and forth, toward, and away from the mouth to indicate conversation. (MMR)
  • After reading "The Magic Bow," help students manage information by providing time to "stop and think" about what the story is mostly about. (MMAE)
  • As students discuss what they do when they "learn something new," optimize relevance by mentioning personalized learning goals. (Example: "I know Jamila told me how excited she is to learn to write more this year. And Kyle shared that he wants to learn to add bigger numbers.") (MME) 

B. Structured Discussion: Noticing and Wondering about Pictures (15 minutes)

  • Remove the tool puzzle pieces from the Mission Envelope.
  • Distribute one puzzle piece to each student. Tell students their puzzle piece shows only part of the whole picture. Let them know that one of their classmates has the other piece and, when you give the signal, their job is to calmly and quietly find the other student who has the puzzle piece that matches theirs.
  • Model with a few students what it looks like to calmly look for someone with a matching puzzle piece.
  • Ask:

"How am I looking for the puzzle piece that matches another student's puzzle piece?" (Listen for ideas such as: "You are walking calmly,""You are moving the puzzle in different directions to see if it fits another person's," and "You are using an inside voice.")

  • Instruct students that when they find their partner, they should sit next to each other on the floor, toward the outer edge of the whole group area, and place their picture between them.
  • Give the signal, inviting students to find their partners.
  • Circulate to support students as they search for their partner.
  • After 2-3 minutes, invite students to sit down with their partners.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted Think-Pair-Share anchor chart.
  • Tell students they are now going to use the Think-Part-Share protocol. Explain that they will be working together and learning from one another all year long. Emphasize that over the course of the year they will be sharing their thinking in pairs, small groups, and with the whole class. Tell students that sharing their thinking with others helps them learn from one another.
  • Explain the Think-Pair-Share expectations:
    • Point to the image of the person thinking. Tell students you will give them an idea to think about or a question to answer, and they should take some time to think. Have students point to their brains to indicate thinking.
    • Point to the image of the two people facing each other. Tell students that once the group has had thinking time, you will let them know they can turn to each other and begin sharing their ideas.
    • Point again to the image of the two people facing each other. Ask:

"What do you notice about the two people here?" (There is a partner A and a partner B.)

    • Emphasize that sometimes partner A will talk first, and sometimes partner B will talk first. One partner talks while the other partner listens.
    • Point to the image of the students making a tent with their arms. Explain that once both partners have shared, they should safely make a tent with their arms to show they are done talking and listening.
  • Answer any student questions about the Think-Pair-Share protocol.
  • For each pair, designate a partner A and a partner B. Tell students that in a moment, they will Think-Pair-Share about the following:

"What do you notice about the picture your puzzle creates?"

  • Write the sentence starter "I notice ..." on the board. Encourage students to use this sentence frame when sharing with their partner.
  • Model this for students with one tool puzzle piece. Example: "I notice that it is something you use to clean the floor."
  • Give students 1 minute to look at their picture and think about what they will share.
  • Tell students that this time, partner B will talk first and partner A will listen. Remind students that when they are both done talking, they should make a tent with their arms.
  • Invite students to Think-Pair-Share. Circulate to support students as they share.
  • Refocus students whole group.
  • Give students specific positive feedback for behaviors you noticed as they shared. Examples: thinking quietly during think time, listening while their partner talked, and making a tent with their arms once they were finished talking.
  • Call on a few pairs to share their thinking with the class.
  • Without talking, invite students to hold up their puzzle pieces together.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What do all of these pictures have in common?" (They are all about different kinds of tools.)

  • Share with students that during the next few weeks, they are going to be learning all about different tools, and learning about tools will help them accomplish their mission of creating an object for the classroom.
  • For ELLs: Pair students with a partner who has more advanced or native language proficiency. The partner with greater language proficiency can serve as a model in the pair, initiating discussions and guiding the Think-Pair-Share process. If partners work well together, consider using the same mixed proficiency partnerships throughout the unit. (MMAE)
  • As students begin the Think-Pair-Share protocol, circulate and build graduated levels of by providing prompts. (Examples: "What colors do you notice? What shapes do you notice? What textures do you notice?") (MMAE)
  • During the Think-Pair-Share, increase mastery-oriented feedback by providing feedback that is frequent, timely, and specific to individual pairs of students before refocusing students whole group. (MME)
  • For ELLs: Not all students may be comfortable or familiar with speaking in a free or structured way with other students during class. Assure students that speaking with one another is an important part of learning, and that they will soon know the rules for when it is time to speak and when it is time to listen.

Work Time C. Independent Writing: Showing What I Know about Tools (15 minutes) 

  • Tell students that before they start learning more about tools, they are going to show what they already know.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the second one aloud:

"I can show what I know about tools through drawing and writing."

  • Draw students' attention to the words drawing and writing.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"How are drawing and writing different?" (We make pictures to draw, and we use letters to write.)

  • Invite students to take their magic bow and take aim at the learning target.
  • Display the What Do You Know about Tools? response sheet and read the title aloud.
  • Point out to students that there is space for them to draw and write what they know about tools. The blank space is for drawing, and the lines are for writing.

  • Invite students to silently consider:

"What do you already know about tools?"

  • Tell students that their own copies of the response sheet are already at their workspace.

  • Remind students how to transition back to their seats for independent work:

    • Walk quietly, quickly, and safely to their seats.

    • Sit in their chairs.

    • Get a pencil from the bin and begin working right away.

  • Invite one or two students to model what a safe, quiet, and quick transition looks and sounds like for the rest of the group.

  • Invite all students to move back to their seats and begin working.

  • Circulate and support students as they write. Give frequent time reminders and encouragement. Prompt students with questions such as:

"What tools do you know about?" 

"What tool puzzle did you have?"

"Have you used tools that were on the puzzles?"

  • If students are stuck, ask them to share their idea with you. Help them problem solve by discussing how they might show their idea with a simple picture and words.

  • If a student finishes quickly, ask how he or she might add details to the picture and words. 
  • Before students begin independent writing, maximize transfer and generalization by providing individual checklists with words and pictures that include:
    • Draw
    • Add words
    • Add more details with color (MMR)
  • As students begin independent writing, consider alternative drawing/writing utensils to vary methods for fine motor response. Examples: fine-tipped markers vs. pencils, a name stamper or pre-printed name stickers, pre-printed images that students can select to glue down. (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Illustrate the difference between drawing and writing by briefly writing words and drawing a stick figure. Point to the words and say: "This is writing." Point to the stick figure and say: "This is drawing." Use the headings Drawing and Writing above the illustrations. (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Point out that there are many kinds of tools and they may not all look like the tools students have seen in their Mission Envelope. Reminds students that tools can be anything that helps people do work. Invite students to think about some of the work their family members might do and what tools they use. (MME)
  • Before students begin independent writing, foster community by discussing how to ask peers and teachers for help. Example: "While you are writing you might get stuck trying to come up with an idea to draw. What can you do if you need help?" (raise your hand; quietly ask a peer) (MME)

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Sharing Our Writing (5 minutes) 

  • Direct students to return to the whole group gathering area, bringing their What Do You Know about Tools? response sheet with them.
  • Ask students to sit next to their partner from earlier in the lesson.
  • Tell students that now they will share their writing with their partners.
  • Focus students' attention on the Think-Pair-Share anchor chart, and review the expectations for the protocol by pointing to each step on the anchor chart.
  • Tell students to place their response sheet between themselves and their partners when they share so that both people can see the words and drawing(s).
  • Tell students that partner A will share first this time.
  • Invite students to begin their Think-Pair-Share.
  • Circulate to support students as they share.
  • Collect the What Do You Know about Tools? response sheets. 
  • Before students begin the Think-Pair-Share, incorporate explicit opportunities for review and practice by inviting a few students to demonstrate to the group what it looks like and sounds like to do each step of this protocol. (MMR)
  • As students Think-Pair-Share, provide options for communication by prompting students to use sentence frames for talking about their writing. (Examples: "One thing I drew was ____. One thing I wrote was ____." And "One thing I know about tools is ______.") (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Beginning students may have trouble verbalizing their work. Help them identify key elements of their illustration and writing and allow them to repeat words and phrases. (Example: If a student draws a hammer, say: "I know that a hammer is a tool.") Encourage the students to repeat one word or phrase at a time.

B. Building Vocabulary: "Tools" Song (5 minutes) 

  • Tell students that to wrap up this lesson, you have a fun song about tools to share with them. Tell them they will hear the song twice. The first time, you will sing it by yourself. The second time, they can join in and sing along.
  • Display the "Tools" song and sing it as students listen.
  • Then, invite students to sing along as you sing it a second time.
  • Congratulate students on what they already know about tools. Tell them they seem ready to learn more and receive their first challenge tomorrow! 
  • For ELLs: Teach students hand gestures for each part of the song to mime using the tools. (Example: When singing the line "tap tap tap," pretend to use a hammer.) (MMAE)

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