Building Background Knowledge: What Do Tools Help to Do?, Part I | EL Education Curriculum

You are here

ELA G1:M1:U1:L2

Building Background Knowledge: What Do Tools Help to Do?, Part I

You are here:

These are the CCS Standards addressed in this lesson:

  • RI.1.1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • W.1.8: With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
  • 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. 

Daily Learning Targets

  • I can examine tools through close observation and drawing. (W.1.8)
  • I can ask and answer questions about tools and how they are used. (RI.1.1, SL.1.1

Ongoing Assessment

  • During Work Time A, circulate and observe students' progress with the classroom discussion norms. Reinforce the classroom discussion norm of listening to the speaker, taught in Lesson 1.
  • During Work Time A, notice students' progress with answering questions. Encourage students to answer questions about tools. If necessary, provide sentence stems to answer questions in complete sentences. Model answering questions using complete sentences by repeating student answers.
  • During Work Time B, circulate and observe students individually drawing and labeling a tool.
  • At the end of Work Time B, collect the Tools Challenge #1 response sheet. Notice each student's drawing of the tool to be sure it captures accurate details. Note each student's encoding skills as represented in the label of the tool. 


AgendaTeaching Notes


A. Establishing Discussion Norms: Looking at the Speaker (5 minutes)

B. Noticing and Wondering: Tools for Challenge #1 (5 minutes)

2. Work Time

A. Developing Language: Play and Exploration with Cooking Tools (20 minutes)

B. Recording Our Thinking: Draw and Label the Tool That Was Best for the Job (10 minutes)

C. Reading Aloud: A Chef's Tools (10 minutes)

3. Closing and Assessment

A. Reflecting on Learning (10 minutes)

Purpose of lesson and alignment to standards: 

  • Nurturing an inquiry-rich classroom environment begins with asking questions and cultivating curiosity. This lesson invites students to ask questions about tools as they engage in a whole class challenge about tools. Students are encouraged to engage with their peers as they orally rehearse asking questions.
  • Students continue to build their knowledge about tools. Throughout the module, to support a volume of reading on this topic, see the Recommended Texts and Other Resources list. Ensure that students have a variety of informational and narratives texts on this topic (at a variety of reading levels) available during independent reading in the K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block.
  • The cold call participation strategy is introduced in Work Time A. This is a total participation technique in which students are randomly called on by the teacher. A kind, supportive, and caring environment in which students are open to taking risks supports the success of this strategy.
  • During Work Time B, students closely observe and then draw tools. Teaching students to look closely is a strong scaffold for the close reading that students will do later. When modeling the drawing portion of Work Time B, help students notice the shapes in the object and then the angles in the lines of the object. Consider using a pencil with an eraser, because some lines may need to be erased.
  • In Work Time C, students hear A Chef's Tools read aloud. Primary learners need to hear a large number of texts read aloud in order to build their word and world knowledge. Display the text when reading aloud. And when doing a first read-aloud, read fluently with expression and without interruption. For additional information, refer to the Module Overview.

How this lesson builds on previous work:

  • In Lesson 1, students were introduced to the Mission Envelope and Mission Letter #1. This is the first lesson in a series of three in which students complete challenges in order to complete their mission.
  • This lesson builds upon the speaking and listening discussion norms introduced in Lesson 1.

Areas in which students may need additional support:

  • Students may need additional support orally asking questions. Support these students throughout the lessons by providing question stems and modeling before the assessment in Lesson 8.

Down the road:

  • During this lesson, students are encouraged to use question words (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Note students' skill level with asking questions, and provide modeling and question stems as needed. In Lesson 6, the Unit 1 Assessment Speaking and Listening Checklist is formally introduced, and students will begin to be formally assessed on SL.1.1 over the course of Lessons 6-8.
  • Throughout this unit, students return to the Tools anchor chart (created in this lesson) as they continue to identify tools and how they are used. Intentionally, the word tools is not explicitly defined until Lesson 4. In that lesson, the definition gets added into the Tools anchor chart. In Lessons 2 and 3, students construct their understanding of this definition through the challenges and the read-aloud texts. The Closings of Lessons 2 and 3 are designed to synthesize students' experiences with the challenges and the texts in order to begin to come to a definition. Let students muddle toward a definition.
  • Subsequent lessons will build upon the early understanding of what tools do. In Lesson 5, students are introduced to Tools by Ann Morris. They will continue to engage with this text in aseries of focused read-alouds in Lessons 6-8. During these focused read-aloud sessions, students will refer to the challenge experiences in Lesson 2-4 as they continue to answer the question: "Why do we need tools?"

In Advance

  • Gather the critical tools for Tools Challenge #1: ladle, measuring cup, tongs, funnel
  • Distribute pencils and response sheets at student tables. Doing this in advance helps ensure a smooth transition during Work Time B.
  • Set up a document camera to read A Chef's Tools in Work Time C.
  • Consider putting a tablecloth or newspaper over the table for easier cleanup.
  • Consider marking the pages in A Chef's Tools that will be read aloud with sticky notes (4, 10, 12, 18-19) and paper clipping the pages that will be skipped for ease during the lesson.
  • Post: Learning targets.

Tech and Multimedia

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

  • Opening A: Create the Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart in an online format, for example a Google Doc, to display.
  • Work Time A: Tools Challenge Note #1 could be an email.
  • Closing and Assessment A: Create the Tools anchor chart in an online format, for example a Google Doc, to display.

Supporting English Language Learners

Supports guided in part by CA ELD Standards 1.I.A.1, 1.I.A.3, 1.I.B.5, and 1.I.B.6

Important points in the lesson itself 

  • The basic design of this lesson supports ELLs by incorporating opportunities to experiment and work with tools. This will give students a chance to use language and develop social skills with an authentic purpose.
  • This lesson may be challenging for some ELLs because some or all of the tools may be unfamiliar to students. At various points in the lesson, the tools are referenced by name. Whenever referencing a tool by name, show a picture of it or display the object so all students are clear about which tool is being discussed at any given time. For further engagement, invite students to mime using the tools. Example: "Did the tongs help us complete the task? Remind me what tongs are. Show me how you use tongs. Let's pretend to pick up a hot piece of bread with them."
  • Be aware that customs and tools related to cooking vary greatly across cultures. As such, students will have varying background knowledge and levels of experience with the tools discussed throughout this lesson. Take opportunities to provide context and background knowledge about each tool and its use. Provide space for students to share different tools and cooking routines that they might have experienced at home.

Levels of support

For lighter support:

  • While discussing the learning target during Work Time A, challenge students to generate questions about the sentence before asking the prepared questions. Example: "What questions can we ask about this sentence? Let's see if we can answer them together."

For heavier support:

  • Create an anchor chart or labeled visual array comprising each tool discussed during the unit. Cover the tools that will be discussed in subsequent lessons. When introducing each tool, reveal it on the chart and refer to the chart throughout the lesson.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Multiple Means of Representation (MMR): This lesson includes a read-aloud. Before reading, some students will benefit from a focusing question to help them draw out the critical features of the text.
  • Multiple Means of Action and Expression (MMAE): This lesson focuses on questioning skills. Some students may need additional scaffolds to determine the grammatical structure for asking a question. Provide students with options for expression and communication by using sentence stems for asking questions. (Examples: "I wonder why____?" and "I wonder how___?")
  • Multiple Means of Engagement (MME): This lesson introduces cold calls. Being called on without warning may increase anxiety or frustration for some students. During the cold calls, it may help individual students participate more successfully if you alert them that you are going to call on them next.


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

  • angle, close observation, examine, learning target, norms (L)


  • Think-Pair-Share anchor chart (begun in Lesson 1)
  • Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart (new, co-created with students during the Opening; see supporting materials)
  • Tools Challenge #1 Materials Set 1: ladle, measuring cup, tongs, and funnel (one set to display)
  • "Learning Target" poem (from Lesson 1; one to display)
  • Mission Envelope (from Lesson 1; for Tools Challenge Note #1)
  • Tools Challenge Note #1 (one for teacher)
  • Tools Challenge #1 Materials Set 2: 5 generic vanilla-chocolate sandwich cookies or 5 two-color math counters (one set to display)
  • Tools Challenge #1 response sheet (one per student)
  • Document camera
  • A Chef's Tools (book; one for teacher read-aloud)
  • Tools anchor chart (new; co-created with students during Work Time C; see supporting materials) 

Materials from Previous Lessons

New Materials


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. Establishing Discussion Norms: Looking at the Speaker (5 minutes)

  • Gather students together whole group in a circle.
  • Invite students to sit with their partners from Lesson 1 in a circle on the whole group area. For each pair, designate a partner A and a partner B.
  • Remind students that in the previous lesson they shared their ideas and work with their partner using the Think-Pair-Share protocol. (Refer to the Classroom Protocols document for the full version of the protocol.).
  • Direct students' attention to the Think-Pair-Share anchor chart.
  • Ask students to Think-Pair-Share each of the following questions:

"When we use this protocol, what is the first thing you do after I ask you a question?" (think) Invite students to point to their heads.

"What's the next step?" (pair up) Invite students to lock elbows or point to their partner.

"And the last step?" (share) Invite students to use puppet hands to make a talking gesture and to cup a hand behind an ear to gesture for listen.

  • Tell students that there are some important things they need to remember in order to have a respectful discussion with their partner.
  • Display the Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart and read the title aloud.
  • Explain that norms are something that is expected every day; it's just the normal behavior and actions from the class. So, this is a chart that will help students remember how they normally act and behave when they have discussions with one another.
  • Remind students that in the previous lesson, they learned a discussion norm to keep in mind when they are working and discussing: Listen with care. Add this to the anchor chart.
  • Share with students that there is another important norm they can practice: Look at the speaker.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"How do you feel when you are speaking and no one is looking at you? (like they don't care, like no one is hearing me)

"How might looking at the speaker make the speaker feel?" (that what they are saying is important, what they have to say matters, they might feel appreciated)

  • Explain to students that it is polite to look at the person who is speaking--so when they are having a conversation or discussion with their partner today, they should be sure to listen with care and look at the speaker.
  • Add "Look at the speaker" to the Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart.
  • As you review the Classroom Discussion Norms anchor chart, highlight critical features by inviting a few students to demonstrate what it looks like and sounds like to "Listen with care" and "Look at the speaker." As students demonstrate, ask peers to observe carefully and then summarize these critical features. (MMR)
  • As you discuss the importance of looking at the speaker, vary methods for response by inviting students to show with their facial expressions how it feels when you are speaking and your partner is not looking at you. (MMAE)
  • As you discuss the importance of looking at the speaker, optimize motivation by explaining that looking at the speaker will also help students better understand what their conversational partners are saying. Example: "Noticing my partner's facial expressions can give important clues about what she is sharing." (MME)
  • For ELLs: Point out that when students participate in conversation together, it is polite to make eye contact. Be aware that in some cultures making eye contact is less common or even considered impolite. If students are uncomfortable doing so at first, allow them to operate within their comfort level. Demonstrate what it looks like to make eye contact, and encourage students to practice. 

B. Noticing and Wondering: Tools for Challenge #1 (5 minutes) 

  • Display the Tools Challenge #1 Materials Set 1 in the center of the circle so all students can have a clear view. Name each tool for the students.
  • Provide 20-30 seconds of silent viewing of the tools.
  • Ask students to Think-Pair-Share:

"What do you notice about these tools?" (Responses will vary. Model as necessary. Example: "I notice that the ladle has a long handle with a scoop on one end.")

  • Cold call on two to three A partners to share what they noticed with their partner. Encourage students to use the sentence stem "I notice ___." (name of tool; provide teacher support as needed)
  • Ask:

"What do you wonder about these tools?" Model one wonder: "I wonder why the funnel has a wide part and a narrow part."

  • Before cold calling on two to three B partners to share what they wondered with their partner, encourage students to use the sentence stem "I wonder ___?" (question word, name of tool with teacher support as needed)
  • Throughout this portion of the lesson, support students? notices and wonders with prompting questions. Examples: "Look closely at the details of the tool." "How would you describe the tool?" "How might people use this tool?" "Who might use this tool?" "What can this tool be used for?"
  • As students share what they observed about the tools, facilitate managing of information by recording students' ideas in a web on chart paper or the class whiteboard. (MMAE)
  • During cold calls, minimize discomfort and perceived threats by alerting individual students that you are going to call on them next. (MME)
  • For ELLs: Review the meanings of notice and wonder. Think aloud while modeling notices and wonders. Example: "When I can see something interesting, I notice it. Hmmm, I am looking at the ladle and I notice that it has a long ... What is this? Handle. A long handle. I notice the ladle has a long handle." (MMR) 

Work Time

Work TimeMeeting Students' Needs

A. Developing Language: Play and Exploration with Cooking Tools (20 minutes) 

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the first one aloud:

"I can examine tools through close observation and drawing."

  • Tell students that examine means to inspect, study, look closely at, or to investigate.
  • Invite students to Think-Pair-Share with their partner:  

"What do you think it means to do a close observation of something?" (to look carefully at the small details and notice the shape, color, texture, size, etc. of something) 

  • Remind students that a learning target is a goal for them to reach. Display the "Learning Target" poem.
  • Invite students to take out their "magic bows" and take aim at the target while chorally reciting the poem.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"Which part of this learning target have we worked on so far?" (examine and close observation)

"Which part of the target haven't we done yet?" (drawing)  

  • Share with students that in the next part of the lesson they will have the opportunity to draw what they have closely observed.
  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and read the second one aloud:

"I can ask and answer questions about tools and how they are used."

  • Share the guiding question from Unit 1 with students: "Why do we need tools?" Explain that asking questions is one way to learn about something, and that asking questions about tools will help them discover what tools do.
  • Remind students of the Mission Letter #1 they read in Lesson 1. Tell them that today they are going to work on their first challenge in an effort to complete their mission.
  • Invite students to do a drumroll on their laps as you take out the Mission Envelope. With excitement, remove the Tools Challenge Note #1 from the envelope.
  • Read the note aloud: "Your challenge today is to flip all 5 cookies onto the black side without touching any of them with your hands. Your tools are a ladle, whish, tongs, and a funnel. Which tool is best for the job?"
  • Display the Tools Challenge #1 Materials Set 2 (all cookies should be flipped onto the white side).
  • While gesturing to each material, restate that the challenge is to flip the cookies over without touching any of them with your hand.
  • Invite students to Think-Pair-Share in response to the following questions:

"What are you wondering about this challenge?" (Responses will vary.)

  • Prompt student pairs to ask questions about the challenge using question words (who, what, when, where, why, and how). Remind students to listen and look at their partner when he or she is speaking.
  • Cold call on two to three B partners to share their questions. Prompt students to use the question words (who, what, when, where, why, and how).
  • Give specific positive feedback regarding how well students are using the Think-Pair-Share routine.
  • Have students Think-Pair-Share using the sentence stem: "I think the best tool for the job will be _____ because ____________.":

"Which tool will be the best tool for the job?" (Responses will vary.)

  • As a class, complete Tools Challenge #1 together:
    • Choose one student's idea regarding which tool will work best (excluding the tongs) and see how it goes. Was it the right tool?
    • Repeat the process with the other tools, still excluding the tongs.
    • Repeat the challenge with the tongs.
    • Ask:

"What happened? Which tool was the best for the job? How do you know? How did the tongs make things easier?" (The tongs were the best tool for the job since they flipped the cookie over. The ends made it easy to pinch and flip the cookies so that we did not need to touch it with our hands)

  • For ELLs: Offer alternatives for visual information by allowing children to feel the physical tools (e.g., ladle, measuring cup, tongs, and funnel) and then pass them to share with peers. (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Ask students about the learning target: "I can ask and answer questions about tools and how they are used." Examples:
    • "The target says, 'I can ask and answer questions.' Who can?" (we, the students)
    • "When do you ask questions? What are some words you might use to start a question?" (when you want to know something--who, what, when, where, why, how)
    • "Can anyone give some examples of questions?" (Responses will vary.)
    • "What does it mean to answer questions?" (When you tell someone the answer to something they don?t know.)
    • "Why is the word and here?" (Because we are going to both ask questions and answer questions, not just one of those things.)
    • Underline the phrase and how they are used. Ask: "What is they in this phrase?" (the tools)
    • "Who uses tools?" (people; we do)
  • For ELLs: As students ask questions, notice instances in which students omit using the verb be or the verb do after their question words. Identify the error and recast the sentence correctly. Invite students to repeat. Example: "How does the tool work? Now you say it!"
  • For ELLs: Provide options for expression and communication by prompting individual students with sentence stems in order to generate questions. Example: "I wonder why____?" and "I wonder how___?" (MMAE)

B. Recording Our Thinking: Draw and Label the Tool That Was Best for the Job (10 minutes) 

  • Direct students' attention to the posted learning targets and reread the first learning target aloud, emphasizing the word drawing:

"I can examine tools through close observation and drawing."

  • Share with students that now they will get a chance to show what they know about the tools from the challenge by drawing a tool.
  • Model how to look closely at a tool, draw the details, and label the tool. Consider using a pencil with an eraser to draw.
    • Say: "First, find the shapes in the object we want to draw."
    • Ask:

"What shapes do you notice in the funnel?" (A funnel is made up of a triangle and small rectangle.) 

    • Say: "Now we need to think about the angles, or position or direction the lines are going."
    • Ask:

"What are the angles of the lines in the triangle?" (The first line goes across, or horizontal, and the other two lines should go down from either side of that line to form a point.) 

    • Draw the triangle.

"How should we make the lines for the rectangle?" (The small side of the rectangle goes just above the point of the triangle, the two long sides go down from either side of that line, and the last line connects across to make the rectangle.) 

    • Draw the rectangle.
    • Say: "To make the funnel look right, I'm going to erase the point of the triangle."
    • Explain to students that now it is their turn to draw and label a tool from today's challenge. Point out that the tools from which they may choose are on display.
    • Transition students to their seats by having them make the shape of a funnel with their bodies (arms extended up in a Y shape) and walk calmly and quietly to their seats.
    • Direct students' attention to the Tools Challenge #1 response sheet and writing utensils at their workspaces.
    • Invite students to draw a tool from the Tools Challenge #1 and label the tool. Circulate and support students as needed.
    • Collect students' Tool Challenge #1 response sheets.

  • As you invite students to represent the tools based on observations, provide options for expression and communication by offering students a choice of drawing or sculpting their observations with modeling clay. (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Optimize individual choice and autonomy by having several ladles, measuring cups, tongs, and funnels on hand that students can take to their seats for close inspection. (MME)
  • For ELLs: Allow students to choose the tool they want to draw and to tell their partners before transitioning to their seats. This will allow them to verbalize their plans and will foster a sense of direction and autonomy. 

C. Reading Aloud: A Chef's Tools (10 minutes) 

  • Give students specific positive feedback on their ability to draw and label a tool from Challenge #1.
  • Using a document camera, display A Chef's Tools. Share with students that they can learn about other cooking tools from this book. Draw students' attention to the title of the book and read the title aloud.
  • While still displaying the text, read through pages 4, 10, 12, 18-19. Read slowly, fluently, with expression, and without interruption.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"What was this book mostly about?" (how people use different cooking tools) 

  • Ask for volunteers to share:

"Can you teach the class about any other tools your family uses to cook, that we didn't see in this book?"

  • Tell students they are going to read and discuss a few pages from the book.
  • Review the Think-Pair-Share protocol as needed. Focus students on their partner. Tell them that you are going to reread the pages from the text. After each page they are going to Think-Pair-Share, and partner A will speak first, then partner B. Remind students to take turns speaking.
  • Invite them to use the sentence starter, "A (name of tool) helps to ______" to Think-Pair-Share:

"What tool is this? How is it used?"

  • Repeat this process with the next page.
  • Synthesize the read-aloud by having students Think-Pair-Share:

"Name one new cooking tool you learned about today. What job does this tool help to do?" (Responses will vary.)

  • For ELLs: To build schema and to activate background knowledge, show photographs or a video of someone cooking. Discuss why and when people cook. Example: "Does anybody cook in your house? Why do you think people cook? Sometimes we need to mix different foods together and heat them up on a stove or in an oven to make our meals."
  • Before reading Cooking Tools, activate background knowledge by previewing the question you will ask. Example: "What was this story mostly about?" (MMR)
  • For ELLs: Use multiple media for communication by allowing children to "act out" how to use different cooking tools with their partners as they share verbally. (MMAE)
  • After the first reading, optimize relevance by contextualizing information based on students?previous experiences. Examples: "Give a thumbs-up if you have seen someone at home using this cooking tool." "Whisper to your shoulder partner one kind of food your family makes with cooking tools." (MME)

Closing & Assessments

ClosingMeeting Students' Needs

A. Reflecting on Learning (10 minutes) 

  • Share that today students learned about cooking tools and what cooking tools do by solving a challenge and reading about cooking tools.
  • Display and direct students' attention to the Tools anchor chart. Tell students that they will be learning about more tools and what these new tools do. They will use this anchor chart to keep track of all the tools they learn about.
  • Using a total participation technique, invite responses from the group:

"In this first challenge, which tool did we need to get the job done?" (tongs; add to the left side of the Tools anchor chart)

"What job does this tool help to do?" (The tongs help to flip the cookies without touching them with hands; add to the right side of the Tools anchor chart.)

"Why do we need tools?" (Tools make our lives easier; they help us do work.) (Note: This definition of tools will be added to the anchor chart in Lesson 4.)

  • Give students specific, positive feedback on their work during Tools Challenge #1.
  • As you add the funnel to the Tools anchor chart, provide options for communication by inviting children to make the shape of a funnel with their bodies (arms extended up in a Y shape). (MMAE)
  • For ELLs: Draw an icon or paste a photograph next to each tool on the anchor chart.

Get updates about our new K-5 curriculum as new materials and tools debut.

Sign Up