Writing Narratives: Using Observations of the Sun to Write Narrative Poems | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:M2:U3

Writing Narratives: Using Observations of the Sun to Write Narrative Poems

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In Unit 3, students continue to reflect on where the sun and moon appear in the sky and what happens when the sun and moon are at different places in the sky. They read the book What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees by Nancy Tafuri first to understand the content as readers, and then again as a mentor text to study the author's craft. Students also closely view images and videos of urban, suburban, and rural areas at night and during the day to strengthen their schema around what the sun might "see." Students work with one another to draft a class narrative poem titled "What the Moon Sees," which describes the moon, its position, and what is happening with animals and people during that time of night.

In the second half of the unit, students begin the Unit 3 Assessment as they plan and write their own individual narrative poem, "What the Sun Sees" (with a beginning, middle, and end) (W.1.3, W.1.8, L.1.1f, L.1.1j, L.1.2b, L.1.15d). The assessment is broken up into three lessons, during which students draft and write each of the three verses. For their final performance task, students revise and edit their poems based on teacher feedback. They then prepare for a celebration of learning as they practice reading their original narrative poems as well as presenting the songs and Sky notebooks from previous units. In the final lesson, students share what they have learned with families and friends during the celebration.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do authors use their knowledge and observations to write a story?
  • Authors select a topic and observe and study it.
  • Authors plan out what they want to write by talking about it and trying it out.
  • Authors use beautiful language to show, not tell about the topic of their choice.
  • Authors write a narrative with a beginning, middle, and end.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Reading to Learn and Writing to Understand: A Study of the Patterns of the Sun, Moon, and Stars
  • Task: Using Observations of the Sun to Write a Narrative Poem
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): W.1.3, W.1.8, SL.1.4, L.1.1f, L.1.1j, L.1.2b, L.1.15d
  • Text: What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees


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.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards and to be taught during the content-based literacy block of the school day. This module also intentionally incorporates social studies content that many teachers across the nation are expected to address in first grade. These intentional connections are described below. (Based on your state or district context, teachers may also choose to address additional specific social studies standards during other parts of the school day.)

Science (based on NGSS) or NGSS:

1-ESS1-1 Earth's Place in the Universe: Use observations of the sun, moon, and stars to describe patterns that can be predicted.

  • Stars are visible during the night, but not during the day.
  • Patterns of motion of objects in the sky can be described and predicted.
  • Scientists use a process of inquiry in order to understand patterns and make predictions and comparisons.
  • The sun and moon appear in different places in the sky during different times of day and of the year.
  • The movement of the Earth affects people day to day.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this module, students work to become ethical people: habits for how we treat others. Throughout Unit 3, students continue to demonstrate the habits of integrity and respect--to do the right thing even when it is hard and to treat others with kindness and care--in a variety of activities and lessons. Students practice integrity and respect as they give and receive feedback on one another's writing and take more responsibility over their learning.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Accountable Independent Reading

The ability to read and comprehend text is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across all three components of this primary curriculum: module lessons, Labs, and the Reading Foundations Skills Block. See the module overview for details.

For Unit 3, during the independent reading in the Skills Block, reinforce the comprehension skills and standards that students are practicing during the Integrated Literacy block:

  • RL.1.1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • Invite the students to read aloud a portion of a narrative text and ask comprehension questions.
    • After a student reads aloud the first few pages of an informational text, ask:

"What questions do you have? What are you wondering?"

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs column in each lesson contains support for both ELLs and Universal Design for Learning (UDL), and some supports can serve a wide range of student needs. However, ELLs have unique needs that cannot always be met with UDL support. According to federal guidelines, ELLs must be given access to the curriculum with appropriate supports, such as those that are specifically identified as "For ELLs" in the Meeting Students' Needs column.

  • Prioritizing lesson for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 8-10 in which students write and revise their "What the Sun Sees Poem," as some students may find using a model and sources to write independently particularly challenging. This will afford greater opportunity to prepare for Lesson 11, in which they revise their writing using feedback from the teacher. If necessary, place less focus and condense instruction in Lessons 1-3, focusing primarily on scaffolding toward the culminating task, writing a narrative poem using a model and evidence.
  • Language Dives: This unit includes one optional Language Dive for ELLs and several optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. Beginning in Module 2 and going forward, create a "Language Chunk Wall"--an area in the classroom where students can display and categorize the academic phrases discussed in the Language Dive. At the end of each Language Dive, students are invited to place the Language Dive sentence strip chunks on the Language Chunk Wall into corresponding categories, such as "Nouns and noun phrases" or "Linking language." Consider color-coding each category. Examples: blue for nouns and subjects; purple for pronouns; red for predicates and verbs; yellow for adjectives; and green for adverbs. See each Language Dive for suggested categories. Students can then refer to the wall during subsequent speaking and writing tasks. For more information on Language Dives, refer to the Supporting English Language Learners Guidance on the Tools page.
  • Goal 3 Conversation Cues: Continue using Goal 1-3 Conversation Cues, which are questions teachers can ask students to help achieve four goals: (Goal 1) encourage all students to talk and be understood; (Goal 2) listen carefully to one another and seek to understand; (Goal 3) deepen thinking; and (Goal 4) think with others to expand the conversation (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 2012. Based on Chapin, S., O'Connor, C., and Anderson, N. [2009]. Classroom Discussions: Using Math Talk to Help Students Learn, Grades K-6. Second Edition. Sausalito, CA: Math Solutions Publications). Refer to the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 3 Conversation Cues are introduced in Unit 2, Lesson 1. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: Investigate the routines, practices, rituals, beliefs, norms, and experiences that are important to ELLs and their families. Integrate this background into the classroom as students explore informational texts taking place across different cultures and countries. During this unit, students will discuss the sun and the moon. Provide students opportunities to share their own experience with stories, beliefs, or legends about the sun and moon. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Strategic grouping: As students are invited to pair up for various tasks and protocols, seriously consider matching ELLs to a partner who has greater language proficiency. The conversations that happen as a result of such strategic grouping will greatly serve the language development of both partners.
  • Language processing time: Give ELLs sufficient time to think about what they want to say before they share with other students or write.
  • Read-alouds and close read-alouds: Students will participate in a series of read-aloud and focused read-aloud sessions of the text What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees, during which they will look closely at the structure of the text and use it as a model for writing their three-verse narrative poem titled, "What the Sun Sees." Consider providing realia, models, representative objects, or videos that will help students understand concepts and vocabulary like barnyard, bustling streets, and hooting owls, and invite them to use this language as they play with and discuss these things.
  • Role-play: Students will participate in the Role-Play protocol, during which they will act out some sections of What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees to deepen their comprehension. Although this activity is inherently supportive of ELLs, some students may be hesitant to perform. Empower students to speak up if they need support from teachers or peers. Allow students opportunities to observe the protocol before participating.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual skills that ELLs bring to the classroom.
  • Writing poems: Students will write poems about the sun and moon, first with heavier support and then gradually with lighter support. Focus students on the language patterns elicited by the questions in the Verse Planner (e.g., It is _____; adjective-noun patterns; The moon sees _____.) and provide plentiful practice. In addition, see supports throughout the lessons for helping students understand what complete English sentences are and how to form them.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual skills that ELLs bring to the classroom.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees
by Nancy Tafuri
6 per class
ISBN: 9780688144937

Preparation and Materials

For basic lesson preparation, refer to the materials list and Teaching Notes in each lesson. The following are unusual materials that may take more time or effort to organize or prepare.

  • Lesson 2: Interactive Word Wall cards: sliver, crescent, full, half, arrow cards
  • Lesson 3: Interactive Word Wall cards: bright, white, silver; Model of Excellence #1, Model of Excellence #2
  • Lesson 4: Interactive Word Wall cards: red, orange, large, round, bright
  • Lesson 6: Interactive Word Wall cards: dim, fiery
  • Lesson 7: Temporal Line card sets
  • Lesson 10: "What the Moon Sees" example
  • Lesson 11: "What the Sun Sees" example, High-Quality Narrative Poem Checklist example
  • Lesson 13: Presentation Group chart, Questions sheet

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - Complete graphic organizers, writing pieces, and anchor charts: Students complete their graphic organizers and writing pieces in Google Docs. Teachers create anchor charts in Google Docs.
  • Speech to Text - To create writing by speaking: Students complete their graphic organizers and create written work by speaking rather than writing or typing.

  • Seesaw - Create student learning portfolios to share with other students, families: Video/audio record students singing songs and engaging in group work to share with families and other students. Students take pictures for Interactive Word Wall connections to share with families and other students. Video/audio record students engaging in protocols and group work, and students practicing and presenting their Performance Task presentations to reflect on strengths and areas for improvement and to share with families and other students.

  • Padlet - Create the class word wall: Create the Sun, Moon, and Star Word Wall in padlet to share with families.
  • Kids Doodle - Complete graphic organizers and writing pieces: Students use drawing apps or software to draw their responses on graphic organizers or for writing pieces.
  • Observe Sunrise and Sunset - Additional research: Students learn more about the sun with adult support.
    • "Observe Sunrise and Sunset." PBS Learning Media. 2016. Accessed on 18 July, 2016. 
  • Moonrise - Additional research: Students learn more about the moon with adult support.
    • "Moonrise." PBS LearningMedia. 2016. Accessed on 18 July, 2016. 
  • Moon Phases Demonstrations - Additional research: Students learn more about the phases of the moon with adult support
    • "Moon Phases Demonstration." Video. National Science Teachers Association, 2016. Web. 13 June 2016. (For display. Used by permission.)
  • Time-lapse of Starry Night Sky - Additional research: Students learn more about the night sky with adult support.
    • "Time-lapse of Starry Night Sky." Video. PBS Learning Media, 2016. Web. 13 June 2016. (For display. Used by permission.)
  • Blue Marble: Animations - Additional research: Students learn more about the earth's rotation with adult support.
    • "Blue Marble: Animations." Video. Visible Earth. NASA. 2016. Accessed on 19 July, 2016. 
  • My Backyard Birding - Additional research: Students learn more about nighttime with adult support.
    • MyBackyardBirding. "Wildlife in the Backyard at Night!" YouTube. 06 Aug. 2014. Web. 16 June 2016. (For display. Used by permission.)
  • Downtown Boston at Night - Additional research: Students learn more about nighttime with adult support.
    • Truslow, Will. "Downtown Boston at Night." YouTube. 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 16 June 2016. (For display. Used by permission.)
  • British Wildlife Filmed on a DSLR - Additional research: Students learn more about daytime with adult support.
    • Whitmarsh, Andrew. "British Wildlife Filmed on a DSLR." YouTube. 30 June 2014. Web. 16 June 2016. (For display. Used by permission.)
  •  New York Minute: a time lapse of Central Park - Additional research: Students learn more about daytime with adult support.
    • Please use the following video instead: Grigoriev, Michael. "New York Minute: a time lapse of Central Park." YouTube. 01 June 2010. Web. (For display. Used under CC BY 3.0.)


Labs are 1 hour of instruction per day.  They are designed to promote student proficiency and growth.

There are 5 distinct Labs: Explore, Engineer, Create, Imagine, and Research. Each of the Labs unfolds across an entire module and takes place in four stages:  Launch, Practice, Extend, and Choice and Challenge.

During their Lab time, students break up into smaller Lab groups and go to separate workstations (tables or other work spaces around the classroom). This structure creates a small collaborative atmosphere in which students will work throughout their Labs experience. It also supports the management of materials (since each workstation has its own materials). 

Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • If you have a number of English language learners speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to talk with ELLs about stories related to the sun, moon, and stars in their native language.
  • If you have a number of families from a variety of cultures, invite family members to come into the classroom and share the legends, myths, and fables related to the sun, moon, and stars from their cultures (e.g., the Mayan Legend of the Sun and the Moon).
  • Invite family members to send in images and videos of the sky at different times of day and night to use for observations in the Sky notebooks.
  • If you have a number of English language learners speaking the same native language, invite family members to come into the classroom to share narratives, stories, or poems in their native language.
  • Invite family members to send in images and videos of different things they have done during the day or night to use as observational evidence to inform the poems "What the Moon Sees" and "What the Sun Sees."


  • Invite people who are experts or have experience with astronomy to share their experiences and tools used for observing the sun, moon, and stars.
  • Invite people who are experts or have experience with writing and storytelling to share their experiences of how they gain inspiration from nature and the world around them.
  • Invite science teachers to talk with the class about how they use their scientific observations and evidence.
  • Write a class letter to Nancy Tafuri, the author of What the Sun Sees, What the Moon Sees, and other narrative nonfiction authors and poets, asking them their answers to the Unit 3 guiding question.


  • Take walks around the community and observe the sun in different locations and positions.
  • Visit a planetarium and observe the night sky.
  • Plan a moon-gazing and stargazing night at a local park to observe the night sky.
  • Observe the sunset or sunrise and create a realistic painting or drawing of the observation.
  • Visit a planetarium and observe the night sky.
  • Visit a community location (e.g., the park, town center, etc.) at different times of day and/or night and observe and record what is going on (or what the sun and moon might "see").


  • Connect with other classes in the school and have students share learning about the sun, moon, and stars with them.
  • Post a map of good places in the community for observing the sky outside the school, library, and/or other community locations.
  • Post a safety guide for observing the sun outside the school, library, and/or other community locations.
  • Share the completed "What the Sun Sees" poems with members of the school community or place copies in the school or local library.


  • Seek out and read others' stories that were inspired by objects in the sky.
  • Listen to songs inspired by the sky and gather evidence for the guiding question in relation to musicians: Why do musicians write songs about the sun, moon, and stars?
  • Create a story map to track the major events from the beginning, middle, and end of each story read aloud.
  • Have students role-play or write their own narrative stories inspired by what they observe in the sky.
  • Create props and costumes to be used during the Role-Play protocol.
  • Take part in the storytelling of a text read in this unit and present it to other classes, friends, or families.
  • Track the sun's movement by tracing shadows with chalk outside in the same location each day.
  • Create a map of good locations to observe the day and night sky in your community.
  • Use the weather forecast to make predictions about the sun's appearance throughout the week.
  • Create a guide to observing the sun that includes safety tips such as "Do not look directly at the sun."
  • Create a video of different activities kids might be doing during the day or at night (what the sun might "see" and what the moon might "see").
  • Present excerpts from the poems at a school assembly or celebration where students select one verse of their independent "What the Sun Sees" poem and the verses are organized temporally to create a complete class poem.
  • Act out and create props and costumes for selected verses of different "What the Sun Sees" poems to present to friends and families. Students illustrate their individual "What the Sun Sees" poems.

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