Writing to Show Our Research: Building Expertise about Birds’ Bodies | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:M3:U3

Writing to Show Our Research: Building Expertise about Birds’ Bodies

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In the last unit of the module, students participate in another research cycle to study a specific bird to learn about how that bird's key parts help it survive in its habitat. Within expert groups, students use the National Geographic Kids text First Big Book of Birds for Little Kids by Catherine D. Hughes to answer the unit guiding question: "How do specific birds use their body parts to survive?" Throughout the expert group research process, students take notes using words and pictures. Students then use these notes to participate in a small group Science Talk (SL.1.1c, SL.1.5). Students also hone their scientific drawing skills through drafting, peer critique, feedback, and revision.

The expert bird research and scientific drawing lead to the creation of the performance task: an Expert Bird Riddle card and a corresponding Exert Bird Scientific Drawing card (ELA W.1.5, W.1.7, L.1.1.f, L.1.1.g, L.1.2.b, L.1.2.e). Each student's individual writing and drawing will be compiled into a class riddle matching game. For the end of module Celebration of Learning, students sing and act out a bird song using handmade puppets, share their riddles, and play the matching game with classroom visitors. Throughout the unit, students work on the habit of character perseverance as they strive to create high-quality work.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do specific birds use their body parts to survive?
  • Some birds have unique and specially designed body parts that help them survive.
  • How do we become researchers and share our learning?
  • Scientists gather information using a variety of tools and record what they notice.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Expert bird research: Form and function of specific birds' body parts
  • Task: Science Talk
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): SL.1.1c and SL.1.5
  • Text: Little Kids First Big Book of Birds


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 integrated literacy block of the school day. The module also intentionally incorporates science 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 or science standards during other parts of the school day.)

Science (based on NGSS):

  • LS1.A
  • LS1-1
  • LS1-2
  • LS3.B

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 effective learners by practicing perseverance and empathy and compassion. Throughout Unit 3, students practice perseverance as they engage in revisions of their work by giving and receiving feedback on their drawing and writing for the performance task.

This unit is approximately 2.2 weeks or 12 sessions of instruction.


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: Integrated Module Lessons, Integrated Labs, and the K-2 Reading Foundations Skills Block (see Module Overview).

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:

  • RI.1.1: Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
  • RI.1.5: Know and use various text features (e.g., headings, tables of contents, glossaries, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text.
  • RI.1.6: Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text.
  • RI.1.7: Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas.

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 lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 9 and 10, in which students research and take notes on their expert birds, and Lesson 8, in which students practice the Science Talk protocol. This will afford greater opportunity to prepare for the Unit 3 Assessment. If necessary, place less focus and condense instruction on independent research sessions. Although developing this skill is critical, students' ability to write for extended periods of time will be restricted if they have not spent sufficient time working to comprehend the content knowledge and language required for the task.
  • Language Dives: Some lessons include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. The Language Dive goals remain the same as in previous modules; however, the new format goes beyond those goals by encouraging students to take more of a lead in the conversations and to build greater independence by taking an inquiry-based approach to language in general, and the selected sentence in particular. Refer to the Tools page for additional information.
  • Conversation Cues: Continue to encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goals 1-4 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. 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 on different birds. As much as possible, include students' background knowledge and experiences with birds. Particular birds might have a particular significance to some cultures. Research students' cultural references and beliefs about birds and their experiences about birds. 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 pairing 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.
  • Writing riddles: Students will write riddles about the birds they researched, using the sentence frames "This bird _______" and "The _______ (body part) helps _______ so _______." Consider providing plentiful practice, with students saying their sentence aloud for each fact they have researched. In addition, see supports throughout the lessons for helping students understand what complete English sentences are and how to form them.
  • Science Talk protocol: Students will participate in the Science Talk protocol, during which they will respond to and build on one another's ideas. Provide additional practice with using the prompts from the Science Talk protocol so students are comfortable using them during the assessment. Strategically model and think aloud using the prompts with students throughout the unit.
  • Rereading independently to research and take notes: Students will participate in a series of independent rereading sessions during group research. Use illustrations and visual information as much as possible to support student comprehension.
  • 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
Little Kids First Big Book of Birds
by Catherine Hughes
One per pair
ISBN: 9781426324321

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 8: Materials for making puppets: sticks to tape puppets onto, colored tissue or construction paper, colored feathers, glue, markers or colored pencils.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Drawings - Students draw online: Students can draw their responses online rather than on paper to share on classroom blogs or websites with families.
  • Seesaw - Create student learning portfolios to share with other students, families: Video/audio record students at play to share with families and other students.
  • Cornell Ornithology - Additional research: Students view pictures of birds for additional research (whole group, small group, or independent


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 in their native language about birds.


  • Invite local ornithologists or zoologists to visit the classroom.
  • Contact and invite local bird-watching groups to discuss local birds with the students.


  • Take the class to a local park to observe birds in their habitat.
  • Take the class to a zoo to learn more about birds around the world.


  • Create and set up bird feeders in places around the community (e.g., nursing homes).


  • Consider doing a deeper dive of ducks and incorporating eggs and an incubator in the classroom to study.

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