Analyzing Literature: Stories of Bird Helpers | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:M4:U1

Analyzing Literature: Stories of Bird Helpers

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This unit opens with a letter from an ornithologist celebrating students' learning about birds in Module 3 and presenting the unit guiding question: "How do characters in stories help care for birds?" In this unit, students read a variety of texts about characters who help birds, including The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc, Pierre the Penguin by Jean Marzollo, and Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon by Christie Gove-Berg. Students engage in a close read-aloud of The Lion and the Bird. This helps to build the skills they will need for comparing texts during this unit. Then, as students engage in a series of focused read-alouds, they participate in the Role-Play protocol to help internalize the stories and their characters and make better sense of them. The Stories of Bird Helpers anchor chart uses icons to track the experiences of the central characters in each text. This helps students see similarities and differences between the experiences and characters in each story. Through structured discussions and writing in response to text, students compare and contrast the birds' experiences to find similarities and differences between them using evidence from the texts to support their conclusions. For the Unit 1 Assessment, students compare and contrast the experiences of the characters in Pierre the Penguin and Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon. Also central to this unit is students' work with the habits of character of compassion and respect. During the Closing of most lessons, students unpack these terms, find examples in the texts they are reading, and look for evidence of them in their own work and classroom.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why should we care about birds?
  • Sometimes birds get into trouble and need help.
  • How do characters in stories help care for birds?
  • There are specific things characters do to help birds live and grow.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Stories of bird helpers
  • Task: Comparing and Contrasting Pierre the Penguin and Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RL.1.1, RL.1.3, RL.1.9
  • Texts: The Lion and the Bird, Pierre the Penguin, Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon


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 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 or science standards during other parts of the school day.)

C3 Framework for Social Studies:

  • D2.Civ.2.K-2: Explain how all people, not just official leaders, play important roles in a community.
  • D2.Civ.9.K-2: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions while responding attentively to others when addressing ideas and making decisions as a group.
  • D2.Civ.10.K-2: Compare their own point of view with others' perspectives.

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 by treating others well. Throughout Unit 1, students think about how characters in the stories they read show respect and compassion. They practice acting and reflecting on those same character habits in their own interactions with peers.


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 Literacy Labs, and the Reading Foundations Skills block (see the module overview).

For Unit 1, during the independent reading in the Skills block, reinforce the comprehension skills and standards that students are practicing during the integrated Literacy block:

  • RL.1.3: Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story using details.
    • Invite the students to label pictures, highlight text, or talk about descriptive language or illustrations that describe characters and events in the text.
    • Invite students to read a bunch of pages in the text and then make a list of words to describe an experience or character.
  • RL.1.9: Compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in stories.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to explain how the illustration or details in the text relate to the key ideas in the text.
    • Create a list of characters, settings, and problems from other texts read in class. Invite students to write about how their current book is the same or different with each of these story elements.

Supporting English Language Learners

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 4-8 to support comprehension of the anchor texts, Pierre the Penguin: A True Story and Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon, and in preparation for the assessment, which involves comparing and contrasting these two texts. Consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 2-3. Students have additional opportunities to work with simple sentences throughout the unit.
  • Language Dives: ELLs are invited to participate in Language Dives in Lessons 5 and 8, and a Mini Language Dive in Lesson 1. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing and reconstructing the meaning of sentences from Lost and Found, The Lion and the Bird, Pierre the Penguin: A True Story, and Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon and practicing useful structures from these sentences in their own writing and speaking. Recall that throughout Modules 3-4, the Language Dive Guide and the Mini Language Dive formats have been changed.      The Language Dive goals remain the same as in previous modules, but the new format goes beyond those goals by encouraging students to take more of the 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.
  • 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 the anchor texts, which present stories of birds in need of help and bird helpers. Research to make sure helping birds or a bird in particular are not sensitive topics for students. Consider whether the topic or text is too uncomfortable for a student to discuss in front of the class. Invite students and their families to have private conferences or simply allow students to reflect silently. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with 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.
  • Read-aloud and identifying story elements using icons: Students participate in a series of close read-aloud sessions, during which they hone their comprehension and interpretive skills by identifying similarities and differences between characters in stories. Ensure that students understand the meaning of icons used 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
Maggie the One-Eyed Peregrine Falcon: A True Story of Rescue and Rehabilitation
by Christie Gove-Berg
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781591935162
Pierre the Penguin: A True Story
by Jean Marzollo
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781585364855
The Lion and the Bird
by Marianne Dubuc
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781592701513
Lost and Found
by Oliver Jeffers
one per classroom
ISBN: 9780399245039

Preparation and Materials

  • For basic lesson preparation, refer to the materials list and Teaching Notes in each lesson.
  • Lesson 1: Bird Word Wall word: ornithologist

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.


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 caring for birds.


  • Invite wildlife rehabilitation experts into the classroom to talk to students about caring for animals.
  • Invite local bird experts to join students in the classroom while producing their Feathered Friends Saver.
  • Consider involving the art teacher or local artists to add additional techniques to the final draft of the scientific drawing portion of the Feathered Friends Saver.


  • Travel to a local library or science center to research which local birds to draw for the Feathered Friends Savers.
  • Travel to a local library or science center to research specific problems local birds encounter.


  • Create pamphlets using the research on ways to help birds and pass them out at local functions or organizations.
  • Make multiple copies of students' Feathered Friends Savers and mail to another school or local organization.
  • Invite students to design activities to help teach younger students about sharing opinions respectfully.


  • Consider offering opportunities for the class to act on other ways to help birds mentioned in the text A Place for Birds.
  • Invite students to write letters to Olivia Bouler, author of Olivia's Birds: Saving the Gulf, to tell her how her work inspired them as bird advocates.

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