Supporting Opinions: The Story of Pale Male | EL Education Curriculum

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In Unit 2, students learn about the story of Pale Male; a red-tailed hawk that made his home on the side of an apartment building in New York City. A new letter from an ornithologist asks students to consider the unit guiding question--"Why do people have different opinions about birds?"--as they explore the many opinions involved with Pale Male's nest. The first text, City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male by Meghan McCarthy, explains the story of Pale Male and his mate, Lola, and how they built their nest in New York City. Students then learn about the different opinions surrounding Pale Male when they read the informational text "What's Best? The Debate about Pale Male's Nest" by EL Education. Students practice finding reasons to support each opinion before engaging in opinion writing. Students participate in structured discussions, as well as shared and independent writing experiences about the opinions regarding Pale Male's nest. For the Unit 2 Assessment, students write an evidence-based opinion piece to support the opinion that it's best to take the nest down (W.1.1, W.1.7, W.1.8, L.1.1, L.1.1a, L.1.1b, L.1.1d, L.1.1g, L.1.2, L.1.2a, L.1.2b, L.1.2e, and L.1.6). Students extend their learning of habits of character from Unit 1 to include two additional ones--empathy and respect--which are central to respectfully listening to, responding to, and sharing opinions.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why should we care about birds?
  • Birds impact our lives.
  • Why do people have different opinions about birds?
  • People have different reasons for their opinions about birds.
  • Birds affect people in different ways.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: The story of Pale Male
  • Task: Opinion Writing: Take the Nest Down!
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): W.1.1, W.1.7, W.1.8, L.1.1, L.1.1a, L.1.1b, L.1.1d, L.1.1g, L.1.2, L.1.2a, L.1.2b, L.1.2e, and L.1.6
  • Texts: City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male, "What's Best? The Debate about Pale Male's Nest"


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 unit, students work to become ethical people by treating others well. Throughout Unit 2, students practice respectful and empathetic behavior as they engage in kindly listening to, responding to, and sharing opinions.


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

  • RI.1.2: Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
    • Invite students to underline, highlight, or mark important facts in the text.
    • Invite students to complete a brainstorm web with the main idea of the text in the middle and facts from the text on the surrounding lines.
  • RI.1.4: Ask and answer questions to help determine or clarify the meaning of words and phrases in a text.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to restate a word's meaning in their own words.
    • Invite students to keep their own "Word Wall" of words in an ongoing list in a notebook.

Supporting English Language Learners

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 3-8 to support comprehension of the anchor text "What's Best? The Debate about Pale Male's Nest" and in preparation for the assessment, which involves using reasons to support opinions about Pale Male's nest. Consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1-2. Students have additional opportunities to work with determiners and build background knowledge throughout the unit.
  • Language Dives: ELLs are invited to participate in Language Dives in Lessons 3 and 5. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing and reconstructing the meaning of sentences from "What's Best? The Debate about Pale Male's Nest" 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.
  • Jazz chants: Provide opportunities for natural and enjoyable repetition of language structures and determiners with the jazz chant "Both Sides of the Story." The main feature of a jazz chant, as opposed to poetry, is that there is no poetic license or artificial change to the stress and intonation patterns of natural speech. A jazz chant helps develop fluency and natural speed in speaking "chunks" of language while improving pronunciation in a non-threatening way. Jazz chants were created by Carolyn Graham while teaching ESL at New York University by day and working as a singer and piano player at night. She developed the idea of connecting the natural rhythms of spoken English with the rhythms of traditional jazz music to help her students develop speaking skills. For more information, refer to: Carolyn Graham (March 1979). Jazz Chants for Children. USA: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 978-0-195-02496-8.
  • Pale Male research notebook: Throughout the unit, students take notes in their Pale Male research notebook as they explore different opinions people have about Pale Male's nest. They also use their research notebook to plan and write their opinion piece. Allow students to work in pairs if they become frustrated while recording their notes. For heavier support, provide sentence frames or partially filled-in copies of selected pages of their Pale Male research notebook.
  • 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 different opinions people have about what should happen to Pale Male's nest. Ensure that students understand the meaning of the 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
City Hawk: The Story of Pale Male
by Meghan McCarthy
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781416933595

Preparation and Materials

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

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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