Taking Action through Literacy and Artwork: Caring for Birds | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G1:M4:U3

Taking Action through Literacy and Artwork: Caring for Birds

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In Unit 3, students become advocates for birds after learning about the many ways birds help other living things. A new letter from the ornithologist and jazz chant incite students' active participation in caring for birds. Students spend the first part of the unit reading the beginning part of the text A Place for Birds by Melissa Stewart to learn about the problems birds face and how people can help them live and grow. Students have multiple opportunities to practice the vocabulary strategies they have learned in Units 1-Students use the information from the text to answer the unit guiding question: "How can people care for birds so they can live and grow?"

Students then read the last portion of A Place for Birds to learn how birds help plants and animals. Through this reading, students practice identifying the reasons the author gives to support the point that birds are helpful. For the Unit 3 Assessment, students read the short text "Birds as Human Helpers" to identify the reasons the author gives to support the point that birds help humans (RI.1.1, RI.1.4, RI.1.8, SL.1.2, L.1.4, L.1.4a, L.1.4b, L.1.4c).

In the second half of the unit, students dive into the process of creating their final performance task of the year: a Feathered Friends Saver. This task consists of two parts: informative writing about birds and a portrait of a local bird. For the written portion of the task, students write an informational paragraph about birds using the information they have gained in Modules 3-Students choose an adjective and facts about birds that they feel would compel others to care about birds. They plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish the informative paragraph and attach it to the art portion of the Feathered Friends Saver. For the artwork, students choose a local bird to draw for their Feathered Friends Saver and, after generating criteria, receive feedback on multiple drafts before preparing their final draft.

The final drawing serves as a Feathered Friends Saver because people can display it in a window to help deter birds from flying into it. The writing is attached to the Feathered Friends Saver artwork to be sent to a local business or community center for use. At the end of the unit, students take time to present their work and reflect on their learning about caring for birds.

Recall that EL Education believes that high-quality work is a reflection and result of the high expectations teachers have for all students. Thus, it is a means to excellence and equity. The performance task for this module allows students to create high-quality work based on their deep knowledge of birds. Using the literacy skills built throughout the school year, knowledge built in Modules 3-4, and cycles of drafting, critique, and revision, students are able to create a high-quality product that showcases their learning for the year. Unit 3 supports this work for the performance task with both the design of its lessons and the use of optional flex days.

In addition to the opportunities for critique, feedback, and revision, students are given an opportunity to present their work to an audience from outside of the classroom. Creating work for an authentic audience motivates students to meet standards and engage in revision. Through the process, they develop perseverance and realize that they can do more than they thought they could.

The purpose of the optional flex days in this unit is to allow for additional time, as needed, to support students with the use of technology, drafting of artwork, and student presentations for a high-quality end of year performance task. Refer to the unit-at-a-glance chart for additional information.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why should we care about birds?
  • Birds help many living things.
  • How can people care for birds so they live and grow?
  • People can stop doing harmful things that hurt birds.
  • People can take action to prevent birds from being harmed, such as creating Feathered Friends Savers.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Becoming bird advocates
  • Task: Identifying reasons birds help humans
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RI.1.1, RI.1.4, RI.1.8, SL.1.2, L.1.4, L.1.4a, L.1.4b, L.1.4c
  • Texts: A Place for Birds, "Birds as Human Helpers"


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 contribute to a better world by taking action to serve their community. Throughout Unit 3, students learn about the reasons to care for birds and different ways to help them. They create Feathered Friends Savers to give to local businesses or display in windows in the school to help birds.


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 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.1.4: 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 write new vocabulary words in a notebook and make marks to show the strategy that helped them define the word (example: circling the base word).
  • RI.1.8: Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
    • When conferencing with students, begin by having the student state the author's point. Invite the student to reflect on the details of each of the text's sections in order to recall an author's supporting reason.
    • Invite students to use sticky notes as they read to paraphrase an author's supporting reason in a phrase and/or icon and stick it to the page where the information is written.

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 5-11 to support comprehension of the anchor text A Place for Birds, including through Language Dives, and in preparation for the unit assessment, during which students identify the reasons the author gives to support the point that people need birds. Consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1-4, but be sure to complete the Language Dive in Lesson Students have additional opportunities to work with adjectives and build background knowledge throughout the unit.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in Language Dives in Lessons 2, 5, and These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structure of sentences from A Place for Birds. Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goals 1-4 Conversation Cues (adapted from Michaels, Sarah and O'Connor, Cathy. Talk Science Primer. Cambridge, MA: TERC, 201. 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 additional information on Conversation Cues.
  • 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.
  • Jazz chants: Provide opportunities for natural and enjoyable repetition of language structures and adjectives with the jazz chant "Fascinating Birds." 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.
  • Caring for Birds notebook: Throughout the unit, students take notes in their Caring for Birds notebook as they explore different ways people care about birds and ways birds are helpful to plants and animals. They also use their research notebook to plan and write their informational piece for the performance task. 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 Caring for Birds notebook.
  • Read-aloud and identifying author's points and reasons: Students participate in a series of close read-aloud sessions, during which they hone their comprehension and interpretive skills by identifying different ways in which people hurt birds and also ways people help birds live and grow. 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
Olivia’s Birds: Saving the Gulf
by Olivia Bouler
one per classroom
ISBN: 9781402786655
A Place for Birds
by Melissa Stewart
one per pair
ISBN: 9781561458400

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 1: N/A
  • Lesson 2: N/A
  • Lesson 3: N/A
  • Lesson 4: N/A
  • Lesson 5: N/A
  • Lesson 6: N/A
  • Lesson 7: N/A
  • Lesson 8: photographs of six local birds from your geographic area, in color if possible
  • Lesson 9: photographs of six local birds from your geographic area, in color if possible
  • Lesson 10: white cardstock to copy the final local bird drawing three times for Lessons 11 and 13
  • Lesson 11: crayons (class set; variety of colors per student)
  • Lessons 12/13: glue (class set); black cardstock/construction paper; laminator (if possible)
  • Lessons 14/15: glue (class set); black cardstock/construction paper; laminator (if possible); paper clips (class set)
  • Lessons 16/17: N/A

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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