Building Background Knowledge: Learning about Plants | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G2:M3:U1

Building Background Knowledge: Learning about Plants

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Unit 1 launches the research focus for Module 3 as students are introduced to the unit guiding question, How do plants grow and survive? Students begin the unit by engaging in activities that provoke wonder and curiosity about how we get the flowers, fruits, and vegetables that we enjoy. This leads students to learn more about plants, and the connection between seeds, plants, flowers, and fruits.

In the first part of the unit, students engage in a focused read of Seed to Plants (National Geographic) by Kristin Baird Rattini and a focused read-aloud of Plant Secrets by Emily Goodman. Through these reading experiences--coupled with hands-on activities and writing tasks--students develop an understanding of seeds and plants.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do we get the fruits, flowers, and vegetables that we enjoy?
  • Plants have various stages of development, including seed, plant, flower, and fruit.
  • How do plants grow and survive?
  • Plants need light and water to grow.
  • Scientists use models to explain an idea or describe relationships.
  • Readers use multiple strategies to learn more about a topic from informational texts.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Plant growth and survival
  • Task: Responding to text through selected response and short answer questions
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed):RI.2.1, RI.2.2, RI.2.3, RI.2.4, RI.2.5, RI.2.6, RI.2.7, L.2.4e, SL.2.1
  • Text: Seed to Plant (National Geographic)


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 second 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):

  • 2-LS2-1
  • 2-LS2-2
  • 2-LS2-2
  • 2-LS2-2

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to EL Education's curriculum is a focus on"habits of characte"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 with empathy and work to become effective learners by taking initiative and responsibility for their work, actions, and space. Throughout Unit 1, students practice taking responsibility as they engage in reading and conversations with peers about plant growth and survival.


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 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:

  • RI.2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
  • RI.2.2: Identify the main topic of a multi-paragraph text as well as the focus of specific paragraphs within the text.
  • RI.2.3: Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
  • RI.2.4: Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 2 topic or subject area.
  • RI.2.5: Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently.
  • RI.2.6: Identify the main purpose of a text, including what the author wants to answer, explain, or describe.
  • RI.2.7: Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text

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.

  • New: ELL supports now labeled and condensed. Beginning in Module 3, ELL supports within the Meeting Students' Needs column are labeled and explained in detail the first time they are used. Supports repeated in subsequent lessons are also labeled but condensed for easier reading, and at times adjusted to provide lighter support. Attend to the detailed supports and labels early in the module to more easily apply them as the curriculum progresses. Note that a number of the supports may seem familiar, as they have been suggested repeatedly in Modules 1-2.
  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-5 to provide additional modeling and practice with the cognitive process of reading for information, and to prepare for the assessment in Lesson 6. Be sure to complete the Language Dives in Lessons 2, 3, 7, and 8. Consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 9 and 10, though be sure to complete the Language Dive in Lesson 9. Though participating in the Science Talk protocol is still extremely valuable, students will have additional opportunities to read about and discuss seed dispersal in Unit 2.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lesson 8, and ELLs can participate in optional Language Dives in Lessons 2, 3, 7, and 9. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in unlocking the meaning of sentences from Plant Secrets, Seed to Plant (National Geographic), and From Seed to Plant. Many lessons also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. Be aware that in Modules 3 and 4, Language Dive goals remain the same: to empower students to analyze, understand, and use the language of academic sentences; however,beginning in this unit, and continuing throughout Modules 3 and 4, the Language Dive Guide and the Mini Language Dive formats have been modified. The modified format follows the Deconstruct-Reconstruct-Practice routine, which should seem familiar as a general process (see the Tools page). Additionally, beyond the teacher-led questions and answers as in Modules 1 and 2, there are suggested language goals that students should try to understand and apply for each chunk. Thus, this modified format goes beyond teacher-led questioning. It attempts to encourage students to take more of the lead in the conversation and build greater independence by taking an inquiry based approach to language in general, and the selected sentence in particular. Although students should briefly discuss all chunks in each Language Dive sentence, the new format invites them to slow down during one chunk, called the focus structure, to investigate and practice a particularly compelling language structure. For more context, consider reviewing the Language Dive Guide in Lessons 2, 7, 8, and 9 of this unit, as well as a range of questions students might ask one another in Questions We Can Ask During a Language Dive on the Tools page
  • Goal 4 Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goal 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 see the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 4 Conversation Cues are introduced in 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 an informational text taking place across different cultures and countries. Discuss experiences and knowledge students may have with different types of plants, flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Consider inviting students to discuss flowers, fruits, and vegetables with their families and to bring something significant from home to share. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Focused reading and identifying information: Students will participate in a series of focused reading sessions during which they will use text features and graphic organizers to identify information about flowers, fruits, seeds, and plants. While this skill will be heavily scaffolded, provide additional opportunities to practice and think aloud the cognitive process of reading for information. Use explicit visuals as much as possible on class anchor charts. For example, whendiscussing text features, refer to photo copies of a familiar text with its text features highlighted or color-coded.
  • Plants and Pollinators research notebook and Science Talk protocol: Throughout the unit, students will take notes in their Plants and Pollinators research notebook, which they will use during a Science Talk protocol to share their learning with peers. Allow students to work in partners if they become frustrated while recording their notes. For heavier support, provide sentence frames or partially filled-in copies of selected pages of their Plants and Pollinators research notebook. As students prepare for the Science Talk protocol and collect notes, support them in navigating the abundance of resources accumulated throughout the unit so they can successfully synthesize their learning.
  • 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
Seed to Plant
by Kristin Baird Rattini
One per student
ISBN: 9781426314704
Plant Secrets
by Emily Goodman
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781580892056
From Seed to Plant
by Gail Gibbons
One per pair
ISBN: 9780823410255

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: mystery bag with real plant parts (e.g., seeds, plants, flowers, fruits)
  • Lesson 4: four plants to use for observational drawings
  • Lesson 7: materials for building a flower model (yarn, drinking straws, construction paper, tissue paper, glue, etc.)
  • Lesson 8: materials for Volley for Vocabulary protocol (seven to eight words from the Plants and Pollinators Word Wall, written on separate index cards and taped to a beach ball)
  • Lesson 10: popsicle sticks (two per student)

Technology and Multimedia

  • YouTube - Introducing the concept: Students watch a video showing the process of seed germination. Students watch a video to learn about seed dispersal.
  • PBS Learning Media - Engaging Students: Students watch this video to learn about pollination.
  • Google Docs - Create shared writing in online format: Students' shared writing piece about pollination is recorded in a google document, which can be viewed by students' families.
  • SeeSaw - Record whole class singing: Students are recorded while singing "It's Pollination Time!"and this song is uploaded so it can be shared with students' families.
  • Document Camera - Modeling: Students watch as the teacher models closely observing photographs of bees. Students view a model of high quality work closely.
  • - Engaging students; showing a model: Students watch a video to see the pollination process up close.Students watch a video showing a student presenter who models good presentation skills.
  • Kids Doodle - Drawing: Students can draw their scientific drawing using this app.
  • Vimeo - Modeling: Students watch a video that shows a student using a poster board during her presentation.
  • Video recording device - Recording: Students' presentations can be recorded to use as models for future 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


  • Involve the help of any family members who are avid gardeners. Invite them to visit the classroom and share their experiences growing various fruits, flowers, or vegetables.
  • If the school has a community garden, invite the students who helped to create it and/or care for it to visit the classroom and share their experiences.


  • Invite a gardener, botanist, or entomologist to visit the classroom and share their knowledge about plants and pollinators.


  • Take the class to a local community garden and invite students to share what they notice and wonder about the plants there. Invite students to look closely to observe any pollinators in the garden.
  • Take the class to a farmer's market or supermarket.


  • Contact the school groundskeeper/landscaper and invite students to help with the watering and care of plants around the school grounds.
  • Visit and share plant drawings with residents of an elderly community.


  • Plant bean seeds and care for them until they grow into plan

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