Pollinator Characters Who Work Hard to Help Others | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G2:M4:U1

Pollinator Characters Who Work Hard to Help Others

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In the first unit of this module, students explore folktales and fables in which pollinators are the central characters. They follow a predictable routine as they work with these texts in order to make progress toward RL.2.1, RL.2.2, RL.2.3, RL.2.4, RL.2.6, and RL.2.9: Students engage in a close read-aloud of The Little Hummingbird. This helps them 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, recount the story using key details, determine its central message, and finally write a paragraph about the central message. As they analyze each text, students also consider habits of character that help the fictional characters contribute to a better world by responding to challenges.

The song "We Do What We Can" is used throughout the unit and allows students to explore how rhythm, repetition, and prefixes provide meaning in texts, while also allowing students to consider how to contribute to a better world (RL.2.4, L.2.4b).

To continue to build their understanding of fables, students paint a watercolor scene from the text "Bunnyyarl the Flies and Wurrunnunnah the Bees," an Australian Aboriginal tale. Small groups collaborate to create a videobook of the text read aloud, using the watercolor scenes as visuals in their videobook (SL.2.5).  The Unit 1 Assessment requires students to read and recount key details from the fable "The Ants and the Grasshopper," write a paragraph about its central message, and compare this text to another familiar version of the same fable, "Bunnyyarl the Flies and Wurrunnunnah the Bees."

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • What does it mean to make the world a better place?
  • Characters in folktales and fables can make the world a better place.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Pollinator characters in folktales and fables
  • Task: Reading folktales and fables and recounting the story elements; determining the central message based on the character's response to challenges
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RL.2.1, RL.2.2, RL.2.3, RL2.6, RL.2.9, SL.2.2, SL.2.5
  • Text: The Little Hummingbird, The Lizard and the Sun, "The Ants and the Grasshopper," "Bunnyyarl the Flies and Wurrunnunnah the Bees," The Ant and the Grasshopper


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 and social studies 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.)

NGSS Science Standards:

  • 2-LS2-2: Plants depend on animals for pollination or to move their seeds around.

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.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 care of shared spaces. Throughout Unit 1, students reflect on the actions taken by story characters to make their worlds a better place as students reflect on the unit guiding question.


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: module lessons, 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.2.1: Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text.
    • Invite students to identify the story elements in a narrative text (e.g. characters, setting, problem/challenge, response to problem/challenge).
  • RL.2.2. Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.
    • After reading a story, invite students to recount it by retelling the important parts.
    • After reading a folktale or fable, ask:
      • "What is the central message of this story?"
  • RL.2.3: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.
    • Invite students to describe the main problem/challenge in a story, and how the main character solved the problem/challenge.
  • RL.2.4: Describe how words and phrases (e.g., regular beats, alliteration, rhymes, repeated lines) supply rhythm and meaning in a story, poem, or song.
    • Read stories, poems, and songs with repeated lines. Invite students to identify the repeated lines. Ask:
      • "Why is this line important? What does it teach us about the meaning of this story, poem, or song?"
  • RL.2.6: Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud.
    • Invite students to use different voices for each character in a story when reading it aloud.
    • Invite students to read aloud a story with a partner, using different voices for the different characters.
  • RL.2.9: Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
    • Provide various versions of the same story for students to read independently. After reading, encourage students to discuss:
      • "What is similar about the two versions of this story? What is different?"

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs sections in each lesson contain 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 Meeting Students' Needs.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lesson 10, as students may need additional practice comparing and contrasting before they are ready to do so on the Unit 1 Assessment. Be sure to complete the Language Dives in Lessons 1 and 10. Consider placing less focus and condensing instruction on watercolor painting in Work Times C of Lessons 6-9.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in Language Dives in Lessons 1 and 10. Many lessons also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from different fables and folktales and from key learning targets. See the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goal 1-4 Conversation Cues (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). See 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 fables and folktales from diverse cultures. Invite students to share folktales shared in their families or among their cultures. Note that the text The Lizard and the Sun is a dual-language edition and includes an interpretation of the story in Spanish. Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate this with students. Invite students who know Spanish to share their unique knowledge of this text with the class. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Reading folktales and fables: Students read fables and folktales to recount them using story elements. Students use graphic organizers to record their thinking about story elements and the central message of each fable or folktale. Students may have trouble keeping track of the many different literary terms used to discuss the stories, such as key details, story elements, and central message. Rephrase these ideas frequently and invite students to rephrase them and to offer examples to check for comprehension. As students orally recount stories, invite them to use sequential linking words such as first, next, and last. Students may also benefit from using kinesthetic means of recounting stories such as recounting using their fingers. See lessons for additional details.
  • Central message paragraphs: Students independently write paragraphs to convey the central message of each fable or folktale. Some students may need additional models to remember and apply their knowledge of informational paragraph structure. Consider color-coding paragraphs according to the instruction on informational paragraphs in Module 2. Students who need heavier support may benefit from being provided sentence frames as they write. They may also benefit from completing some of the paragraphs in small groups with a teacher as shared writing experiences.
  • 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
The Little Hummingbird
by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9781553655336
The Ant and the Grasshopper
by Diane Marwood
One per student
ISBN: 9780778779018
The Lizard and the Sun
by Alma Flor Ada
One per classroom
ISBN: 9780440415312

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 6: Watercoloring supplies: paintbrush (one per student), cup of water (one or two per table group), palette (one per student), paper (blank; 8" x 5"; two or three sheets per student)
  • Lesson 7: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 6 above)
  • Lesson 8: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 6 above)
  • Lesson 9: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 6 above)
  • Lesson 11: Video recording device (one per class)
  • Lesson 12: Video recording device (one per class)

Technology and Multimedia

  • YouTube - Additional research: Students view Amanda's video to to learn more about her family's trip to see the monarchs. 
  • Word-Processing Tool - Type wildflower seed packet writing piece: Students use a word-processing tool to type their wildflower seed packet writing piece. 
  • Google Docs - Students view writing and revising process online: Students view the Celebration of Learning welcome letter in an online format, and help write and revise it. 
  • Butterflies and Moths website - Localizing the performance task: Students find images of local butterflies to use when creating their wildflower seed packet butterfly drawing. 
  • Video Device (e.g. laptop, interactive white board, or smartphone) - Show videobooks during the end-of-module Celebration of Learning: Students invite guests to view "Bunnyyarl the Flies and Wurrunnunnah the Bees" videobooks from Unit 1 using a device with video capabilities.


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


  • Invite school community members or families to share their experiences with gardening/growing plants that attract pollinators.


  • Invite a gardener, groundskeeper, or entomologist to visit the class and teach about local wildflower/butterflies.
  • Invite students from the upper grades to come and talk about how they liked to play when they were in second grade and how they learned to share.


  • Take small groups of students to search for local wildflowers and butterflies in gardens or natural areas surrounding the school.
  • Take the class to a school or local butterfly garden or nature park/preserve to learn about local wildflowers and butterflies.


  • Invite students to read grade-level folktales or fable to a younger group of students.


  • Choose a local butterfly to have students draw for the performance task (a wildflower seed packet).
  • Plant a butterfly garden near the school. Invite another class of students (younger or older) to help plant wildflower seeds. 

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