Reading and Writing Narratives: Poems and Pourquoi Tales about Frogs | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G3:M2:U1

Reading and Writing Narratives: Poems and Pourquoi Tales about Frogs

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Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle

Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle, one of the required trade books for Grade 3, Module 2, is only available from select sources in an edition reprinted for use with our curriculum. Please visit our How to Order page for information on contacting our partners, Open Up Resources or LearnZillion.

In Unit 1, students begin their study of frogs by working with a series of short, engaging poems. These poems are used as a springboard for the unit, piquing student curiosity about frogs and raising questions about these unusual creatures. For each poem, the class develops one or more questions that begin with "why." These "why" questions will be used as the base for two different types of writing throughout the module. In Unit 1, students also study pourquoi tales and write narratives to answer the questions they raised. They will revisit these questions in Unit 2 when they study informational writing about frogs.

The first half of the unit focuses on reading and analyzing poetry and pourquoi tales. Students closely read poems about frogs with a focus on vocabulary, structure of poetry, and reading fluency. They also read and analyze pourquoi tales and plan and draft a pourquoi tale answering the question "Why do polliwogs wiggle?" as a class. For a mid-unit assessment, students will demonstrate their reading skills through reading a new poem about frogs and a new pourquoi story.

In the second half of the unit, students will apply what they have learned about narrative writing to plan and draft their own pourquoi stories. They focus on the components of narrative writing: a beginning that establishes the character and situation, a middle that introduces a problem and the characters' response to the problem, and an ending that resolves the problem. Students will revise and edit their stories for word choice, including comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs, and publish their stories to be included in their Freaky Frog books as part of the final performance task. In the End of Unit 1 Assessment, students write a new pourquoi tale that answers one of the "why" questions that arose from the first half of the unit. Unit 1 culminates in a Frog Festival.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How does an author engage the reader in a narrative?
  • An effective narrative has a beginning that establishes the character and situation, a middle that introduces a problem with character response, and an ending that resolves the problem.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Frogs
  • Task: Students read a new poem and pourquoi tale and answer selected response questions about them (mid-unit assessment). Students read aloud their pourquoi tale and write a new pourquoi tale explaining why frogs have certain physical adaptations or behave in a certain way (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RL.3.2, RL.3.4, RL.3.5, RL.3.10, RF.3.3, RF.3.4a, RF.3.4b, RF.3.4c, W.3.3, W.3.4, W.3.10, L.3.1g, L.3.3a, L.3.4, L.3.6
  • Text: Pourquoi tales and frog poems


Each unit in the 3-5 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. 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 literacy block. But the module intentionally incorporates Science content that may align to additional teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Science (based on NGSS) or NGSS:
Note: Also consider using EL Education Grade 3 Life Science Module, a separate resource that includes approximately 24 hours of science instruction. This life science module explicitly addresses third-grade NGSS life science standards and naturally extends the learning from this ELA module.

Next Generation Science Standards

Life Science Performance Expectation:

  • 3-LS3-2: Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
    • LS3.A: Inheritance of Traits: Other characteristics result from individuals' interactions with the environment, which can range from diet to learning. Many characteristics involve both inheritance and environment.
    • LS3.B: The environment also affects the traits that an organism develops.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

In this unit, students work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service). Throughout the unit, they practice applying their learning and using their strengths to help others in the class during whole group writing and also peer critiques. Students also work to become effective learners, developing the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration). Throughout the unit they practice collaboration as they work in pairs to read texts and to critique work.


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 texts is the heart of literacy instruction. Comprehension is taught, reinforced, and assessed across both components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy block. Refer to the 3M2 Module Overview for additional information.

In this unit, students continue to follow the independent reading routines set up in Module 1. They select new texts based on the new topic for the module, read them independently for homework and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lessons for accountability.

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: To prepare for the Unit 1 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 3-6 and 8-10, which build the routine of reading, close reading, Language Dives, analyzing poetry and pourquoi tales, reading fluently, asking questions, and planning and drafting using conventional narrative structure. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1, 2, 11, and 14, which provide helpful background, practice, repetition, and celebration, but don't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lessons 3 and 6, supporting students in the meaning and purpose of "The Poison Dart Frogs" and "The Glass Frog." Students will apply their understanding of the structures of these Language Dives when completing their poetry analysis during the mid-unit assessment in Lesson 7. Many lessons also include optional Mini Language Dives for ELLs. To maximize language practice and accommodate time, consider dividing or reviewing each Language Dive over multiple lessons. Beginning in module 2 and going forward, create a "Language Chunk Wall"--an area in the classroom where students can display and categorize the academic phrases discussed in the Language Dive. At the end of each Language Dive, students are invited to place the Language Dive sentence strip chunks on the Language Chunk Wall into corresponding categories, such as "Nouns and noun phrases" or "Linking language." Consider color-coding each category. Examples: blue for nouns and subjects; purple for pronouns; red for predicates and verbs; yellow for adjectives; and green for adverbs. See each Language Dive for suggested categories. Students can then refer to the wall during subsequent speaking and writing tasks. For more information on Language Dives, see the Tools page.
  • Goals 1 and 2 Conversation Cues: Continue to encourage productive and equitable conversation using Goals 1 and 2 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). See the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Heightened language processing and development is a primary potential benefit for ELLs.
  • Diversity and inclusion: This unit introduces frogs, a topic students will work with throughout the module. Take time to draw out students' prior experiences and associations with frogs. Some students may have ties to or experience with South America, the origin of several frogs considered during the module. Students are expected to analyze the structure of a pourquoi narrative and eventually create their own. Students should have an opportunity to share stories and folktales from their home cultures to activate their schema and celebrate their backgrounds. Research and share multicultural books and stories to deepen their understanding and appreciation of the genre. For some, the narrative structure may be unfamiliar. Throughout the unit, check for comprehension of this text structure and reteach using varied modalities. For example, allow students to act out and sketch representations of narratives. 
  • Superlatives: In Lessons 11 and 12, students work with comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs. This will be beneficial for ELLs, but it will also be more difficult for them, as some may not grasp the structure intuitively like a native speaker might. To support ELLs, draw attention explicitly to patterns in using comparative and superlative adverbs and adjectives. Give students additional opportunities to use this structure. See lesson-level suggestions for more details.
  • Genre comparison: Students will closely read poetry during the unit and, sometimes during the same lesson, they will also continue to study narrative structure. Make sure students are clear about the differences in language and purpose between the two genres. 
  • 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
Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle
by Deborah Dennard
1 per student
ISBN: 9781607270690
Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs: Poems and Paintings
by Douglas Florian
1 per class
ISBN: 9780152052485

Preparation and Materials

Vocabulary Log
Students began a vocabulary log in Module 1 to collect new academic and domain-specific vocabulary. They can continue to use the same vocabulary book for this module if they have pages left; however, they will need to start a new section for the domain-specific vocabulary from this module at the back of their vocabulary log. This could be done using flags or sticky tabs for each module. Consider organizing both academic and domain-specific vocabulary. An example of a vocabulary log can be found in this unit's supporting materials.

  • Gather the following materials from Module 1 for use in this unit:
    • Close Readers Do These Things anchor chart
    • Working to Become Effective Learners anchor chart
    • Working to Become Ethical People anchor chart
    • Vocabulary logs
    • Academic Word Wall
    • Affix list
    • Tracking Progress folders
    • Fluent Readers Do These Things anchor chart (double check that this was used in M1)
    • Strategies to Answer Selected Response Questions anchor chart
  • Note that the Working to Contribute to a Better World anchor chart and Parts of Speech anchor chart are introduced in this unit and will be referenced throughout the module and school year.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Docs - Create collaborative online word-processing docs and spreadsheets in folders: Consider creating the Freaky Frog research notebook in Google Docs for students to complete online. To do this, create a master Freaky Frog folder, and within that a folder for each student. Convert the pages of the Freaky Frog research notebook into either a single Google Doc or multiple docs (one for each page of the notebook) and copy these into each student folder.

  • Seesaw - Create student learning portfolios to share with other students, families: Consider audio/video recording students reading their pourquoi tales to share with families.

  • Frogs - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about frogs (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).

    • 'Frogs'. Exploratorium. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016. 
  • Frog and Toad - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about frogs (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).
    • 'Frog and Toad'. San Diego Zoo. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016.
  • Frog - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about frogs (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).
    • 'Frog'. A-Z Animals. Web Accessed on 24 May 2016.
  • Frogs: A Chorus of Colors - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about frogs (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).

    • 'Frogs: A Chorus of Colors'. American Museum of Natural History. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016.
  • Reptiles and Amphibians - Additional reading and research: Students read and research to learn more about frogs (independent reading time, pair/small group work, whole class).

    • 'Reptiles and Amphibians'. Smithsonian National Zoological Park. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016.
  • Frog Calls - Additional research: Students listen to the different sounds that frogs make.

    • 'Frog Calls'. Animal Diversity Web. Web. Accessed on 24 May, 2016. 

Additional Language and Literacy Block

The Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block is 1 hour of instruction per day. It is designed to work in concert with and in addition to the 1-hour Grades 3-5 ELA "module lessons." Taken together, these 2 hours of instruction comprehensively address all the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

The ALL Block has five components: Additional Work with Complex Text; Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM (Grammar, Usage, and Mechanics); Writing Practice; Word Study and Vocabulary; and Independent Reading.

The ALL Block has three 2-week units which parallel to the three units of the module.

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 the narratives and poems students are reading, and about the freaky frogs students are researching.


  • Have a storyteller, poet, and/or author of fictional narratives come in to speak to the students about their craft.
  • Have a wildlife expert come in to talk to the students about local amphibians, frogs, and their life cycles.
  • Have a professional writer visit the class to discuss the writing process. Ask the writer to share how he or she researches topics to write about.


  • Visit a local wildlife preserve to see tadpoles and frogs in the wild.
  • Visit a local zoo or nature center exhibit on amphibians and to observe the frogs students are learning about for additional research to inform writing.


  • Reach out to amphibian conservation organizations or poetry/narrative organizations to share student work for possible use in their publications.
  • Share Freaky Frog books and trading cards with the local zoo; perhaps the zoo can display them or use them for classes.


  • Allow students to write pourquoi tales about more than one "why" question or about animals other than frogs.
  • Encourage students to write their own poems about the frogs they are learning about.
  • Research countries inhabited by the freaky frogs studied. Locate countries on a map where certain frogs live.
  • Have students add additional writing pieces from the module to their books.
  • Have students read aloud or share their books with students in other grades.

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