Building Background Knowledge: Frogs and the Research Process | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G3:M2:U2

Building Background Knowledge: Frogs and the Research Process

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In Unit 2, students will build their ability to read and understand informational text and begin to build their knowledge of frogs through closely reading excerpts of the informational text Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures. Students will use the information gained in reading these excerpts to help them write answers to the questions generated in Unit 1 after reading poems and narratives about frogs. For a mid-unit assessment, students will demonstrate their reading skills through reading a new text about reptiles and amphibians, and they will gather information to answer a research question.

In the second half of the unit, students will continue with the same central text and build their knowledge by studying three "freaky frogs" that have specific adaptations according to where they live: the glass frog, the Amazon horned frog, and the water-holding frog. They will read about these frogs to answer this question in an informative paragraph: How does where a frog lives affect how it looks and/or acts? In the End of Unit 2 Assessment, students read another excerpt of text about the poison dart frog, gather information to answer a research question, and write an on-demand informative paragraph to answer the question.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do experts build knowledge and share expertise about a topic?
  • Experts build knowledge by studying a topic in depth.
  • Experts share information through writing and speaking.
  • How do frogs survive?
  • Frogs have unique adaptations that help them to survive in various environments.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Students begin to build background knowledge about frogs. They learn about different frogs and how where a frog lives affects how it looks and/or acts.
  • Task: Students read a new informational text and answer selected response questions about it (mid-unit assessment). Students read a new informational text, answer selected response questions about it, and use it to write an informative paragraph (end of unit assessment).
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RI.3.1, RI.3.3, RI.3.4, RI.3.5, RI.3.7, RI.3.8, W.3.2, W.3.7, W.3.8, L.3.1d,e, L.3.4
  • Text: Selections from Everything You Need to Know about Frogs and Other Slippery Creatures.


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

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 contribute to a better world, applying their learning and using their strengths to help others in the class during whole group writing and peer critiques. Students also work to become effective learners, collaborating 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 5M3 Module Overview for additional information.

In this unit, students continue to read research texts independently for homework, and engage in frequent research reading shares during the module lesson 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 2 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 2-4, 8, and 10 which build the routine of reading, close reading, asking and answering research questions, and writing an informative paragraph. Be sure to complete the Language Dives in Lessons 2 and 5. If necessary, consider placing less focus and condensing instruction in Lessons 1, 5, 6, 9, and 11, which provide valuable background, practice, and repetition, but don't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lessons 2 and 5. 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.
  • Goal 3 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). See the Tools page for the complete set of cues. Goal 3 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.
  • Language Processing: Give ELLs sufficient time to think about what they want to say before they share with other students or write.
  • Kinesthetic and visuals: Use movement, manipulatives, sketching, and photographs to provide heavier support to ELLs working to understand complex text or classroom instruction, especially during lengthier Close Reads or Read Alouds.
  • Writing: The conventional writing process and five-sentence paragraph structure will be unfamiliar and challenging for some ELLs. Question what you think students know. Provide additional writing models and think-alouds. Prioritize error correction, focusing on errors that make writing incomprehensible, errors that disturb proficient speakers, errors that the student identifies, and frequent errors.
  • Verb tenses: All students receive explicit instruction in forming the present, past, and future of regular and irregular verbs. ELLs will benefit both from a metalinguistic approach that helps them identify parts of speech and explain the English verb system and a communicative approach that allows them to test this knowledge during authentic conversations.
  • Celebrate: 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
Everything You Need to Know about Frogs: And Other Slippery Creatures
by DK Publishing
1 per student
ISBN: 9780756682323

Preparation and Materials

Freaky Frog research notebook
In Lessons 1-11, students will use a Freaky Frog research notebook to record notes and observations about frogs. This journal will be referenced and used in Unit 3 as students write the informational piece and Freaky Frog trading card for the final performance task.

Before Lesson 1, this journal should be prepared for students and will be used in each subsequent lesson of the unit. Consider preparing the Freaky Frog research notebook as a copied and stapled packet. In addition, consider providing students with a research folder for use throughout the module. This will help them keep their materials (research notebook, texts, writing) organized and in one place.

Each lesson contains examples of completed pages of the Freaky Frog research notebook for teacher reference.

  • Gather the following materials from previous modules 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
    • Discussion Norms anchor chart
    • Vocabulary logs
    • Academic Word Wall
    • World map
    • Affix list
    • Tracking Progress folders
    • Strategies to Answer Selected Response Questions anchor chart
    • Linking Words and Phrases handout
  • The Regular Verbs handout and the Irregular Verbs handout are introduced in this unit and will be referred to throughout the module and the 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. Wed 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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