Call to Action: Solutions to Water Issues | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA G3:M4:U3

Call to Action: Solutions to Water Issues

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In Unit 3, students use the research they have gathered throughout Units 1-2 about three water issues--access to water, demands on water, and water pollution--to create a video public service announcement (PSA). In the first half of the unit, they analyze an authentic model PSA to generate criteria for an effective PSA before choosing one of the water issues as their PSA topic. In pairs, they then write a script and create a storyboard outlining their PSA.

Students launch their PSAs for a live audience for the performance task in Lesson 13, so they write an invitational letter to a potential guest for the mid-unit assessment. Students pay particular attention to using capital letters and commas appropriately in the letter's mailing address. In the second half of the unit, students plan and create their video PSAs using technology tools for the end of unit assessment. They then prepare presentations to precede their PSAs for the PSA live launch during Lesson 13.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why are the world's freshwater sources threatened?
  • Water is a finite resource.
  • The demands on water and water pollution threaten our freshwater sources.
  • Due to rainfall, freshwater is not distributed equally around the world.
  • How do people persuade others to take action to contribute to a better world?
  • People persuade others to take action by explaining the issue with researched facts and evidence, and by providing realistic, manageable solutions in an engaging and meaningful way

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Call to Action: Solutions to Water Issues
  • Task: For the mid-unit assessment, students write an invitational letter inviting a guest to the live launch of their PSAs. For the end of unit assessment, students create a video PSA about a water issue.
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): RI.3.1, W.3.2, W.3.4, SL.3.4, SL.3.6, L.3.1c, and L.3.2b.
  • Texts: Model PSA: "How to Save Energy for School Teaching - 25SDA." (


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 of the school day. However, the module intentionally incorporates science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.

Next Generation Science Standards:

Life Science Performance Expectation:

  • 3-LS4-4
  • LS4.D

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 by 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 by taking care of and improving the environment and applying their learning to help the environment when planning and creating their PSAs.


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 both components of this curriculum: module lessons and the Additional Language and Literacy Block.

In this unit, students continue to read research texts 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 3 assessments, consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 1-4, which focus on analyzing and planning a video PSA and include a Language Dive; Lessons 5-6, which focus on planning and drafting an invitational letter and include a Language Dive; and Lesson 11, which focuses on preparing a presentation for the video PSA live launch. If necessary, consider placing less focus on and condensing instruction in Lesson 12, which provides helpful feedback for students but doesn't introduce as many new concepts.
  • Language Dives: ELLs can participate in optional Language Dives in Lessons 3, 5, and 6. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from the model PSA script and the model invitational letter. 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, 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 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 continue to explore and discuss the topics of water access, water pollution, and demands on water throughout the unit. Be sensitive to students' experiences and perspectives on these topics and foster inclusive action by creating space for students to express their feelings about these issues, while being aware that these discussions may unearth trauma or social stigma. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion.
  • Video PSAs: Students receive explicit instruction in how to create a video PSA on a water issue of their choice. They first analyze a model PSA and then receive instruction in how to plan a video PSA before creating one. Students work in pairs to support one another throughout this process. In Lesson 3, ELLs are invited to participate in an optional Language Dive that reinforces the function of adjectives in a sentence and supports students in using questions to engage their viewers to take action on a water issue. Consider inviting students to use new adjectives throughout the school day, as well as to use questioning to engage others in discussion.
  • Abstract nouns: All students receive explicit instruction in identifying and using abstract nouns, and this instruction is reinforced for ELLs in an optional two-day Language Dive in Lessons 5-6. This combined instruction benefits ELLs by preparing them for the work they do in writing their invitational letters during the module lessons and for the mid unit assessment. Support students by providing additional practice with abstract nouns whenever possible. Additionally, encourage students to identify and use abstract nouns throughout other parts of the day and unit, while adding and highlighting them in the Examples column on the Parts of Speech anchor chart.
  • Presentation structure and prompt cards: In Lessons 11-12, students build on their understanding of presentation structure from Module 3 and prepare prompt cards to use for a presentation of their PSA during a live launch. Consider taking the time to review the model presentation from Module 3, Unit 3, with students before having them create their prompt cards for this unit's presentation. In classrooms with many ELLs, work closely with groups to create their prompt cards and use color-coding to support this skill. Also, this presentation structure may be different from the structure students are familiar with in their home language. Compare and contrast home language presentation structure whenever possible.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual assets 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
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
by Rochelle Strauss
1 per student
ISBN: 9781553379546

Preparation and Materials

  • Prepare for the live PSA launch in Lesson 13, including determining guests to invite and securing a venue with the technological capabilities to present videos.
  • Prepare the technology tools necessary for students to work in pairs to explore the possibilities in creating a video PSA in Lesson 4 and to actually create video PSAs in Lessons 8-10.
  • Consider enlisting a technology teacher to support work on the PSA in Lesson 4 and Lessons 8-10.
  • The following is an outline of the work students complete in each component of the Additional Language and Literacy (ALL) Block in this unit:
    • Additional Work with Complex Text: Students work with an excerpt from One Well to better understand that water is found in the atmosphere, on the surface, and under the ground.
    • Reading and Speaking Fluency/GUM: Students review parts of speech and their function in particular sentences.
    • Writing Fluency: Students write an informative paragraph comparing the main ideas and supporting details of two texts
    • Word Study and Vocabulary: Students work closely with compound words, both from the text and words they've created. They practice using the suffixes -less and -ful andanalyze academic vocabulary word organism.
    • Independent Reading: Students build independent reading stamina of both research reading and free choice texts.

Technology and Multimedia

  • Project Wet - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts about the importance of conserving water.
  • The Water Project - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts and view videos about the water cycle.
  • EPA Water Sense Kids: Simple Ways to Save Water - Additional reading and research: Students read additional information about saving water.
  • Water Use it Wisely: 100+ Ways to Conserve Water - Additional reading and research: Students read additional texts about saving water.
  • Prezi - Creating a multimedia presentation: Students use Prezi to create their multimedia presentations instead of slideshow software.

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


Invite members of the community, family members, or teachers to come into the classroom to share their experience of issues related to water.


  • Invite a person from the Department of Water to come into the classroom and discuss with the students the efforts being made to keep the state or city's water accessible, clean, and conserved.
  • Invite members of a water conservation group to come in and share their work to preserve local water sources.


  • Go to a water treatment center and investigate how water is cleaned.
  • Go to a local stream or river with an expert naturalist to explore how pollution has affected a local site.
  • Measure and monitor pollution at a local water resource.


  • Adopt a local stream.
  • Create water issue fliers about each challenge to water for students to distribute locally at various sites: grocery stores, gas stations, libraries, etc.
  • Participate in water pollution cleanup opportunities around a local water resource.
  • Fund-raise for an access-to -water project.

Extension opportunities for students seeking more challenge:

Invite students to find additional text- or web-based materials to support their research of possible solutions.

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