Researching to Build Knowledge and Teach Others: Biodiversity in the Rainforest | EL Education Curriculum

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Researching to Build Knowledge and Teach Others: Biodiversity in the Rainforest

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In this module, students read to build knowledge about the rainforest and analyze the author's craft in narrative writing to build proficiency in writing first person narratives about the rainforest. In Unit 1, they build background knowledge on biodiversity in the rainforest and rainforest deforestation to understand why scientists, like Meg Lowman, study the rainforest. Students closely read excerpts of The Most Beautiful Roof in the World by Kathryn Lasky and other texts to identify text structure and practice summarizing the text. Having read texts about deforestation, students research using several print and digital sources to identify ways they can help the rainforest and the challenges associated with being an ethical consumer. They then participate in a collaborative discussion at the end of the unit. In Unit 2, students explore how authors of narrative texts about the rainforest help the reader to understand what it is like in the rainforest by analyzing author's use of figurative, concrete, and sensory language. With a deeper understanding of author's craft, in Unit 3 students write first person narratives, building out a scenario from The Most Beautiful Roof in the World using concrete and sensory language to describe the rainforest as though they were actually there. For their performance task, students work in pairs to create an ebook containing a front cover, contents page, introduction, and narratives, with pictures selected or created to contribute to the narratives. This task centers on CCSS ELA W.5.3, W.5.4, and W.5.6.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • Why do scientists study the rainforest?
    • Scientists study the rainforest because it is home to diverse life and to determine the impact of deforestation on biodiversity.
  • How do authors engage readers in narratives?
    • Narrative authors engage readers by researching what they are writing about to describe it accurately and precisely through concrete and sensory language.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Biodiversity in the rainforest
  • Task: Rainforest Adventures ebook
  • Targets (standards explicitly taught and assessed): W.5.3, W.5.4, W.5.6
  • Text: The Most Beautiful Roof in the World; The Great Kapok Tree; Seeds of Change

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 5 Life Science Module, a separate resource that includes approximately 25 hours of science instruction. This life science module explicitly addresses fifth-grade NGSS life science standards and naturally extends the learning from this ELA module.

Next Generation Science Standards:

Life Science Performance Expectation:

  • 5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
    • LS2.A: Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants. Some organisms, such as fungi and bacteria, break down dead organisms (both plants or plant parts and animals) and therefore operate as "decomposers." Decomposition eventually restores (recycles) some materials back to the soil. Organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species of different types are each able to meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life. Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem.

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: put their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).
  • Students also focus on working to become effective learners, developing the mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration).
  • See unit overviews for more detail.


Each unit file includes lessons, teacher materials and student-facing materials.


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.

Performance Task

Rainforest Adventures Ebook
This performance task gives students a chance to work in pairs to compile all of their narrative writing from Unit 3 into an attractive ebook. Throughout the unit, students work in pairs with careful scaffolding to write and revise a first person partner narrative that builds out an event in The Most Beautiful Roof in the World. For both the mid-unit and end of unit assessment, students write
and revise a first person narrative independently to build out another event from the book. For the performance task, students work in pairs to collate their three first person narratives (one written independently by each student in the pair and one partner narrative) into an ebook with a front cover, a contents page, an introduction, and the three narratives, with pictures selected or created to contribute to the narratives, aimed at students in grade 5 and above. This task centers on CCSS ELA W.5.3, W.5.4, and W.5.6.

Texts to Buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please download the Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World
by Kathryn Lasky
1 per student
ISBN: 9780152008970
Seeds of Change: Planting a Path to Peace
by Jen Cullerton Johnson
1 per class
ISBN: 9781600603679
The Great Kapok Tree
by Lynne Cherry
1 per class
ISBN: 9780152026141


Each module is approximately 6-8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

ALL 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.


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