Contributing to Community: Enjoying and Appreciating Trees | EL Education Curriculum

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Contributing to Community: Enjoying and Appreciating Trees

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In this module, students continue to build on their scientific knowledge of trees from Module 3 by exploring the importance of trees to people and their communities. Students learn how different people, both real and imaginary, enjoy and appreciate trees, and they consider how real people and characters have used trees to fill a need in their community. In Unit 1, students learn about the different ways people enjoy trees through reading and analyzing the texts A Tree for Emmy by Mary Ann Rodman and Oliver's Tree by Kit Chase and considering how the characters in these texts enjoy and appreciate trees. They write about the different ways trees can be enjoyed in their Enjoying Trees Journal, Part I.

In Unit 2, students read about the ways planting trees can contribute to a community. By studying the informational text A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry, they learn to name an author's opinion or point and identify the reasons, within a text, that the author gives to support that point. They read Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli and explore different places in a community where trees might be planted through observation of pictures in order to continue gathering information about why and where people plant trees. They then use these skills and information to form and write opinions about where they would choose to plant a tree.

In Unit 3, students deepen their understanding of the importance of trees as they read We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow. Students apply their new knowledge of the importance of trees to people by advocating for the appreciation of trees in their own community. Students use information and skills gained throughout all three units to create their performance task: a Tree Appreciation card, including an opinion statement, that invites others to pause and appreciate trees around them (W.K.1, W.K.5, W.K.6, W.K.8, L.K.2a, L.K.2b).

Recall that EL Education believes that high-quality work is a reflection and result of the high expectations teachers have for all students. Thus, it is a means to excellence and equity. The performance task for this module allows for students to create high-quality work based on their deep knowledge of trees. Using the literacy skills built throughout the school year; knowledge built in Modules 3-4; and cycles of drafting, critique, and revision, students are able to create a high-quality product that showcases their learning for the year. Unit 3 of this module supports this work for the performance task with both the design of its lessons and the use of optional flex days. Refer to the Performance Task Overview and Unit 3 Overview for additional information.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • How and why are trees important to us and our communities?
    • Trees are important to many living things, including people and animals.
    • Trees not only provide essential items to living things (food, air, shelter), but they also provide enjoyment and beauty.
    • People plant trees in communities for many reasons, including to meet needs, to provide beauty, and for enjoyment.
  • How can we inspire others to appreciate and enjoy trees?
    • We can take action to help our school and community.
    • We can share our knowledge to inspire others to appreciate and enjoy trees.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Contributing to Community: Enjoying and Appreciating Trees
  • Task: Opinion Writing and High-Quality Artwork: Tree Appreciation Card
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and addressed): W.K.1, W.K.5, W.K.6, W.K.8, L.K.2a, L.K.2b
  • Texts: A Tree Is Nice; Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya; We Planted a Tree; A Tree for Emmy; Gus is a Tree; Oliver's Tree

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 social studies content that many teachers across the nation are expected to address in kindergarten. 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.)

C3 Framework for Social Studies:

  • D2.Civ.14.K-2
  • D4.6.K-2
  • D4.7.K-2

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 become ethical people by respecting others and treating them well. They also work to contribute to a better world by applying their learning to help their school and community.


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.

Performance Task

Opinion Writing and High-Quality Artwork: Tree Appreciation Cards

In this two-part performance task, students write and create artwork to showcase their understanding of trees and inspire members of the community to enjoy and appreciate trees. Over the course of several lessons, students first write an opinion statement to complete the sentence stem "Trees are nice because ______." Students create this statement by revising their writing from the Unit 3 Assessment to be more specific and focused. They then create a high-quality piece of artwork showcasing a specific part of a tree to match their writing. These two parts (opinion writing and high-quality artwork) come together to create a Tree Appreciation card. For the second part of the performance task, students select a specific part of a tree to match their writing and engage in several rounds of pencil sketching. Students then outline their final pencil sketch in black ink and apply watercolor in layers to create their final piece of artwork to include on the Tree Appreciation card. This task addresses CCSS ELA W.K.1, W.K.5, W.K.6, W.K.8, L.K.2a, and L.K.2b.


EL Education's Models of Excellence: Center for High-Quality Student Work is a collection of useful resources, exemplary project work, and compelling writing curated in collaboration with Harvard's Graduate School of Education. It is the world's largest collection of quality student work. Please visit Models of Excellence to get tools, tips, and models of excellent student work that you can use to immediately make your students stronger writers and to inspire and engage them across all subjects.

Refer to each Unit Overview for a list of any unusual physical materials required (such as puppets or props) for module lessons.

Texts and Resources to Buy

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

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
A Tree Is Nice
by Janice May Udry
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780064431477
A Tree for Emmy
by Mary Ann Rodman
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9781561454754
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
by Donna Jo Napoli
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781416935056
We Planted a Tree
by Diane Muldrow
One per classroom
ISBN: 9780553539035
Oliver's Tree
by Kit Chase
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780399257001
Gus Is a Tree
by Claire Babin
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781592700783


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.


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).

Connections to the Labs

Labs continue to provide students with an engaging, hands-on place to build habits of character, literacy skills, and module-related content understanding. There are four Labs for the second module: Create, Engineer, Imagine, and Research. The Labs are directly connected to the content of the module and should be implemented alongside the integrated lessons.

Labs for this module focus on having students:

  • Create 3-D tree representations using classroom materials
  • Design forest play space models and integrate 3-D trees
  • Develop administer surveys in school to learn about how people interact with trees in the community
  • Write and act out stories about things people do in forests.

Connections to the Reading Foundations Skills Block

The Reading Foundations Skills Block is an hour of instruction that teaches students how to crack the alphabetic code. This Block supports reading and writing conventions necessary for student success in the Reading Block, covering all Reading Foundations Standards and the Language Standards associated with spelling. Research and Standards-based instructional practices are designed to support teachers as they teach students how to read, write, and analyze words. Built-in instructional supports and resources provide teacher guidance for differentiation in both the whole and small group settings based on each student's Phase of Reading and Spelling Development. The Skills Block includes 1 hour of instruction: 15-20 minutes of whole group and 45 minutes of differentiated small group instruction.

Skills Block lessons for this module focus on having students:

  • Continue to read and spell CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words
  • Read and spell CVC words with double consonants (e.g., "moss")
  • Use strategies such as looking at the picture to help read or confirm an unknown word
  • Understand the difference between long and short vowel sounds in spoken words
  • Recognize r-controlled vowels in spoke words (e.g., "turn")

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