Exploring and Analyzing Literature: Stories of Characters Who Enjoy and Appreciate Trees | EL Education Curriculum

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Exploring and Analyzing Literature: Stories of Characters Who Enjoy and Appreciate Trees

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In this first unit of Module 4, students delve back into the world of trees by exploring and thinking about how and why trees are important to us and our communities; specifically, they consider how different people and characters enjoy trees. As students explore and analyze literature in which characters enjoy and appreciate trees, they follow a predictable routine as they work with these texts in order to make progress toward RL.K.1, RL.K.2, RL.K.3, RL.K.4, RL.K.5, RL.K.6, RL.K.7, and RL.K.9. They hear the text read aloud, engage in the Role-Play protocol, recount the story using key details, track key details about characters, and finally, compare and contrast the characters in the text. Throughout the unit, a strong routine of shared and independent writing in Part I of the Enjoying Trees journal allows students to observe pictures, orally rehearse and discuss descriptions for these pictures, and then write descriptions to match the pictures.

In the second half of the unit, students engage in a routine to closely observe and then sketch various tree parts, supporting their growing understanding of how trees can be a source of enjoyment while also building a skill that will be used during the creation of the performance task. The Unit 1 Assessment requires students to recall key details about characters, setting, and major events from the text Oliver's Tree by Kit Chase in order to compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of the characters in writing and drawing and small group discussion.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why are trees important to others?
  • 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, animals, and characters in stories can enjoy trees in many different ways.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Exploring and Analyzing Literature: Stories of Characters Who Enjoy and Appreciate Trees
  • Task: Comparing and Contrasting Characters from Oliver's Tree
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RL.K.1, RL.K.3, RL.K.9, SL.K.2, and SL.K.4
  • Text: Oliver's Tree


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.

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. Throughout Unit 1, students practice respectful behavior as they engage in conversations, role-play experiences with peers, and practice caring for one another and classroom materials.


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 all three components of this primary curriculum: module lessons, Labs, and the Reading Foundations Skills Block (see the module overview).

For Unit 1, during the independent reading in the Skills Block, reinforce the comprehension skills and standards that students are practicing during the Integrated Literacy Block:

  • RLK.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • Invite the students to point at a picture in a narrative text and then answer questions about the illustration.
    • Read aloud the first few pages of a narrative text and ask:

"What questions do you have? What are you wondering?"

  • RL.K.2: With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.
    • After reading a narrative text, ask students to recall major events, characters, and setting of the story.
  • RL.K.4: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to identify words that are unknown and to ask questions about those words.
  • RL.K.6: Name the author and illustrator of a story and define the role of each in telling the story.
    • Invite students to identify which parts of a narrative text the author contributed to and which parts the illustrator contributed to.
  • RL.K.7: With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).
    • When conferencing with students, ask them explain how the illustration or details relate to the story presented in a narrative text.
  • RL.K.9: With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.
    • When conferencing with students, ask them to identify what is the same as and different about characters' experiences in a narrative story.

Supporting English Language Learners

The Meeting Students' Needs sections in each lesson contain 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 Meeting Students' Needs.

  • Prioritizing lessons for classrooms with many ELLs: Consider prioritizing and expanding instruction in Lessons 2-4 to support comprehension of the text A Tree for Emmy. Focus on familiarizing students with the characters, major events, and key details they will need to compare and contrast in Lesson 5, and be sure to complete the Language Dive in Lesson 1. Students may benefit from additional time discussing and conferencing with the teacher and with peers before writing in their Enjoying Trees journal. Consider placing less focus on and condensing the Closing in Lesson 8 and the Opening in Lesson 9 to offer ample time to demonstrate learning in the assessment.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lesson 1. This Language Dive supports ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from Gus Is a Tree. Refer to the Tools page for additional information on Language Dives.
  • Goal 4 Conversation Cues: Encourage productive and equitable conversation with Goal 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 explore how people enjoy trees. Seek out supportive literature that represents the ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity of the class. Are there books that show people enjoying trees in different contexts? Are the books, or others like them, available in the languages your students speak? Throughout the lessons, share ways you enjoy trees. Create space for students to share how they enjoy the trees near their homes, communities, and to/from school. As an extension, students can query their extended family or neighbors for information about enjoying trees in countries they have visited or in which they have family. Consider creating a class museum of how people enjoy trees: Students can bring a photo, video, or artifact connected to the guiding question from their neighborhood, countries they have visited, or countries in which some of their family members live and explain how it is connected in their home language. Consult with a guidance counselor, school social worker, or ESL teacher for further investigation of diversity and inclusion concerns.
  • Focused read-alouds: Students participate in two focused reading sessions during which they will hone the skill of identifying and describing key details and comparing and contrasting the experiences of characters. Through reading and discussing A Tree for Emmy and Oliver's Tree, students are asked first to identify and describe the characters, settings, and major events in the story. They then compare and contrast the experiences and adventures of the main characters. Some students may grapple with the new language of comparing and contrasting, as well as recalling details from the text to explain the similarities and differences between the characters. Provide additional support with this skill when possible. Use the anchor charts, Language Dive sentence, realia, and think-alouds to reinforce the skill.
  • Enjoying Trees journal: Using discussion, text, and the Unit 1 Guiding Question anchor chart, students identify, describe, and reflect upon ways people enjoy trees. They then use this information to inform their writing in the Enjoying Trees Journal, Part I. Students carefully inspect pictures to describe how people are enjoying trees. Recall that students benefit from explicitly modeled lessons that support them by providing opportunities to practice key vocabulary and sentence structures as well as conference with the teacher and a peer before writing. Some students may need additional modeling before feeling confident enough to complete the writing task independently. Students who have trouble with writing may also benefit from having an adult scribe their ideas initially.
  • Small group conversation: In Lesson 9, students participate in the Unit 1 Assessment, Part II--a small group conversation where they discuss similarities and differences in characters in Oliver's Tree. This supports ELLs by providing context for them to share their knowledge while practicing newly acquired syntax and vocabulary. Even so, some students may be hesitant to participate. Ensure they are placed in heterogeneous groups to offer peer models. Before starting the conversation, offer students the opportunity to practice using their note-catcher (completed in Lesson 8: Unit 1 Assessment, Part I) and the sentence frames to share information. Empower students to ask questions if they need support from teachers or peers.
  • Celebration: Celebrate the courage, enthusiasm, diversity, and bilingual skills that ELLs bring to the classroom.

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 for Emmy
by Mary Ann Rodman
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9781561454754
Oliver's Tree
by Kit Chase
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780399257001
Gus Is a Tree
by Claire Babin
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781592700783

Preparation and Materials

For basic lesson preparation, refer to the materials list and Teaching Notes in each lesson. The following are materials that may take more time or organizing.

  • Index cards for Trees Are Important Word Wall
  • Lesson 1: Trees Are Important Word Wall words: relax, smell; If it is not possible to take students outside, provide alternative means to view people enjoying and using trees (e.g., viewing a video or observing pictures.).
  • Lesson 2: Trees Are Important Word Wall words: swing, climb
  • Lesson 4: Trees Are Important Word Wall words: play, hide, seek
  • Lesson 6: Trees Are Important Word Wall word: treehouse
  • Lesson 7: Trees Are Important Word Wall words: jump, pile

Technology and Multimedia

  • Google Drawings - Students draw online: Students can draw their responses online rather than on paper to share on classroom blogs or websites with families.
  • SeesawCreate student learning portfolios to share with other students and families: Video/audio record students at play to share with families and other students.
  • American Forests - Additional Research: Students view pictures of trees and forests and the wildlife that live in them for additional research (whole group, small group, or independent).
    • "Photos and Galleries." American Forests. Accessed on Feb. 27, 2017. 
  • Trees for the Future - Additional Research: Students read about and view pictures of people planting and benefitting from trees in Africa for additional research (whole group, small group, or independent). 
    • "Media Assets." Trees for the Future. Accessed on Feb. 27, 2017. 
  • Plant for the Planet - Additional Research: Students explore different places around the globe in which children are advocating for and planting trees for additional inspiration and research (whole group, small group, or independent). 
    • "Planting Locations." Plant for the Planet. Accessed on Feb. 27, 2017.


    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).

    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 trees, how people and animals depend on them, and ways to appreciate them.


    • Invite a local arborist or park ranger to speak about trees and answer questions the students have about trees.
    • Invite a local carpenter, woodworker, or craftsperson to speak about how trees become everyday things we use and appreciate.
    • Invite the principal, office staff, and students from the upper grades to come and talk about their favorite memory of trees.


    • Take the class to a local arboretum or wooded park to compare and contrast different types of trees and discuss how people and animals depend on trees.
    • Take the class to a school or local playground or other outdoor play area to discuss where and why trees are planted.


    Share ideas for enjoying and appreciating trees with other classrooms in the school.


    Invite school community members or families in to read a story or tell their own story about trees.

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