Taking Action through Literacy and Artwork: Inspiring Others to Appreciate and Enjoy Trees | EL Education Curriculum

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Taking Action through Literacy and Artwork: Inspiring Others to Appreciate and Enjoy Trees

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In Unit 3, students apply their knowledge about the importance of trees and the joy trees can bring to a community in order to inspire others to enjoy and appreciate trees. Building on knowledge from Units 1-2, students read We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow to gather more information about the importance of trees for the survival of living things, for enjoyment, and for beauty. They add these to the Reasons to Plant a Tree anchor chart. 

For the Unit 3 Assessment, students provide a reason to complete the opinion statement "Tree are nice because..." They then create a drawing with additional details to enhance and add to the meaning of their sentence. Finally, they share their drawings with a partner in order to discuss the details they included and how those details support and enhance their writing. 

Students then use their work from the Unit 3 Assessment as a basis for their performance task: Tree Appreciation cards. For the performance task, students revise and edit their opinion statements and select one tree part to focus on for sketching and watercoloring.

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 supports this work for the performance task with both the design of its lessons and the use of optional flex days. 

In addition to the opportunities for critique, feedback, and revision, students are given an opportunity to present their work to an audience from outside the classroom. Creating work for an authentic audience motivates students to meet standards and engage in revision. Through the process, they develop perseverance and they realize that they can do more than they thought they could.

The purpose of the optional flex days in this unit is to allow for additional time, as needed, to support students with the use of technology, drafting of artwork, and student presentations for a high-quality end-of-year performance task. Refer to the Unit-at-a-Glance chart for additional information.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How can we inspire others to appreciate and enjoy trees?
  • Trees not only provide essential items to living things (food, air, shelter), but they also provide enjoyment and beauty.
  • 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: Taking Action through Literacy and Artwork: Inspiring Others to Appreciate and Enjoy Trees
  • Task: Adding Ideas with Detailed Drawings
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): SL.K.5
  • Text: We Planted a 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 3, students use their knowledge of and experiences with trees to inspire others in the community to enjoy and appreciate trees.


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: 

  • RI.K.1: With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.
    • Invite the students to point at a picture in an informational text and then answer questions about the illustration. 
    • Read aloud the first few pages of an informational text and ask: 
  • "What questions do you have? What are you wondering?"
  • RI.K.2: With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.
    • Read aloud the first few pages of an informational text and ask:
  • "What is this text mainly about? What details help you figure out what the text is mainly about?"
    • After reading an informational text, ask students to recall the main topic and identify key details that support that main topic.
  • RI.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. 
  • RI.K.6: Name the author and illustrator of a text and define the role of each in presenting the ideas or information in a text.
    • Invite students to identify which parts of an informational 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 text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).
    • When conferencing with students, ask them explain how the illustration or details relate to the information presented in an informational text.

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 2-5 to support comprehension of We Planted a Tree, including a Language Dive, and to ensure students are clear on the parts and purpose of the performance task. Students may benefit from additional modeling selecting one tree part for their Tree Appreciation card, as well as time practicing the process of giving and receiving feedback. Consider placing less focus on and condensing the Openings in Lessons 2 and 5 to offer students more time to internalize the steps of creating high-quality work.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lesson 2. This Language Dive supports ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from We Planted 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 consider how to inspire others to appreciate trees. Seek out literature that represents the ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity of your class. Look to see if We Planted a Tree or books like it are available in the languages your students speak. As an extension, students can query their extended family or neighbors for information about how trees are beneficial in their community, any countries they have visited, or where they have family. Consider creating a class museum of ways to appreciate trees: Students can bring a photo, video, or artifact connected to the guiding question from their neighborhood, countries they've visited, or where they have family 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 a focused read-aloud that helps them consider additional reasons to plant and appreciate trees. While reading and discussing We Planted a Tree, students are asked to identify and describe how trees contributed to the communities where they were planted. Some students may grapple with the poetic syntax and new vocabulary. Provide additional support with this skill when possible. Use the anchor charts, the Language Dive sentence, and think-alouds to reinforce the skill.
  • Tree Appreciation cards: Students create a Tree Appreciation card that includes a sentence to inspire others to appreciate trees. They read this sentence, along with select entries from their Enjoying Trees Journals, Parts I and II at the end-of-module celebration. To develop and present a published piece of writing, students benefit from explicitly modeled lessons that support them by providing opportunities to practice key vocabulary and sentence structures as well as conference with you and a peer before, during, and after writing. Some students may need additional modeling and feedback before feeling confident enough to compose, revise, and publish their sentence. 
  • Performance task presentation: Throughout Unit 3, students prepare to share their learning through small group presentations to invited guests. These support ELLs by providing a personal context for them to share their knowledge while practicing newly acquired syntax and vocabulary. To ensure they feel confident and ready to present, make sure ELLs have the opportunity to practice their presentation with classmates with high levels of English proficiency as well as students who speak the same home language (these students may overlap). Invite students to practice with the teacher if they need more support.
  • 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
We Planted a Tree
by Diane Muldrow
One per classroom
ISBN: 9780553539035

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: appreciate, inspire
  • Lesson 7: 
    • Photocopies of students' Performance Task Artwork templates to use during watercoloring sessions. Consider copying the Performance Task Artwork templates onto watercolor paper or cardstock for students to create a higher-quality painting
    • Watercoloring supplies: watercoloring palettes (one per student and one for teacher modeling), cups of water (one or two per workspace and one for teacher modeling), watercoloring brushes (one for teacher modeling and one per student), paper towel (one sheet per student and one for teacher modeling)
  • Lessons 8 and 9: Word-processing workstation with word-processing devices
  • Lesson 10: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 7 above)
  • Lessons 11 and 12: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 7 above)
  • Lesson 13: Prepare students' completed performance tasks: 
    • Cut out students' published writing completed in Lessons 8 and 9 on the Performance Task Writing template and affix to Performance Task Artwork template completed in Lessons 11 and 12. 
    • Affix students' typed name to Performance Task Artwork template.

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.
  • Seesaw - Create 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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