Reading about and Writing Opinions: How Trees Are Important to Communities | EL Education Curriculum

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Reading about and Writing Opinions: How Trees Are Important to Communities

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In Unit 2, students continue their study of trees while learning how to read and write opinion pieces. Students read, write, and discuss the module guiding question--"How and why are trees important to us and our communities?"--focusing on the communities aspect of the question. In the first half of the unit, students read A Tree Is Nice by Janice May Udry and practice naming an author's opinion or point and identifying the reasons the author gives to support it. Students explore different places in a community where trees might be planted through observation of pictures and written responses in the Enjoying Trees Journal, Part II. In Lesson 4, students complete Part I of the Unit 2 Assessment by listening to portions of A Tree Is Nice read aloud and completing a selected response activity to identify reasons the author gives to support the opinion "A tree is nice."

In the second half of the unit, students read Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli to continue gathering information about why people plant trees. They compare and contrast the reasons and information from Mama Miti and A Tree Is Nice. They then use the information gathered from both of these texts to compose an opinion piece in preparation for Part II of the Unit 2 Assessment. In Lesson 10, students complete Part II of the Unit 2 Assessment by composing an opinion piece in response to the question "In your community, where would you plant a tree and why?" Throughout the unit, students also engage in a variety of discussion protocols, regular independent writing, and language activities to support their growing understanding of opinions and reasons in order to successfully craft their own opinion statement with an accompanying reason.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • Why are trees important to 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.

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Reading about and Writing Opinions: How Trees Are Important to Communities
  • Task: Reading about an Author's Point and Writing Opinions
  • Targets (CCSS explicitly taught and assessed): RI.K.8, W.K.1, L.K.1e, L.K.2a, and L.K.2b
  • Text: A Tree Is Nice and Mama Miti


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 2, students practice respectful behavior as they engage in conversations with peers--sharing opinions and listening to others' opinions--and practice caring for classroom materials and space.


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.8: With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text. 
    • After identifying the point(s) within a text, invite students to identify reasons the author gives to support that point(s).
  • RI.K.9: With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).
    • After reading two informational texts on the same topic, invite students to identify what is the same and what is different about the two texts.

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 6-8 to support comprehension of Mama Miti, including with a Language Dive, and to provide students ample time to internalize the language and concepts they will need for the Unit 2 Assessment, Part II. Be sure to complete the Language Dive in Lesson 2. Students may benefit from additional time to process and discuss their Opinion Writing Planners. Consider placing less focus on and condensing the Openings in Lessons 6-7 to offer students more time to complete the planner.
  • Language Dives: All students participate in a Language Dive in Lesson 2, and ELLs can participate in an optional Language Dive in Lesson 6. These Language Dives support ELLs and all students in deconstructing, reconstructing, and practicing the meaning and structures of sentences from A Tree Is Nice and Mama Miti. 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 texts that describe where and why trees are beneficial. Seek out literature that represents the ethnic, linguistic, and geographic diversity of your class. Look to see if the texts like the ones in this unit are available in the languages your students speak. Throughout the lessons, share your opinion of trees and the reasons for that opinion. As an extension, students can query their extended family or neighbors for information about how trees are beneficial in their community, countries they have visited, or countries they have family in. Consider creating a class museum of places people plant trees: Students can bring a photo, video, or artifact connected to the guiding question from their neighborhood, countries they have visited, or countries they have family in 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 that will help them learn how to state an opinion and provide reasons to support it. While reading and discussing A Tree Is Nice and Mama Miti, students are asked to identify and describe opinions and reasons found in the texts. They then compare and contrast the two texts. Some students may grapple with the new language and concepts of opinions and reasons. They may struggle to recall details from the text to explain the similarities and differences between the two texts. Provide additional support with this skill when possible. Use the anchor charts, Language Dive sentences, and think-alouds to reinforce the skill.
  • Enjoying Trees journal: Using discussion, text, and the Module 4 Guiding Question anchor chart, students identify, describe, and reflect upon the places people plant trees. They use this information to inform their writing in the Enjoying Trees Journal, Part II. Students look carefully at pictures and use prepositions to describe where things are located in relation to trees. 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 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.
  • Partner talk protocols: Throughout Unit 2, students participate regularly in familiar protocols that facilitate their oral language fluency, verbal processing, and confidence (e.g., Pinky Partners protocol and Back-to-Back and Face-to-Face protocol). These support ELLs by providing a personal context for them to share their knowledge while practicing newly acquired syntax and vocabulary. Even so, some students may be hesitant to participate. To encourage their participation, consider varying the partners so that ELLs have the opportunity to speak with classmates with high levels of English proficiency as well as students who speak the same home language (these students may overlap). Before beginning each protocol, offer students the opportunity to practice the question and the sentence frame to share information. Invite 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 Is Nice
by Janice May Udry
Six per classroom
ISBN: 9780064431477
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
by Donna Jo Napoli
One per classroom
ISBN: 9781416935056

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: opinion, reason, community
  • Lesson 3: Trees Are Important Word Wall word: limb
  • Lesson 5: 
    • Slideshow of pictures of trees planted in various places in the community (e.g., next to buildings, in a park, on a hill, in front of houses, inside a building, etc.); 
    • 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 (blank; 8.5" x 5.5"; two or three pieces per student and one piece for teacher modeling), paper towel (one sheet per student and one for teacher modeling)
    • Model watercolor painting 
  • Lesson 6: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 5 above) and mountain scene sketch (one to display)
  • Lesson 7: Trees Are Important Word Wall word: firewood
  • Lesson 9: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 5 above) and coastline scene sketch (one to display)
  • Lesson 10: Watercoloring supplies (see Lesson 5 above); coastline scene sketch (one for teacher modeling). Ensure the sketch has time to dry before the lesson.

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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