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Building Background Knowledge: Learning to Become an Expert (about Frogs)

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The Foundational Reading and Language Standards Resources Package for Grades 3–5

Use this guide to build additional literacy blocks alongside the module lessons.


In this first unit, students will begin to learn how experts build knowledge as they consider what makes a frog a frog and how these creatures adapt to their environment. Through a study of Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle (by Deborah Dennard, illustrated by Kristin Kest), students will practice close reading and listening to informational texts, generating questions, building vocabulary, and locating information in text as they learn about the bullfrog (a “true” frog).

In the on-demand mid-unit assessment, students will demonstrate their skill in answering and asking questions as they close read a new passage from Bullfrog at Magnolia Circle. Students will communicate their learning through note-taking, Science Talks, and writing. This unit provides the class with initial exposure to key scientific concepts regarding adaptations, habitat, predators and prey, and the physical characteristics of frogs, which students will build on during Unit 2. Students will demonstrate their growing expertise in the end of unit on-demand assessment, in which they write an informational paragraph that synthesizes their learning about the bullfrog.


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.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How do frogs survive?
  • How do I build expertise on a topic?
  • Experts build knowledge by studying a topic in depth.
  • Animals have unique adaptations that help them to survive in various environments.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards. However, the module intentionally incorporates Science content that many teachers may be teaching during other parts of the day. These intentional connections are described below.


Texts to buy

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

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Bullfrog At Magnolia Circle
by Deborah Dennard, Illustrations by Kristin Kest
One per student
ISBN: 978-1607270690, 1607270692
All The Small Poems And Fourteen More
by Valerie Worth, Illustrated by Natalie Babbitt
ISBN: 978-0374403454

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Spadefoot Toad
by Melanie Freeman
Staying Alive, Animal Adaptations
by Expeditionary Learning
The Poison Dart Frog
by Douglas Florian
The Red-Eyed Tree Frog
by Douglas Florian
The Glass Frog
by Douglas Florian


ELA G3:M2A:U1:L6

ELA G3:M2A:U1:L11

Optional Activities

Invite an expert on frogs to come speak with your students. They may be able to bring live frogs for students to see. If this is not logistically feasible, consider setting up a Skype call with an expert.

Optional: Extensions
Science: Consider creating a tadpole habitat in your classroom. Students can observe the life cycle of a bullfrog firsthand. See the following Web site for additional information on how to do this:

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