You are here

ELA G3:M4:U1

Building Background Knowledge: Getting to know H2O

You are here:

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 unit, students build their background knowledge about where water is found on earth and the movement of water through the water cycle and the physical landscape. Students will consider the guiding question “Where does our water come from?” as they begin reading One Well: The Story of Water on Earth. Students will examine maps and graphs to determine where the water is in the world and how much of our water comes from oceans, rivers, etc. They also will read other informational texts that require them to use graphics and diagrams. Throughout the unit, students will collect “water words” (domain-specific vocabulary) and “power words” (academic vocabulary). In the mid-unit assessment, students will write an on-demand informational paragraph about where water is on earth.  (This paragraph will help scaffold students for their final performance task in which they will create a public service announcement educating their audience about why water is important.)

In the second half of the unit, students will compare and contrast different texts on rivers and the water cycle, including examining how graphics and illustrations convey meaning about the water cycle. Students will read texts of greater complexity and will practice coding text for the main idea and key details in order to compare and contrast them. For the end of unit assessment, students will apply their comparison skills by reading a new text about the water cycle and comparing how the information is portrayed in this text and in One Well: The Story of Water on Earth.


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

  • Where does our water come from?
  • How do writers use evidence from text to strengthen their message?  
  • Writers support their points of view with reasons, facts, and details.
  • Water is a natural resource that every living thing needs.
  • Access to clean freshwater affects where and how people live.
  • Water is a finite resource.

Content Connections

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

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K-8 Social Studies Framework:

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

  • 3.10 “People living in communities around the world depend on, adapt to, and modify their physical environments in different ways.” (p. 48)

NYS Science:

  • 2.1c Water is recycled by natural processes on earth.
  • 2.1d Erosion and deposition result from the interaction among air, water, and land.
  • 3.7.a “The earth comprises continents, oceans, and other physical features, all of which help define distinct geographic regions around the world.”
  • 6.2c Heat energy from the sun powers the water cycle.


Texts to buy

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

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
One Well: The Story of Water on Earth
by Rochelle Strauss
One per student
ISBN: 978-1553379546, 1553379543

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Tackling the Trash
by Jill Esbaum
Ryan Hreljac: The Boy Who Built a Well
by Elisabeth Deffner
Dry Days in Australia
by Ann Weil
The Water Cycle
by U.S. Geological Survey
Earth’s Water Cycle
by Gina Jack
New York State Conservationist for Kids, 2009
Rivers and Streams
by NatureWorks
New Hampshire Public Television,
Where in the World Is Water?
by Expeditionary Learning
Let’s Get Physical!
by Junior Scholastic



Optional Activities

Consider inviting local geologists or hydrologists to talk to the class about where water is found on earth and how water forms are created. A meteorologist would also be an excellent classroom guest when discussing the water cycle.

Visit a local water plant to see where water comes from. You might also consider visiting a local river; if it’s practical, consider visiting this river at different points in its journey to the sea. (See River to the Sea, Lesson 8.)


  • Adopt a stream or river with a local environmental group.
  • Conduct streamside litter cleanup days.

Art: Collaborate with the art teacher for students to create visuals of scenes from the text that capture their imagination. 

Our newest K-5 curricula is available on a new site,
This website will be decommissioned in June 2018. Sign up for updates.