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Using Writing to Inform

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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 second unit, students research their expert group animal and its defense mechanisms. Close reading of informational texts about their expert group animal  will prepare students for the mid-unit assessment in which they make inferences and summarize information from two informational texts. 

In the second half of the unit, students will synthesize information from their research by writing an informative piece about their expert group animal, in which their animals physical characteristics, habitat, predators, and defense mechanisms are described. This piece will become the introduction to their performance task, a Choose Your Own Adventure Narrative, written in unit 3.  Their research in this unit will also serve as a resource for writing narratives with scientifically accurate details.


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 animals’ bodies and behaviors help them survive?
  • How can a writer use knowledge from their research to inform and entertain?
  • To protect themselves from predators, animals use different defense mechanisms.
  • Writers use scientific knowledge and research to inform and entertain.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read informational texts about animal defense mechanisms. However, the module intentionally incorporates Science Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.  These intentional connections are described below.

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

  • Next-Generation Science Standards 4L-S1-1
  • From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Processes

NYS Science Standard 4: Students will understand and apply scientific concepts, principles, and theories pertaining to the physical setting and living environment and recognize the historical development of ideas in science. Key Idea 2: Organisms inherit genetic information in a variety of ways that result in continuity of structure and function between parents and offspring. Key Idea 5: Organisms maintain a dynamic equilibrium that sustains life. Key Idea 6: Plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environment.


Texts to buy

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

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
by Marilyn Singer
Teacher copy only
ISBN: 978-1581960433, 1581960433
Animal Behavior: Animal Defenses
by Christina Wilsdon
One per student
ISBN: 978-1604130898, 160413089X

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Award-Winning Survival Skills
by Lea Winerman


Optional Activities

Invite an expert from the local zoo to come in and speak to students about animal defense mechanisms.

Visit the local zoo to observe your expert animal in action.

Find out about organizations working to protect your expert group animal and its habitat – get involved in helping/promoting this organization.

Optional: Extensions
Ask students to conduct additional research on their expert group animal with additional texts or websites.  Expand the web research students engage in to include an open search and evaluation online resources.  Teach students to evaluate the reliability of these resources.

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