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Reading and Writing Like a Scientist: Observing Nature, Conducting Research, and Creating a Field Journal Entry

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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 third unit, students will focus on the literacy skills that scientists need to use in order to take field notes, deepen their knowledge through research, and communicate information in writing. First, students will learn how to write field notes like a scientist, by observing carefully and writing precisely about their local natural environment.

Then they will work within expert groups to conduct research on the insects found in the rainforest, taking notes from print and digital sources. The mid-unit assessment will gauge students’ mastery of note-taking skills: They will read and take notes on passages of unfamiliar informational text on a different rainforest species—the howler monkey. Students will then return to their focus on insects and will write narratives in the form of rainforest explorers’ field journal entries that incorporate their research notes on insects. This will be the unit’s final performance task.

For the on-demand end of unit assessment, students will use the notes they took during the mid-unit assessment to create an additional field journal page on the howler monkey. (As an extension, students also may create a field guide to the local environment, drawing on their observations from nature and making parallels to the information they have gathered about the rainforest.)


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

  • What is unique about living things in the rainforest?
  • How do scientists communicate what they learn about the natural world?
  • Research is a process.
  • Scientists observe closely and record those observations in various ways.
  • Authors organize informational text in specific ways to convey scientific ideas and concepts.

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.

NYS Social Studies Core Curriculum:

  • Geographic reasoning: people, places regions, environment, and interactions in Brazil/Latin America

NYS Science:

  • Standard 4, Living Environment:
  • Key Idea 6: Plants and animals depend on each other and their physical environment. 
  • Key Idea 7: Human decisions and activities have had a profound impact on the physical and living environment.


Texts to buy

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

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
Rainforest Research Journal
by Paul Mason
Teacher copy only
ISBN: 978-0778799245, 0778799247
The Most Beautiful Roof in the World: Exploring the Rainforest Canopy
by Kathryn Lasky
One per student
ISBN: 978-0152008970, 0152008977



ELA G5:M2A:U3:L8

ELA G5:M2A:U3:L15

Optional Activities

Invite a specialist in insects (maybe someone from a local zoo) to come speak to the class or provide feedback on students’ draft field journal entries.

Build in time for students to continue working on their field journals in local parks, etc.

Help the class to organize a fundraiser to contribute to a rainforest preservation organization.

Students create a fully developed field journal page based on their direct observations of their local natural environment.

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