Exploring Habitats

Students explore various habitats (forest, desert, water, rainforest, and wetland), investigating how plants and animals survive within them, and compare and contrast the information that they gather.

Unit Summary

As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit was revised in October 2020. See which texts and materials have changed as part of the revision in this guide to our 2nd Grade text adjustments.

In this unit, 2nd grade students explore different habitats (forest, desert, water, and rainforest) and investigate how different plants and animals survive in each habitat. Rather than just learning facts about the habitats, students examine the connection between parts of each habitat and how those connections are crucial for survival. Using the Next Generation Science Standards as a guide, students are challenged to use the information they learn about different habitats to compare how different plants and animals depend on their surroundings and other living things to meet their needs. Students will also be challenged to compare the differences in the kinds of living things that are found in different areas and why those differences exist. This unit builds on the 1st grade Animals unit, in which students learned about different types of animals and their characteristics, and prepares students for a 3rd grade unit in which they will analyze animal adaptations with regard to animal habitats. This unit uses the Bobbie Kalman Introducing Habitats series as mentor texts. These texts were chosen because of their clear representations of the different habitats and their accessibility. The texts in this unit support student understanding of key genre features while also allowing multiple opportunities to develop fluency. Over the course of the unit, the majority of heavy thinking and analysis should be on students. By the end of the unit, students should have a deeper understanding of key components of informational texts, and students should be able to transfer those understandings to other complex informational texts. Students will also write daily in response to the text, with a focus on using complete sentences and recognizing run-on sentences. Students will also begin writing longer informational texts in which they synthesize and teach back the content they are learning about the different habitats.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions


  • How do plants and animals depend on their habitats for survival?
    Plants and animals depend on their habitats to get the things they need. Plants use sun, air, and water to produce their own food using photosynthesis. If plants live in a place without a lot of water, like the desert, they are better at holding onto water for a longer time. Animals use their habitats to survive, too. They eat food they find in their habitat, whether they are carnivores, omnivores, or herbivores. They know how to stay safe from predators by using the habitat to protect themselves. An animal might make a nest high in a tree or use their bodies to camouflage. Their bodies help them survive in their habitats. An egret has long legs so their body does not get wet on the shore. A sea otter has waterproof skin to keep them dry because they live in the water, too. Plants and animals also know how to adapt to the habitat’s weather. Many desert animals only go out at night, when it is not very hot. Trees grow high in the rainforest because they get so much water, and they need to compete for sunlight.
  • Where do animals and plants find water in different habitats? Why is water important?
    Plants and animals always find water in their habitats. Plants use rain water to help them grow and make energy through photosynthesis. If a plant lives in a habitat with little water, like a desert, they know how to keep water longer, like a cactus. Animals always find water in their habitat. Animals that live in the forest often get water from rivers or streams. Animals in the desert have to get used to little water. A camel stores water in its humps. Animals in water habitats use water to live, drink, and get food. In the rainforest, animals sometimes swim the river, like a manatee. Water is important because you cannot live without it. Plants and animals need food, air, and water to survive.

Writing Focus Areas


Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Produce simple sentences
  • Correct run-on sentences 

Complete sentences are the foundation for all writing. In this unit, students learn to differentiate between a fragment and a complete sentence. They also learn to identify and correct a run-on sentence. We recommend using our guide Sentence-Level Feedback and Support (K-5th Grade) to provide individual and small-group feedback to ensure that all students are able to use complete sentences by the end of the unit.

Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Brainstorm and outline before writing
  • Use text features in informational writing

In this unit, students begin to explore how to use informational text features in their own writing. After exploring why authors use particular text features in a mentor text, students will use the text feature in their own writing. This unit serves as a launch to using text features.

Foundational Skills

Phonics and Word Recognition Focus Areas

  • Use known spelling-sound correspondences when reading one-syllable and two-syllable words. 
  • Decode words with common prefixes and suffixes (plurals). 
  • Recognize and read grade-appropriate irregularly spelled words.

All core texts in the unit are written with predominantly one-syllable or simple two-syllable words that require students to use knowledge of common spelling-sound correspondences when reading. Words that are not easily decodable are often irregularly spelled high-frequency words, or genre-specific vocab; therefore, students should practice using decoding strategies and word analysis strategies when reading.

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage
  • Use proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage
  • Reread in order to confirm or self-correct word recognition and understanding

The main fluency focus of this unit is on reading an informational text with the right expression and intonation to show interpretation of the passage. This includes knowing how to read different text features to highlight the features purpose. This also includes rereading and self-correcting in order to figure out the meaning of domain-specific or tricky words. 

Each text is read for a minimum of four days. On days three and four when students are reading for fluency and to build a deeper understanding, have students pick a short section of the text to reread in order to self-assess their own fluency. Students can either score their own fluency on the Reading Fluency Rubric (2nd-5th Grade) or get feedback from a partner. 

Partners should use the language of the teaching points when giving targeted feedback. 
If desired, pick sections of the text to use as a fluency checkpoint. Score students on the Reading Fluency Rubric (2nd-5th Grade).




burrow carnivore coral reef desert depend energy forest floor forest freshwater habitat herbivore lake living thing nest non-living thing ocean omnivore pond rainforest river salt water shore swamp tide pool waterproof

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections


  • A habitat is a place in nature. Plants and animals live in habitats.
  • All living things need food, water, and air to survive.
  • Animals and their behaviors are suited to different habitats.
  • Plants make their own food using a process called photosynthesis.
  • Some animals are herbivores (eat plants), and some are carnivores (eat meat), and some are omnivores (eat plants and animals).
  • All living things need energy. Energy helps living things grow and move. Energy comes from the sun.

Lesson Map




Produce complete simple sentences orally and in writing.




Produce complete simple sentences orally and in writing.




Common Core Standards

Core Standards