Unit 4: Understanding the Animal Kingdom
Students explore the relationship between living things and their environment, and how the environment can impact a species' ability to survive, while referring to the text to ask and answer questions.
In this unit, students explore the relationship between living things and their environment and how the environment can both positively and negatively impact a species’ ability to survive. Using the Next Generation Science Standards as a guide, students will learn about different species, what they need for survival, their life cycle, and how they have adapted for survival. Then students will be challenged to create arguments that explain why some organisms are able to survive well, some survive less well, and others can’t survive at all in certain habitats. Through this unit, along with others in the sequence, students will use the scientific information they learn to think critically about the world around them.
The Science of Living Things texts were chosen as mentor texts for this unit because the author, Bobbie Kalman, uses text features and clear language to clearly communicate complex concepts about the animal kingdom, life cycles, and animal adaptations. Over the course of the unit, students will deepen their understanding of how Bobbie Kalman uses text features to not only organize information, but to help a reader learn new information and facts about a subject. Students will also explore how graphic features, such as illustrations and diagrams, help readers learn and understand scientific ideas and concepts.
Students continue sharing and elaborating on their own ideas when discussing the text and building on their classmates' ideas, seeking to genuinely understand what their peers are saying by asking questions, adding on, or engaging in multiple exchanges. Students continue to build their writing fluency by writing daily in response to the Target Task question. Across the unit, students also have multiple opportunities to work on brainstorming and writing strong opinion and informational paragraphs, focusing on strong topic sentences, supporting details, and transitions.
Please Note: In March 2023, we released updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. In July 2023, we updated this unit and removed a lesson. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: What is a Life Cycle? (The Science of Living Things) by Bobbie Kalman and Jacqueline Langille (Crabtree Pub Co, 1998)
Book: What is the Animal Kingdom? (The Science of Living Things) by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Pub Co, 1997)
Book: How do Animals Adapt? (The Science of Living Things) by Bobbie Kalman and Niki Walker (Crabtree Pub Co, 2000)
Book: Invertebrates by Brooke Bessesen (Science A-Z)
Book: Vertebrates by Kira Freed (Science A-Z)
Book: Life Cycles by Ned Jensen (Science A-Z)
Rubric: Grade 3 Literary Analysis and Opinion Writing Rubric
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read Assessment Answer Key
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit. Essential Tasks can be found in the following lessons:
Suggestions for how to prepare to teach this unit
Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.
The central thematic questions addressed in the unit or across units
Authors use different text structures to help readers understand and describe scientific ideas or concepts.
Graphic features, such as illustrations and diagrams, help readers make sense of key events in an informational text.
State an opinion.
Provide reasons that support an opinion.
Use linking words and phrases to connect reasons.
Include a concluding statement.
Conduct short research projects to build knowledge.
Take notes and sort evidence into categories.
Introduce a topic using a topic sentence.
Group related ideas and details together.
Develop the topic with reasons, facts, and details.
Elaborate to support ideas. Provide evidence or examples to justify and defend a point clearly.
Use specific vocabulary. Use vocabulary that is specific to the subject and task to clarify and share thoughts.
Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 4, view our 3rd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.
In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.
Fishtank ELA units related to the content in this unit.
Explain what the animal kingdom is and the types of living things you might find in the animal kingdom.
Explain what characteristics all simple animals and worms share and how they vary.
Explain what characteristics all mollusks and arthropods share and how they vary.
Writing – 2 days
Defend if all arthropods are exactly the same and if all arthropods can survive in a variety of habitats.
Explain what characteristics all fish and amphibians share and how they vary.
Explain what characteristics all reptiles, birds, and mammals share and how they vary.
Use transition words to help illustrate certain points or ideas.
Defend if all reptiles are exactly the same and if all reptiles can survive in a variety of habitats.
Analyze and debate unit essential questions using details and understandings from the text.
Describe the different stages of a life cycle and why the continuation of a life cycle is important for the survival of a species.
Use transition words to help show time and sequence.
Explain how amphibian and reptile life cycles are different.
Describe the stages of a ladybug beetle and/or frog life cycle.
Explain how fish, bird, and mammal life cycles are different.
Writing – 3 days
Compare and contrast the life cycle of two organisms by using information from the text to support an idea.
Construct an argument with evidence from the unit to support why some animals can survive well in a desert habitat, others survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Explain the connection between evolution and adaptation and give an example of how an animal has evolved in order to survive.
Explain how the environment in which an animal lives impacts the way an animal adapts and why different adaptations are needed.
Opinion Writing – 4 days
Design an animal and defend if the animal would or would not survive in a particular environment.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Develop models to describe that organisms have unique and diverse life cycles but all have in common birth, growth, reproduction, and death.
Clarification Statement: Changes organisms go through during their life form a pattern.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment of plant life cycles is limited to those of flowering plants. Assessment does not include details of human reproduction.
— Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence that plants and animals have traits inherited from parents and that variation of these traits exists in a group of similar organisms.
Clarification Statement: Patterns are the similarities and differences in traits shared between offspring and their parents, or among siblings. Emphasis is on organisms other than humans.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include genetic mechanisms of inheritance and prediction of traits. Assessment is limited to non-human examples.
— Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Clarification Statement: Examples of the environment affecting a trait could include normally tall plants grown with insufficient water are stunted; and, a pet dog that is given too much food and little exercise may become overweight.
— Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
Clarification Statement: Examples of cause and effect relationships could be plants that have larger thorns than other plants may be less likely to be eaten by predators; and, animals that have better camouflage coloration than other animals may be more likely to survive and therefore more likely to leave offspring.
— Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Clarification Statement: Examples of evidence could include needs and characteristics of the organisms and habitats involved. The organisms and their habitat make up a system in which the parts depend on each other.
— Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.
Clarification Statement: Examples of environmental changes could include changes in land characteristics, water distribution, temperature, food, and other organisms.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to a single environmental change. Assessment does not include the greenhouse effect or climate change.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Use coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
— Produce simple, compound, and complex sentences.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Form and use possessives.
— Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.
— Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
— Use information gained from illustrations (e.g., maps, photographs) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text (e.g., where, when, why, and how key events occur).
— Describe the logical connection between particular sentences and paragraphs in a text (e.g., comparison, cause/effect, first/second/third in a sequence).
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 3 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion.
— Ask questions to check understanding of information presented, stay on topic, and link their comments to the remarks of others.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons.
— Introduce the topic or text they are writing about, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure that lists reasons.
— Provide reasons that support the opinion.
— Use linking words and phrases (e.g., because, therefore, since, for example) to connect opinion and reasons.
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
— Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension.
— Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.
— Conduct short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.
— Recall information from experiences or gather information from print and digital sources; take brief notes on sources and sort evidence into provided categories.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning word and phrases based on grade 3 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Determine the meaning of the new word formed when a known affix is added to a known word (e.g., agreeable/disagreeable, comfortable/uncomfortable, care/careless, heat/preheat).
— Demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate conversational, general academic, and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal spatial and temporal relationships (e.g., After dinner that night we went looking for them).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.
— Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 3 topic or subject area.
— Use text features and search tools (e.g., key words, sidebars, hyperlinks) to locate information relevant to a given topic efficiently.
— By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2—3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
— Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., gaining the floor in respectful ways, listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion).
— Ask and answer questions about information from a speaker, offering appropriate elaboration and detail.
— Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.
— Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.
— Speak in complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification.
— With guidance and support from adults, produce writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task and purpose.
(Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1—3 above.)
— With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
— Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.
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