Alternate Unit 2: Powering Our Future: Energy
Students explore how energy is transferred and how it can be converted into different forms, and learn about renewable and nonrenewable energy while looking towards the world’s energy future.
Alternate Unit 2
In this science-based unit, students explore the world of energy. In the first half of the unit, students learn what energy is, the different ways that energy is transferred from place to place, and the ways energy can be converted from one type to another. In the second half of the unit students explore the pros and cons of different types of renewable and nonrenewable energy sources. After learning about the different types of energy sources, students will propose the addition of a new source of energy to help provide electricity in their community. Through a combination of reading and research, it is our hope that students begin to build a deeper understanding of energy and its influence on our lives.
This unit builds on the informational reading skills and strategies developed in previous units. The focus of this unit is on refining students’ ability to use different strategies to comprehend denser scientific texts. In particular, students will continue working on identifying and explaining cause and effect and sequential relationships in texts. Students will also notice how authors use a variety of evidence and reasons to support particular points and ideas in a text. When discussing the text, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others by building on, paraphrasing ideas in order to understand, and questioning and clarifying. At this point in the sequence, students should be able to write fluently in response to the daily Target Tasks to show understanding of the text. In this unit students return to working on writing strong opinion paragraphs, building on work done in previous units on topic sentences, supporting details, and strategies for elaboration. The unit ends by having students write an opinion piece trying to convince community leaders to use a particular source of energy.
Please Note: In October 2023, we released an updated version of this unit that replaces the supporting materials from Science A-Z with new texts. Additionally we updated enhanced lesson plans for this unit, which now include answers to key questions and related student supports. You may notice discrepancies in previously downloaded/printed unit or lesson plans.
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Book: Forms of Energy by Anna Claybourne (Raintree, 2016)
Book: Renewable Energy: Discover the Fuel of the Future with 20 Projects by Joshua Sneideman and Erin Twamley (Nomad Press)
Rubric: Grade 4 Literary Analysis and Opinion Writing Rubric
Article: “Fossil Fuels” (California Academy of Sciences)
These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills.
Download Content Assessment
Download Content Assessment Answer Key
Download Cold Read Assessment
Download Cold Read 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
To describe scientific concepts and ideas, readers need to be able to identify and describe sequential and cause-and-effect relationships.
Authors use a variety of evidence and reasons to support particular points and ideas in a text.
Write strong topic sentences that clearly state an opinion.
Provide reasons and evidence to support a particular opinion.
Elaborate on the reasons to show understanding of the text and topic.
Link opinions and reasons using words and phrases.
Build on to partner’s ideas. Seek to genuinely understand what peers are saying, and then build on.
Paraphrase to make meaning. Paraphrase what others are saying in order to keep track of key ideas in a discussion.
Question and clarify. Seek to clarify a particular point a peer makes by asking follow-up questions.
Literary terms, text-based vocabulary, idioms and word parts to be taught with the text
To see all the vocabulary for Unit 8, view our 4th 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.
Describe what energy is and if all types of energy are the same.
Describe heat energy and why it is important.
Explain why the author starts by saying that "electricity is the most useful of all forms of energy" and how it works.
Describe chemical energy and two energy sources that use chemical energy.
Describe how an additional form of energy works.
Discussion & Writing
Explain how multiple different forms of energy work together to keep cities and towns running.
Opinion Writing – 2 days
Explain the pros and cons of using fossil fuels for energy.
Explain the pros and cons of using hydropower and dams.
Explain the pros and cons of using solar energy.
Explain the pros and cons of using wind energy.
Create a presentation describing an renewable energy source.
Debate which energy sources are the best for your city or town.
Opinion Writing – 3 days
Write an opinion piece to convince community leaders to use a particular source of energy to provide electricity to your town.
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The content standards covered in this unit
— Use evidence to construct an explanation relating the speed of an object to the energy of that object.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measures of changes in the speed of an object or on any precise or quantitative definition of energy.
— Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.
— Ask questions and predict outcomes about the changes in energy that occur when objects collide.
Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the change in the energy due to the change in speed, not on the forces, as objects interact.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include quantitative measurements of energy.
— Apply scientific ideas to design, test, and refine a device that converts energy from one form to another.
Clarification Statement: Examples of devices could include electric circuits that convert electrical energy into motion energy of a vehicle, light, or sound; and, a passive solar heater that converts light into heat. Examples of constraints could include the materials, cost, or time to design the device.
Assessment Boundary: Devices should be limited to those that convert motion energy to electric energy or use stored energy to cause motion or produce light or sound.
— Develop a model of waves to describe patterns in terms of amplitude and wavelength and that waves can cause objects to move.
Clarification Statement: Examples of models could include diagrams, analogies, and physical models using wire to illustrate wavelength and amplitude of waves.
Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include interference effects, electromagnetic waves, non-periodic waves, or quantitative models of amplitude and wavelength.
— Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
— Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
— Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
— Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
— Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
— Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
— Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.
— Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.
— Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.
— Differentiate between contexts that call for formal English (e.g., presenting ideas) and situations where informal discourse is appropriate (e.g., small-group discussion); use formal English when appropriate to task and situation.
— Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information
— Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.
— Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
— Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
— Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
— Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.
— Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
Standards that are practiced daily but are not priority standards of the unit
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
— Use modal auxiliaries (e.g., can, may, must) to convey various conditions.
— Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.
— Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
— Use common, grade-appropriate Greek and Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., telegraph, photograph, autograph).
— Acquire and use accurately grade-appropriate general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, including those that signal precise actions, emotions, or states of being (e.g., quizzed, whined, stammered) and that are basic to a particular topic (e.g., wildlife, conservation, and endangered when discussing animal preservation).
— Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.
— Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.
— Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
— Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
— Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
— Compare and contrast a firsthand and secondhand account of the same event or topic; describe the differences in focus and the information provided.
— Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
— By the end of year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, in the grades 4—5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
— Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
(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.
— With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others; demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.
— 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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