What's So Important About the Amazon Rain Forest?

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SWBAT use several different comprehension strategies in order to better comprehend the text.

Big Idea

Today's lesson has another great science connection. We are still working on reading comprehension strategies but students will also begin to understand why trees are so important to the environment and how they help get rid of green house gases.

Teacher Background Knowledge and Preparation

Today we will be focusing on a text from ReadWorks called "Can the Amazon Be Saved?"  This is the last day in the unit where we will be going through the process of reading, highlighting and marking, answering questions, and completing a project.  By this stage in this unit I feel comfortable in teaching the different steps of this process, and I can really tell after the previous two days lessons that my students have a deep understanding of the concepts.  Again, though I condensed them into one lesson, the steps in the process are:

  • Day 1 - Reading and Getting the "Gist" - Strategic Highlighting and Marking Of the Text To Improve Comprehension
  • Day 2 - Students Answer Text Dependent Questions - Go Back Into the Text to Find Evidence
  • Day 3 - Written Work or Project- Responding to the Text

Today as we dive into the text we will be answering questions and retelling details.  This addresses standards RI1.1 and RI1.2.  We are going to connect the idea of deforestation and conservation with our other texts from the previous days.  This addresses standard RI1.3 because students will discuss how they learned about conserving water in the previous texts along with how to conserve the rainforest.  And, as we highlight and mark our text, we will be clarifying the meaning of of words and use text features to aid in our comprehension.  This addresses standards RI1.4 and RI1.5. 

For today's lesson you'll need either the Smartboard Helping Our Earth.notebook or Activboard Helping Our Earth.flipchart lesson.  You'll also need to go to ReadWorks and download the story and question set and make enough copies for each student in your class.  Your students will need highlighters and pencils and if you want to make the question part of the lesson like a game, you may want to assign some students to be team captains and write their answers on whiteboards.

Accessing the Text and Getting the "Gist"

10 minutes

Just like our other two lessons, it's time to read the text and just get the gist of the story.  Most of my students were able to whisper read the text on their own.  I assigned my 3 highest readers to 3 of my readers who struggle a bit.  My higher readers read the text, and the ones who needed more support whisper read the text along with their partner.  Each of students were able to access grade level complex text, just in a different way.  I really wanted to challenge my students so I purposely chose a text that was actually leveled as a 4th grade text with a 950 lexile level.  I kept in mind that there are different ways you can strategically group students so they can all access complex text.  These groupings include:

  • Higher readers can whisper read the text.
  • Readers who may struggle can partner reader.
  • Struggling readers can also be pulled back to a small group, and you can choral read the text together.
  • A stronger reader can peer tutor a lower reader.  The higher reader can read the text and the lower reader can whisper read along with their peer tutor.

My students read the text and got the gist of the story.  This took about 10 minutes.  You can see my students in action here: Reading and Getting the Gist - Day Three Amazon Rain Forest.mp4.

Discussing and Highlighting Vocabulary to Improve Comprehension

45 minutes

I had previewed the text ahead of time and looked for words and concepts that I knew would trip my students up and hinder their comprehension.  Since this was a 4th grade text, we spent a great deal of time discussing lots of the vocabulary.  Not only did we discuss the bold faced words and the foot notes, but we also discussed other vocabulary words in depth.  For example, I said, "Let's look at the first paragraph.  Who thinks they could find the word that means very fancy."  I gave students time to talk to the other students at their tables.  Then I called on volunteers that would come up and point to the word that they thought it was on the Smartboard.  We would have a class discussion about it and then the students would highlight the word only after I had confirmed which word was correct.  There were so many great words that we discussed such as emerald, stalk, slink, and endangered, just to name a few. 

I also had students look at the bold faced words that had numbers right after them.  I had them draw an arrow with their pencil down to the correct footnote at the bottom of the page.  Then we would read the definition at the bottom of the page.  You can see how we marked up the text her in this example: Example of Amazon Rain Forest Marking of Text.docx.  You can also get a better understanding of this portion of the lesson by viewing this video: Discussing Vocab to Improve Comprehension - Day Three Amazon Rain Forest.mp4, and this video: Discussing Vocab to Improve Comprehension Part 2- Day Three Amazon Rain Forest.mp4.

Answering Questions and Justifying Our Answers

25 minutes

I used the question set that came with this text.  Since this was a 4th grade passage there were more questions, and some of the questions required more writing.  If I had more time, or had done this lesson earlier in the year, I would have made a student work packet with my own questions.  Since it was the end of the year, (I did this lesson the last week of school) I went with what I had. 

I kept this part of the lesson engaging.  We read the question together, and then I had teams look for evidence to find the correct answer.  The team captains wrote their answers on the white boards, and then we would have a class discussion where I would ask students to justify why they thought their answer was correct.  Then I would confirm what the correct answer was.  We kept score again and at the end of the question portion of the lesson, I gave out prizes to the table(s) that had the most points.  This gave them a little incentive to stay engaged and try their best to go and find evidence.

Our Independent Work

20 minutes

I used this form, Common Words in Writing Responses.pdf, to help me create the differentiated work Differentiated Work Amazon Rain Forest.pdf for this lesson. It has been an invaluable resource for me and I hope it helps you too when you are creating lessons for your class as well. 

I passed out the work and explained to each of my groups what they needed to do to complete their assignments.  I walked around the room videoing and helping students who had questions.  You can see my students in action here: Our Independent Work - Day Three Amazon Rain Forest.mp4, as they were completing their assignments.  You can see what I thought of their work here in this video: Student Work Amazon Rain Forest.mp4.

Our Closure

5 minutes

I took out my hacky-sack and asked some simple questions. Even though this was a closure where I simply asked questions, it became much more engaging once I introduced the hacky-sack.  I asked the first question and tossed the hacky-sack to the first person.  After each question, the person who held the hacky-sack threw it to someone else.

I asked, "How did highlighting the text help you as a reader?  How did the your written assignment help you with your understanding about the Amazon rain forest?  How does the Amazon help the world?  What are people doing to save the Amazon?"

Then I told my students we would continue our learning about how we can save the Earth by reading "The Lorax" tomorrow.