The Beauties of Winter

Students explore the beauties of winter through a variety of texts about winter, learning about winter weather and weather forecasts and how different animals and plants survive winter.

Unit Summary

A note from our team: As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit will be revised this year. Some texts, materials, and questions may change as part of the revision.

In this unit, students explore the beauties of winter. In the first part of the unit students pretend to be meteorologists as they learn about different weather forecasts and the words that meteorologists use to describe the weather in winter. Students start by exploring generic weather words and then transition into winter-specific words. In the second part of the unit, students explore how animals survive in the winter and the ways in which animals meet their basic needs, even when the ground is covered with ice and snow. In the last part of the unit, students read a variety of Jan Brett texts and use what they have learned about snow and animals to make inferences about what is happening with the different winter animals in the text. By the end of the unit, students should have a strong grasp of what makes winter unique and the different ways plants and animals survive in the winter. Due to the timing of this unit, it is our hope that students will have plenty of opportunities to interact with the vocabulary and content in the natural world around them. When outside for recess or anytime that it snows, students should be pushed to use the vocabulary and content they are learning in the unit so that the content can fully come to life. 

In reading, this unit is predominately a collection of informational texts and builds on skills and strategies from earlier units. At this point it is assumed that students are inquisitive consumers of text and are able to ask and answer questions about a text in order to deepen understanding of the content. In this unit, students will continue to be challenged to identify the main topic of a text, retell the key details that connect to the main topic, describe the connection between ideas in a text, and use the illustrations and words to describe and retell what is happening in a text with varying levels of teacher support. Students will also begin to use strategies to ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text, specifically those connected to weather and snow. As part of daily text introductions, students will also continue to explore the purpose behind text features, specifically the front cover, back cover, and title page of a book, and how each feature supports understanding of the text. Many of the skills and strategies in this unit are spiraled from earlier units or will be spiraled through upcoming units; therefore, it is up to the teacher to decide what level of support students need with the particular strategy and scaffold accordingly. 

In writing, students will continue to write daily in response to the text. At this point in the year, students should be using a combination of drawing and words to correctly answer the question. Pick focus teaching points based on data from previous units and individual student needs. 

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Texts and Materials

Core Materials

Supporting Materials

  • Book: Weather Words by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House; Reprint edition, 1990) (optional)

See Text Selection Rationale

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What is the weather like in the winter? How does the weather impact different living things? 
  • What do animals need to survive? How is survival in winter different from survival in other seasons? 
  • What makes Jan Brett’s stories enjoyable?

Writing Focus Areas

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  • By this point, students should be able to confidently use a combination of drawings and words to answer a question about the text. Therefore, in this unit the focus is on making sure that students are correctly answering the question and including an inference or critical thinking that shows understanding of the text. In this unit, students are also expected to include details, in either their drawings or words, that connect directly with the question and text. 
  • By this point in the year, student answers should be comprehensible on their own, and no additional dictation should be needed to help a reader understand the student answer. Students who are unable to write comprehensible answers on their own should receive targeted daily feedback to help move them to a 3 on the rubric. 
  • By this point in the year, students should have received mini-lessons on all of the structure teaching points. Therefore, use class data to decide on targeted focus correction areas to either reteach the whole class or in small groups. 

Language Focus Areas

Pick two or three language focus correction areas based on student needs.

Writing-About-Reading Focus Areas

  • Uses a combination of drawings and words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show basic understanding of question or text. 
  • Includes details from the text, in both drawing and writing, that connect directly to the question. 
  • Uses vocabulary from the text or unit. 
  • Student answer is comprehensible; no dictation is needed. 

Vocabulary

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Literary Terms

topic, author, illustrator, details, front cover, back cover, title page, who, what, where, when, why

Text-based

Collect, record, observe, forecast, snow, snowflakes, blizzard, flurry, ice, icy, freezing, sleet, hail, flurries, sleet, snowstorm, crystal, migrate, over, under, hibernate, store, nature detective, tracks, nocturnal, carnivores, prey, pack, howl, whimper, endangered, shadow, shrugged, echo, cozy, warm, ridiculous, magnificent, tame

Intellectual Prep

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Building Background Knowledge:

  • Research and learn about different types of weather and common winter weather words. 
  • Research and learn about animals in the winter and what they need to survive in the winter. 
  • Research and learn about Jan Brett and where she gets her inspiration. 

Internalizing Unit Standards and Texts: 

  • Take unit assessment and notice evidence of unit priority standards. 
  • Read all unit texts and pull out key understanding students need to understand in order to learn both reading standards and science content. 
  • Think of projects and learning labs for students to do that bring the content and material to life. Students should complete a project after each bend of the unit to help internalize the material. 
  • Create a unit-long plan that allows students to collect, observe, record, and analyze daily weather patterns. Similar to unit 3, determining the weather patterns of winter is done in a deductive way and needs to be part of the daily routine even though it is not scripted into daily lesson frames. A deep understanding of weather patterns in winter and the impact on living things is necessary for the culminating project. 
  • Plan a book introduction structure that hits on standards RIK.5 and RIK.6. 
  • Determine habits of discussion focus using targeted speaking and listening standards as a guide. Create a plan for how to introduce and reinforce the targets during daily lessons. 
  • Order additional books for the classroom library to encourage independent learning and exploration. Potential categories of books to find: 
    • Books about winter and winter weather 
    • Books about animals that include facts about how they survive in the winter 
    • Additional Jen Brett books to support the embedded author study at the end of the unit 

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • Describe local weather patterns during the winter. 
  • Identify the sun as a source of light and warmth.
  • Explain daily weather changes that are unique to winter: 
    • Temperature: Thermometers are used to measure temperature. 
    • Clouds
    • Snow, snowflakes, blizzard, flurry
    • Ice, icy, freezing
    • Sleet, hail
  • Describe the basic characteristics of animals, including: 
    • Animals need food, water, and space to live and grow. 
    • Animals get food from eating plants or other living things. 
    • Offspring are very much (but not exactly) like their parents. 
    • Most animal babies need to be fed and cared for by their parents. 
    • Pets have special needs and must be cared for by their owners. 

Assessment

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

Lesson Map

1

Discussion

    RI.K.1

Build background about winter by asking who, what, where, when, and why questions about weather, winter, and animals in the winter. 

2

  • Weather Words

    K-ESS2-1

    K-ESS3-2

Create a plan to collect, record, and observe the weather daily by using quantitative and qualitative observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. 

3

  • It’s Snowing!

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.4

Defend if all snowstorms are the same by asking and answering questions about key details in a text. 

4

  • Story of Snow

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain if all snow crystals are the same by asking and answering questions about key details in a text. 

5

Discussion & Writing

  • It’s Snowing!

  • Story of Snow

  • Over and Under...

    W.K.8

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Describe the weather by using vocabulary from the unit to supply information on a topic orally and in writing. 

6

  • Animals in Winter

    K-LS1-1

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain how different animals get the food they need to survive and what would happen if they didn’t get the food they needed to survive, by describing the connection between ideas in a text. 

7

  • Over and Under...

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what happens “under the snow” and what would happen if the animals weren’t under the snow by retelling key details in a text and describing the connection between ideas in a text.

8

  • Big Tracks...

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what a nature detective can learn from studying animal tracks, by retelling key details in a text and describing the connection between ideas in a text. 

9

  • Wild Tracks!

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe what we can learn from studying a track closely, by retelling key details in a text and describing the connection between ideas in a text.

10

  • Wolves pp. 1 – 15

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain why living in a pack is important to a wolf’s survival and what would happen if they didn’t live in a pack by retelling key details in a text and describing the connection between ideas in a text.

11

  • Wolves — 16-end

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Describe why the author states that wolves are not cruel, by retelling key details in a text and describing the connection between ideas in a text. 

12

  • Owls pp. 1 – 18

    RI.K.2

Describe the main topic of owls and the key details the author includes, by identifying the main topic and retelling the key details of a text. 

13

  • Owls — 19-end

    RI.K.2

Describe the main topic of owls and the key details the author includes, by identifying the main topic and retelling the key details of a text. 

14

  • Animals in Winter

  • Big Tracks...

  • Wild Tracks!

  • Wolves

  • Owls

    K-LS1-1

    W.K.8

    SL.K.5

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Explain what animals need to survive the winter by using a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to retell what they learned about animals in winter.

15

  • Owl Moon

    RL.K.2

    RL.K.3

Describe what you need when you go owling, by retelling key details about characters and setting in a story. 

16

  • Owl Moon — Close Read

    RL.K.4

Explain how the author uses descriptive language to help a reader understand the owl hunt, by describing key details from a text and what they mean. 

17

  • The Mitten

    RL.K.2

    RL.K.3

Explain if this story could happen in real life, by retelling key details of a story and explaining if they could happen in real life or not. 

18

  • The Hat

    RL.K.3

    RL.K.7

Explain how the hedgehog’s feelings about the hat changed from the beginning of the story to the end, by retelling key details about characters and setting in a story.

19

  • Annie and...

    RL.K.3

    RL.K.7

Describe what the girl’s problem was and how she tried to solve it, by retelling key details about characters and setting in a story.

20

Discussion & Writing

  • The Mitten

  • The Hat

  • Annie and...

    W.K.8

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Participate in a class discussion on where Jan Brett gets her inspiration and what she likes to write about. 

Write an opinion piece about which Jan Brett story was your favorite and why by stating an opinion and supporting it with a reason.

21

Project

    K-ESS2-1

    K-ESS3-2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.5

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Use the data collected to create a weather forecast that describes what weather is like in the winter and how it impacts different living things, by sharing observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. 

22

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Earth and Human Activity
  • K-ESS3-2 — Ask questions to obtain information about the purpose of weather forecasting to prepare for, and respond to, severe weather. Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on local forms of severe weather.

Earth's Systems
  • K-ESS2-1 — Use and share observations of local weather conditions to describe patterns over time. Clarification Statement: Examples of qualitative observations could include descriptions of the weather (such as sunny, cloudy, rainy, and warm); examples of quantitative observations could include numbers of sunny, windy, and rainy days in a month. Examples of patterns could include that it is usually cooler in the morning than in the afternoon and the number of sunny days versus cloudy days in different months. Assessment Boundary: Assessment of quantitative observations limited to whole numbers and relative measures such as warmer/cooler.

From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
  • K-LS1-1 — Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive. Clarification Statement: Examples of patterns could include that animals need to take in food but plants do not; the different kinds of food needed by different types of animals; the requirement of plants to have light; and, that all living things need water.

Language Standards
  • L.K.1 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

  • L.K.2 — Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

  • L.K.4 — Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on kindergarten reading and content.

  • L.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, explore word relationships and nuances in word meanings.

  • L.K.6 — Use words and phrases acquired through conversations, reading and being read to, and responding to texts.

Reading Standards for Informational Text
  • RI.K.1 — With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

  • RI.K.2 — With prompting and support, identify the main topic and retell key details of a text.

  • RI.K.3 — With prompting and support, describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

  • RI.K.4 — With prompting and support, ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

  • RI.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear (e.g., what person, place, thing, or idea in the text an illustration depicts).

  • RI.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Reading Standards for Literature
  • RL.K.2 — With prompting and support, retell familiar stories, including key details.

  • RL.K.3 — With prompting and support, identify characters, settings, and major events in a story.

  • RL.K.4 — Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text.

  • RL.K.7 — With prompting and support, describe the relationship between illustrations and the story in which they appear (e.g., what moment in a story an illustration depicts).

  • RL.K.9 — With prompting and support, compare and contrast the adventures and experiences of characters in familiar stories.

  • RL.K.10 — Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Speaking and Listening Standards
  • SL.K.1 — Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

  • SL.K.2 — Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

  • SL.K.3 — Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

  • SL.K.5 — Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

  • SL.K.6 — Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Writing Standards
  • W.K.2 — Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.

  • W.K.5 — With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.

  • W.K.8 — With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.