Understanding Earth: Life Cycles

Students study the life cycles of different plants and animals and the characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things, through multiple engaging informational texts and hands-on activities.

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 science-based unit, students begin to build respect for and understanding of living things by studying the life cycles of different plants and animals. In the first bend of the unit, students continue their exploration of seasons by exploring what makes spring the season of growth and the different characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things. In the second part of the unit, students observe and learn about plants and what seeds need in order to grow into a plant. In the third part of the unit, students observe and learn about frogs and butterflies and the process in which tadpoles turn into frogs and caterpillars transform into butterflies. In the fourth part of the unit, students learn about birds and how birds grow and change inside of an egg. The unit culminates with students studying different ways humans change the environment and coming up with solutions for ways to reduce human impact on the environment. For each bend of the unit it is incredibly important that students are able to participate in hands-on labs and activities that help them see and observe the life cycles in action. Therefore, there are multiple project days within the unit. After the projects and labs have been set up, students should be pushed to predict, observe, record, and explain the changes that they notice. Throughout the unit, students should be challenged to think critically about how the life cycles of plants and animals are similar and different, and what all living things need in order to thrive and survive. 

In reading, this unit serves as a chance to review all previously taught reading strategies. With that said, one main focus of the unit is on describing the connection between ideas or pieces of information, particularly in regard to sequencing. Another focus is on describing the relationship between illustrations and the text in which they appear, and using the illustrations to deepen understanding of key details in a text. When the text demands, students should also be challenged to ask and answer questions about key details, identify the main topic, ask and answer questions about unknown words, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text, and compare two texts on the same topic. If there are other strategies from the year that students are struggling with, plan strategic places over the course of the unit to spiral in and remediate the strategies so that students are prepared for first grade. 

In writing, the main focus of this unit is on ensuring that all students are scoring a 3 or a 4 on the reading response rubric. Therefore, targeted whole-group and small-group mini-lessons should be planned based on student needs. 

Subscribe to Fishtank Plus to unlock access to additional resources for this unit, including:

  • Enhanced Lesson Plans
  • Student Handout Editor
  • Google Classroom Integration
  • Vocabulary Package
  • Fluency Package
  • Data Analysis Package
 

Texts and Materials

Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which supports our non-profit mission.

Core Materials

  • Book: It’s Spring! by Linda Glaser (National Geographic School Pub; 1 edition, 2010)    —  AD590L

  • Book: What’s Alive? by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (HarperCollins; 1 edition, 1995)    —  430L

  • Book: How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan (HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD470L

  • Book: From Seed to Sunflower by Gerald Legg (Children's Press(CT); American ed. Edition, 1998)    —  540L

  • Book: The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle (Little Simon; Reprint edition, 2009)    —  500L

  • Book: Who Will Plant a Tree? by Jerry Pallotta (Sleeping Bear Press, 2010)  

  • Book: Wonderful Worms by Linda Glaser (Millbrook Press; Reprint edition, 1994)    —  480L

  • Book: Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert (HMH Books for Young Readers; 1 edition, 2001)    —  AD459L

  • Book: From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman (HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD520L

  • Book: From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Gerald Legg (Franklin Watts; American ed. Edition, 1998)    —  520L

  • Book: Birdsongs by Betsy Franco (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007)  

  • Book: Have you Heard the Nesting Bird? by Rita Gray (HMH Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 2017)    —  AD430L

  • Book: A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz (Jenkins, HarperCollins; Revised edition, 2015)    —  AD630L

  • Book: From Egg to Chicken by Gerald Legg (Children's Press(CT), 1998)    —  560L

  • Book: The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen and Jerry Pinkney (Morrow Junior Books; 1st edition, 1999)    —  AD820L

  • Book: Be a Friend to Trees by Patricia Lauber (HarperCollins; Revised edition, 1994)    —  570L

  • Book: The Lorax by Dr. Suess (Random House Books for Young Readers, 1971)    —  560L

  • Book: City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (HarperCollins; 1 edition, 1994)    —  AD570L

  • Book: Recycle! A Handbook for Kids by Gail Gibbons (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; Reprint edition, 1996)    —  AD840L

  • Book: The Three R’s: Reuse, Reduce, Recycle by Nuria Roca (Barron's Educational Series, 2007)  

  • Book: If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson (Balzer + Bray, 2015)    —  AD340L

  • Book: Frogs by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House; Reprint edition, 1993)    —  AD600L

  • Book: National Geographic Readers: Frogs by Elizabeth Carney (National Geographic Children's Books, 2009)    —  470L

  • Book: From Tadpole to Frog by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld (Scholastic Paperbacks, 2011)    —  520L

Assessment

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

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

?

Building Content Knowledge: 

  • Research and learn about seeds and plant life cycles. 
  • Research and learn about butterflies and butterfly life cycles. 
  • Research and learn about frog life cycles. 
  • Research and learn about the importance of recycling and taking care of the earth. 

Internalizing Unit Standards and Texts: 

  • Read unit texts and notice evidence of key understandings and standards. 
  • Determine hands-on labs for students to interact with the different science concepts presented over the course of the unit. Order all necessary materials. There should be hands-on labs for all of the following topics: 
    • Butterflies
    • Frogs/Tadpoles
    • Chickens
    • Plants 
  • Create a plan for how to observe and monitor labs once they have been set up. Make sure observation plans allow for students to develop the habits of scientific inquiry and understanding. 
    • If feasible, have students create science journals as a way of tracking observations and noticing over the course of the unit. 
  • Create a plan for how to observe and track the weather similar to the fall and winter units. Plan to introduce key spring weather words: fog, rain, drizzle, floods, thunder, dew, humid. 
  • Decide if parts of the unit should be slowed down or if more lab days should be added in based on school schedule and day availability. 
  • Determine culminating discussion focus that reinforces speaking and listening targets for the unit and year. 
  • Create a structure for spiraling standards so that they are part of every lesson when the text demands. 
    • RIK.1  asking and answering questions about key details
    • RIK.2  identifying the main topic and retelling key details of a text
    • RIK.4  asking and answering questions about unknown words in a text 
  • Plan end-of-unit project to help students deeply internalize unit content and the importance of recycling and taking care of the earth. 
  • Order additional texts about spring and life cycles to support independent research and reading.

Essential Questions

?

  • What is the weather like in the spring? How does the weather impact different living things? 
  • What is weather like in the summer? How does the weather impact different living things? 
  • What is a life cycle? 
  • What are characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things? 
  • How are life cycles of various organisms similar and different? 
  • How are the life cycles of plants and animals similar and different? 
  • What do all living things need to survive? Why? 
  • What choices can people make to reduce their impact on the land, water, air, and other living things? 

Writing Focus Areas

?

Because this is the culminating unit of the year, the main focus is on ensuring that all students are scoring a 3 or 4 on the reading response rubric. Using data from previous units, pick both whole-class and small-group focus correction areas for the unit. 

Language 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 
  • Uses words to correctly answer the question with an inference, critical thinking, or facts that show deep understanding of the question 
  • 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 

Writing-About-Reading Focus Areas

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

Vocabulary

?

Literary Terms

similar, different, characteristics, prediction

Text-based

spring, bursting, seasons, living, nonliving, alive, energy, seed, root, soil, shoot, minerals, sprout, pollination, bud, petals, bury, underground, gills, tadpole, spawn, hind, lungs, webbed feet, unfold, nectar, metamorphosis, molting, chrysalis, pupa, nesting, yolk, shell, feathers, brooding, garbage, landfill, recycle, pollution, biodegrade, reuse, reduce

weather-based words: fog, rain, drizzle, floods, thunder, dew, humid 

Content Knowledge and Connections

?

  • Describe key characteristics of spring. 
  • Explain that a life cycle is a series of stages that a living thing passes through as it is born, grows, and dies. 
  • Explain and identify that living, nonliving, and dead things have different characteristics. 
  • Describe how various organisms grow and develop differently over time. 
  • Identify the basic components of a plant and explain the plant life cycle. 
  • Describe different ways to help take care of the earth (conservation, recycling, etc.).

Lesson Map

1

  • It’s Spring!

    RI.K.2

Explain how the little boy knows it’s spring, by identifying the main topic of a text and retelling key details of the text. 

2

Discussion

  • It’s Spring!

    RI.K.9

    SL.K.1

Explain if spring is just like fall and why by stating a claim and supporting the claim with evidence from class discussion. 

3

  • What’s Alive?

    RI.K.3

Explain how you can tell if something is alive and what all living things need, by describing the connection between pieces of information in a text. 

4

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Determine the characteristics of living, nonliving, and dead things by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts. 

5

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

Explain how a plant begins and predict what a seed needs to grow and if it can grow on its own, by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

6

  • How a Seed Grows

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain how seeds change as they grow and what they need in order to change and grow, by describing the connection between pieces of information in a text.

7

  • From Seed to Sunflower

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.9

    L.K.6

Explain how seeds change into sunflowers and what happens at each stage by describing the connection between pieces of information in a text.

8

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    L.K.6

Predict what will happen with the seed you planted by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

9

  • The Tiny Seed

    RI.K.3

Explain why the tiny seed is able to survive and other seeds don’t by describing the connection between pieces of information in a text.

10

  • Who Will Plant a Tree?

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain why and how animals are animals an important part of a plant’s life cycle by describing the connection between pieces of information in a text.

11

  • Wonderful Worms

    RI.K.3

Explain why earthworms are called “underground gardeners” by describing and making connections between pieces of information in a text. 

12

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Deepen understanding of plants and their life cycles by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

13

  • Frogs

    RI.K.3

Describe how tadpoles grow and change, by describing the connection between events and information in a text. 

14

  • Frogs

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Explain what frogs need to survive and if all frogs have the same tools for survival by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

15

  • From Tadpole to Frog

    RI.K.3

    L.K.6

Describe what happens at each stage of the frog life cycle by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

16

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Deepen understanding of frogs and their life cycles by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

17

  • Waiting for Wings

    RI.K.8

Explain why Lois Ehlert titled the book “Waiting for Wings,” by identifying the reasons an author gives to support points in a text. 

18

  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly

    RI.K.3

Describe how caterpillars change into butterflies, by describing the connection between events and information in a text. 

19

  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.9

Explain how this book is similar to and different from the text read in lesson 18 by identifying basic similarities and differences between two texts on the same topic. 

20

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Predict what will happen with the caterpillar and what the caterpillar needs in order to go through each stage of the life cycle, by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

21

  • Birdsongs

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.8

Explain if all birdsongs are the same by analyzing details from the words and pictures to explain the main ideas of a text. 

22

  • Have you Heard the Nesting Bird?

    RI.K.3

Predict what is happening with the nesting bird and why it isn’t making any noise, by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

23

  • A Nest Full of Eggs pp. 1 – 14

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe the beginning of a bird’s life and why each stage is important by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

24

  • A Nest Full of Eggs — 16-end

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Explain what birds need to survive, by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

25

  • From Egg to Chicken

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.7

Describe the chicken life cycle and how an egg changes into a chicken, by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

26

Project

    K-LS1-1

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Deepen understanding of birds and their life cycles by participating in a hands-on activity that challenges students to observe and make connections about scientific concepts.

27

  • The Ugly Duckling pp. 1 – 12

    RL.K.3

Explain how the other ducks treated the duckling and if it was fair for them to treat him that way, by describing characters and major events in a story.

28

  • The Ugly Duckling — 13-end

    RL.K.2

    RL.K.3

Explain what lessons we can learn from the ugly duckling, by retelling familiar stories and their key details. 

29

Discussion

    RI.K.2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.2

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Analyze how the life cycles of plants and animals are similar and different, and how the life cycles of various organisms are similar and different, by stating an idea and using evidence from the unit to support the idea.

30

Discussion

    K-LS1-1

    RI.K.2

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.2

    SL.K.6

    L.K.6

Explain what all living things need to survive and discuss what could prevent living things from getting what they need for survival, by stating a claim and supporting it with details from the entire unit. 

31

  • Be a Friend to Trees pp. 1 – 21

    K-ESS2-2

    RI.K.3

    RI.K.8

Identify the reasons an author uses to show that trees are useful by identifying the reasons an author gives to support points in a text. 

32

  • The Lorax pp. 21 – 29

    K-ESS2-2

    RL.K.3

Describe what is happening to the Truffula Trees and how the Lorax feels by describing key events and character feelings. 

33

  • The Lorax pp. 30 – 51

    K-ESS2-2

    RL.K.3

Describe how the factory impacted the other living things in the environment, by describing the connection between key details and events in a text. 

34

  • City Green

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain how the community garden changed the neighborhood and why the change is important by retelling familiar stories and their key details. 

35

  • Recycle! pp. 1 – 13

    K-ESS2-2

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain what recycling is and what types of things can be recycled and why by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

36

  • Recycle! — 14-end

    K-ESS2-2

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain why it is important to recycle cans and plastic and what would happen to the environment if cans and plastic weren’t recycled, by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

37

  • The Three R's

    K-ESS2-2

    RI.K.2

    RI.K.3

Explain what it means to reuse and reduce and why it is important by describing the connection between events and information in a text.

38

  • If You Plant a Seed

    RL.K.3

Explain what happens when you plant a seed of kindness, by describing characters and key events. 

39

Discussion

    SL.K.1

    SL.K.2

Debate and discuss unit essential questions by stating a claim and using evidence from the entire unit to support the claim. 

40

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Earth and Human Activity
  • K-ESS3-3 — Communicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air, and/or other living things in the local environment. Clarification Statement: Examples of human impact on the land could include cutting trees to produce paper and using resources to produce bottles. Examples of solutions could include reusing paper and recycling cans and bottles.

Earth's Systems
  • K-ESS2-2 — Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs. Clarification Statement: Examples of plants and animals changing their environment could include a squirrel digs in the ground to hide its food and tree roots can break concrete.

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.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.8 — With prompting and support, identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.

  • RI.K.9 — With prompting and support, identify basic similarities in and differences between two texts on the same topic (e.g., in illustrations, descriptions, or procedures).

  • 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.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.7 — Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).

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