Last updated: 11/3/2016


Grade 3 - Engage, Connect, Question – Read about Gardening

  Subject:   English Language Arts (NYS P-12 Common Core)
  Grade:   Elementary, 3rd Grade
  Unit Title:  

Engage, Connect, Question – Read about Gardening

  Approx. Number of Weeks:  

About 4 weeks

Unit Summary:

This unit is focused on nonfiction reading skills.  

In the first three minilessons, students are taught to engage and connect with nonfiction texts.  In the last three minilessons, readers are asked to question as they read.  These skills are modeled with nonfiction texts on various topics and then practiced with other non-fiction texts.


As assessment at the end asks students to read a new article about a hurricane and show their thinking. 

Next Generation Skills Addressed:
   Collaboration & Communication
   Creativity & Innovation
   Critical Thinking & Problem Solving
   Research & Information Fluency
   Social & Emotional Intelligence

1. What will students know and be able to do?


RL.3.1 - Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

RL.3.4 - Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

RL.3.5 - Refer to parts of stories, dramas, and poems when writing or speaking about a text, using terms such as chapter, scene, and stanza; describe how each successive part builds on earlier sections.

RL.3.7 - Explain how specific aspects of a text's illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting).

Essential Understandings:

Background knowledge is the foundation for thinking.

Questions spur curious minds to investigate.


Essential Questions:

Students will know:

  • Readers connect the new to the known.
  • Questions help readers understand the world.
  • Questions help readers seek out information, solve problems and extend their understanding.
  • Asking questions helps readers discover new information and gain knowledge.

Content/Conceptual Knowledge:

•          Understand the purpose of different text features

•          Nonfiction reading is about reading to learn information

•          Text and visual features are used to gain information

•          Readers listen to their inner-voice when reading new information

•          Readers merge thinking with new information and react to it

•          Readers connect background knowledge to new information

•          Readers recognize that background knowledge might be inaccurate and revise thinking accordingly

•          Readers ask questions when reading to learn information

•          Not all of our questions are answered in our reading



Students will be able to:

Use text and visual feature to support their understanding
Use language that shows they have merged their thinking with new information
Respond and react to new information with questions, comments, etc.
Connect what they already to what they are learning to enhance their understanding
Revise and change their thinking when they learn something new
Read with a question in mind
Use discussion to answer questions
Ask questions to understand information and big ideas
Ask questions to encourage further investigation
Clarify confusion by asking questions
Use strategies for answering questions

2. How will we – and they – know?

Authentic Performance Task:

Common Benchmark Assessment:

Pre-assessment (Required)     Prior Knowledge; Level or Skills; Vocabulary Knowledge

 (This section is being adjusted.  If your team creates assessments for this unit that work, please share them with Erin so they can be shared with the other third grade teachers.

Students should work with a nonfiction text that contains a text feature such as a map or chart.  Students should be asked to write what they already know about the topic prior to looking at the nonfiction article.  Then, they should write what information they learned from the article. 

We previously used "Elephants in Africa" for this assessment, but we are currently seeking a better article to use for this.  In the meantime, please feel free to use and relvant nonfiction article from Storyworks Jr. or content area reading. 

 Students can answer a question like, "Why did the author include this graphic source and what new understandings will readers gain from it?"  If a longer written response is provided, it may be scored on the four point rubric.

Gr34point rubric.pdf

  You should judge your students' knowledge in each of these areas:

•          Understanding the purpose of the text and the visual feature

•          Using features to gain information

•          Merging thinking with new information and reacts to it

•          Connecting background knowledge to learn new information

•          Revising or changing thinking based on new evidence



Summative Assessment (Required)     Evidence of student understanding of the essential understanding



3. What learning activities will students participate in?

Learning Activities:


Present scenario around gardening to establish purpose for reading.  Allow each child to respond to the scenario before you begin:

“You must plan for a garden this summer.  The garden should be interesting and could help feed your family over the summer.  Sketch plans and write down how you will care for this garden.”

NOTE:  In each minilesson, you will model with a text that is NOT about plants and then give students time to practice the skill in their plant texts.

Minilessons from Stephanie Harvey’s Comprehension Toolkit Book 2 – In this group of lessons students will activate background knowledge and connect to new learning.


Sessions 1 – 2:  Follow the Text Signposts

Students will identify features and describe their purposes, gain accurate information from features as they are encountered in the text.  Students will explore captivating books noticing two kinds of features - visual and text.  They will list features they find in texts and think about how they aid in comprehension.  Using the book Lightening by Stephen Kramer, teachers and students will co-construct a feature/purpose chart.  Students will practice noticing features, determining their purposes and gaining accurate information.  For independent practice, students will make their own feature/purpose chart use plant books provided in your bin for practice.

Sessions 3-4: Merge Your Thinking with New Learning

Students will notice the inner conversation when they meet new information.  They will stop, think about and react to new information.  They will merge their thinking with new information.  Listen for the language that signals new learning.  Model with the book Lightening by Stephen Kramer, recording inner conversation language that signals new learning on an anchor chart (e.g. Wow!  I never knew…).  Students will use post it notes to mark new learning and question new information.  For independent practice, students will use post it notes to track their inner conversation and new learning in plant books.


Sessions 5-6: Connect New to Known

Students will understand that what readers learn depends on what they know or don’t know.  They will recognize that thinking about what they already know will help them understand new information.  They will also recognize that some of their background knowledge might be inaccurate.  Reading can clear up misconceptions and change thinking.  Model with Summer ofthe Shark (available in Harvey resource), using the anchor chart “What I know/What I already Learned”.  Students will record new learning and discuss misconceptions.  (Consider using post it notes to record all “knowns” on class chart for model so that misconceptions can be moved to the “What I Learned” column and/or corrected.  Correcting misconceptions will be a struggle for some third graders.)  Students will practice by recording plant information on the “What I Know/What I Learned” chart.  Partner work might facilitate this independent practice. 

Minilessons from Stephanie Harvey’s Comprehension Toolkit Book 3 – In this group of lessons, students will ask thoughtful and insightful questions of the text which will enrich the reading experience and lead to deeper understanding.


Sessions 7-8: Question the Text

Students will ask questions as they read to understand that good readers question the text.  They will stop and notice when their questions are answered and recognize that not all of our questions are answered when they read.  Teacher will use the book The Mary Celeste:  An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen.  As you read together, jot down on sticky notes questions and ask kids to jot their own questions.  Stop reading if an answer is found and record it.  A question/answer chart will help with this process.  For independent practice, students will develop their own question/answer chart as they work with a plant text.  Note that questions that are marked “NA” (no answer) may be pursued in other texts.  Please allot sufficient for finding answers in multiple texts or talking with others. 


Sessions 9-10: Read to Discover Answers 

Students will keep their questions in mind as they read to search for information that extends their learning and understand that we arrive at answers to our questions using a variety of strategies (skimming and scanning, inferring, sharing and discussing background knowledge, doing further research).  Co-create a chart listing strategies for answering questions. 

Model with First on the Moon by Barbara Hehner, asking questions, recording answers and writing down strategies used. 

Students will practice independently in their plant books using a three-column chart (question, answer, strategy).  Note that students may need extra time to track down answers to questions that did not appear in the text they read. 


Sessions 11-12: Ask Questions to Expand Thinking 

Students will learn new information and relate it to their questions.  They will ask questions to resolve confusion and better understand complicated ideas and issues.  They will understand that questions can lead to more thoughtful learning and further investigation.  Model using The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles.  Co-create a two-column anchor chart “What

We are Learning/ What we are Wondering About”.  Model using your own innerconversation.  Students practice using their plant books. 

NOTE: The “What we are Wondering About” column can become longer written responses to text.  Lingering questions might provide opportunities for further research.


Sessions 13-14: Culminating Activity

 “Using all that you have learned about gardening and plants.  Revise your plan.  Sketch and label plans for a garden you could plant.  Write how you would care for your garden to be sure it is thriving.”

Session 15: Assessment using “Elephants in Africa” “The Eye of the Storm”

Opportunities for Differentiation

“What will we do differently with students who already know, who partially know, and/or who don’t know?”

The scenario here is picked to support science concepts.  Other content can be used in place of plants: 

                  What animals could you include in an outdoor petting zoo in Rochester?

                  How can you conserve water?  Reduce waste?  Etc.  


Discipline Specific Considerations:



Lightening  by Stephen Kramer   

The Mary Celeste:  An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen          

 The Story of Ruby Bridges  by Robert Coles (the special anniversary issue is a paperback)    

 How Plants Survive (Newbridge)

 Time for Kids:  Plants!  

How Plants Grow (Heinemann)

Roots Shoots Buckets and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy   

 Grow It Cook It (DK book)

 Grow It Cook It with Kids       

 Kids in the Garden; Growing Plants for Food and Fun     

 From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons  

 The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons


Summer of the Sharks (Time for Kids)


First on the Moon (And I Was There Book) by Barbara Hehner  


Teacher Resources:   local Cornell Cooperative (this is the best teacher resource)     (4H - Monroe County Extension of the Cornell Cooperative)

Professional Resource:  

Minilessons listed are outlined in details in The Comprehension  Tool Kit by S. Harvey and A. Goudvis: Books 2 and 3

Grade Three Scott Foresman Textbook: Unit 2, Whole Wide World has several texts for additional practice

Use KidsSearch or another database to find many articles on plants that will provide additional opportunities for practice

Seed packets and plant stakes from gardening stores


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