Thursday, December 1, 2016


South America Tropical Rainforest

5th grade

Essential Question: 
What is South America and how does the tropical rainforest impact its environment?

Jessica Germain  
Teaching Social Studies and the Arts
Professor Silverman

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
  1. Cover
  2. Table of Contents
  3. Unit Overview
  4. Assessment Matrix
  5. Scaffolding Objectives
  6. Lesson 1
  7. Lesson 2
  8. Lesson 3
  9. Lesson 4
  10. Lesson 5
  11. Mini Lesson
  12. Unit Bibliography
  13. Final Reflection
  14. First Draft of Lessons 1-5 with Comments

Unit Overview

Unit Topic - South America Tropical Rain Forest Grade - 5th

1) Essential Question:

What is South America and how does the tropical rainforest impact its environment?

2) Content Knowledge:

Before reading more information about the South America Tropical Rainforest in my sources, I already had a little bit of background knowledge about this topic from experiencing it personally on family vacations.  My family and I have visited Costa Rica in Central America, a few islands around Central America and various islands in and around the Virgin Islands.  Even though these places are not located specifically in South America, it has helped me to understand a deeper about the culture and people of South America, the climates, plants, and the animals that I will focusing on in my unit.  During those vacations, we have taken various excursions through rainforests, observing such things as sloths, crocodiles, different insects, snakes, monkeys, plants and waterfalls. All of these experiences have increased my knowledge about what might be found in South American Tropical Rainforests.  
After reading more information about the South America Tropical Rainforest, I have learned a great deal more than what I already knew and found some critical topics that I would like to teach the children in the various lessons that will be taught throughout my unit.  
In the first lesson, I would like to start by introducing the students to South America and by having them learn about its geography.  For example, they would learn what South America is as a whole, where it is on a map, the different countries that make up this continent, and some of the main landforms that this continent is famous for, such as the Amazon.  During this lesson, I would also like to teach them about the culture South America.  This would include a brief summary of the history of this continent, the languages, the clothing, the food, and the art forms such as dance, art, and music.  
In the second lesson, I would like to introduce the students to rainforest in general.  They would learn what rainforest is, where rainforests are located all around the world, the different layers that make up the rainforest and some background information about the environments of each layer, including the animals and plants.  
In the third lesson, I would like to focus in more on the types of animals that live in the South America Tropical Rainforest in particular and the different types of environments they need to survive.  Through the readings I found, I learned a lot about the types of animals that live in the rainforest, many of which I have not seen myself, and how each layer of the rainforest hold different species of animals.  Each animal is different and each one can only survive in certain layers.  I would really like to teach my students about that and incorporate this knowledge into the last lesson, which will also include art.  
In the fourth lesson, I would like to focus in on the plants found in the South America and it’s Tropical Rainforest.  I learned though my readings that there are a lot of different zones of the South America such as the Caribbean, the Amazon, the savannah, temperate regions, the Mediterranean region, temperate grasslands and the desert.  Each of these zones includes different types of plants.
In the fifth lesson, I would like to make this an art project.  From my readings, I found a blog that showed a project about a rainforest.  As a class, the teacher and students made a replica of a rainforest.  This included each layer of the rainforest and the animals and plants that lived on each section.  However, instead of doing this as a class activity, I thought I could have each student choose his or her favorite layer and create a Rainforest shoebox.  I would have materials in class for the students to use during art time and they could create a shoebox replica of their favorite South American Rainforest layer, including the animals, plants, and landforms that are from that layer.  They would also include a little written excerpt about why they chose that layer.  Once they are finished their projects, each student will get a chance to present it to the class and then they will be displayed around the classroom for a period of time.  I am really excited for this lesson, because I really enjoyed researching and learning about the different layers of the rainforest and the animals and plants that lived in each layer.  I would love to share this knowledge with the students and hope they would have as much enthusiasm about it as well.  

3) Rationale 

I believe that it is very important for students to learn about the South America Tropical Rainforest.  I believe that it is very important to learn about geography and all parts of the world, like North America, the African Safari, Europe, Asia, Antarctica, etc.  However, I have chosen to narrow in on the South America Tropical Rainforest because I have visited a few rainforests and little islands close to South America and it is something I am very interested in myself.  It is an important part of our world and I have some personal knowledge about rainforests that I can share with the students.  Since I, personally, have experienced what it is like in rainforests similar to that of South America and am passionate about it, it will be extremely fun to teach the students. They deserve to have the teacher also be enthusiastic about what they are learning.  If the teacher is not enthusiastic about the topic, then the students might not be as engaged as they could be.  
I also believe that it is important for students to learn about the South America Tropical Rainforest because it is a huge part of our world and, without it, the world would not be the same.  There are different cultures, languages, and people who live there and, without them, the world would be so different.  There are tons of different animals, plants, and environments that are in the South America Tropical Rainforest that you cannot find in America or in other countries; therefore, I believe that it is important for the students to eventually learn about every part of the world.   And who knows!  They might wind up falling in love with that part of the world and doing some type of work there someday!  The world is their oyster and they deserve to be well educated in every aspect of it. 

4) Resources:

Resources for myself: 


     On this webpage, it presents an article describing the traditional types of food found in South America.  It does not cover every single food, considering there are many different families and backgrounds gathered there, however, it highlights the main foods that South America is known for and what the most common foods are.  The author gives a detailed excerpt about each food listen in the article to let the reader know general information about the food itself and how it relates to the culture.  This articles also provides numerous pictures, visually showing the reader the different types of food found in this culture and what they might look like in different places.  


     Natalie's blog offers great suggestions for many different aspects that go into creating great classroom set ups and lessons.  In this particular link, Natalie gives a great example of how to incorporate the rainforest into an art lesson.  She gives examples of books to use, worksheets to hand out, and class projects to work on.  This reference also includes many pictures as a reference for how to perform a project. 

     Maps of the World is a great site which provides information for anywhere in the world that one might be interested in learning about.  In this case, it provides a lot of information about South America such as its art, culture, music, people, and much more.  It not only gives an overview about certain continents, but also focuses in on any particular country in the world.  


     Credo provides this article that explains each region in South America.  It touches on each different land type such as the Caribbean, the Amazon, the Savannah, Dessert, Grasslands and much more.  It also provides information about the climates of those regions and the plants that they might consist of.  While it might not be too detailed, it provides enough information about the South America land types to fulfill one's overall interest in the topic.


     In this webpage, Credo provides a more detailed article about the land types and land forms in South America.  It includes both simple and detailed pictures describing the types of land on the premises.  This article mainly gives a lot of information about the Andes, the Amazon River, Patagonia, and the Pampas while providing details about the climates, elevations, and size.  It gives this information in writing, while also providing pictures to make it more accessible to all people with different learning styles. 


     This Credo article focuses on the geographical aspect of South America.  The author writes it as if describing a map of South America.  It briefly talks about the oceans that surround the continent, its coastline, the square mileage of the continent, its rivers and other land types, and much more.


     The world atlas provides information about South America's mountain ranges.  It goes through each mountain ranges giving a little excerpt about each one.  It provides information about the elevations, the locations within the whole continent, and the overall size of the range.  Each of these excerpts also provide a word that links you to another site with more information about the subjects.


     WWF Global gives an extremely informational article about the specific plants in the Amazon.  It gives an overview of the environment in the rainforest, specifically focusing on the plants ecosystem.  Then it goes into a detailed section focusing on just a few of the main plants or trees found in the rainforest.  The author gives detailed information also followed by a few pictures off to the side so that visual learners can learn to the best of their ability as well.

Resource books for the students:

1. The Place is High by Vicki Cobb and Barbara Lavallee

     In this book, Barbara Lavallee focuses on the Andes Mountains.  She goes in detail about what it is like to live in this part of the world and in such a high elevation.  She focuses on topics such a culture, climate, and history in the Andes Mountains.  It is a very informational book that has a lot of words while also providing pictures for the children who might not learn just by reading paragraphs.

2. Amazonia : Indigenous Tales from Brazil by Daniel Munduruku, Jane Springer, and Nikolai Poppy

     Daniel, Jane, and Nikolai created this book which seems both fictional and non-fictional.  This book provides children with folk tales about the Brazilian Amazonian Rainforest.  In the book, some of main characters are both real animals really might be found in the Amazonian Rainforest, such as tigers and serpents, and also fictional animals or characters, such as mermaids and witches.  It is a great book for children to learn about storytelling while also having a general understanding about the rainforest. 

3. Up and Down the Andes : A Peruvian Festival Tale by Laurie Krebs and Aureila Fronty

     In this book, Laurie and Aureila provide the history of Peru, the Andes and the festivals that take place in Peru.  Through this book, the children will learn all about South America and the amazing things that happen within its culture and people.  From the history of the culture to Machu Picchu and the Andes, the authors created this informational children's book for all to enjoy and learn something new. 

4. How Iwariwa the Cayman Learned to Share by George Crespo

     Through this book, George creates a fictional story that also has some real concepts or characteristics in it for the children to learn.  This is a fun but detailed and informational story about a magical Cayman who does not share his resources with the other animals.  However, all animals and species need to work together to create the habitat and ecosystem they live in.  George created this book that teaches the children about teamwork and learning to share with others while also giving information about the particular animals living in the rainforest. 

5. Moon Was Tired of Walking on Air by Natalia Maree Belting and Will Hillenbrand

     Natalia and Will created this book filled with myths from another culture, specifically about Native Americans.  These fourteen myths are short but easily describe a different lifestyle completely different than modern day lifestyles.  The authors also provided illustrations to help give a visual to help better describe what these other cultures might have thought about.  

 6.  The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry

     This book that Lynne Cherry created is great for both its informational standpoint and its artistic standpoint.  First, Lynne creates a storyline of a man trying to chop down a great kapok tree, then the other animals try to let him know about the importance of trees and plants and how they help things grow.  It brings out all of the hidden animals that lie within the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil.  It is also a great book because of Lynne's watercolored paintings that fill the pages with color.  This is a fantastic book to teach children about the importance of plants and animals in the rainforest.

7.   Nature's Green Umbrella by Gail Gibbons

     Gail created this great children's book that goes in depth about the rainforest and all that it entails.  She uses her illustrations and words to describe the animals, plants, and ecosystems that strive in this type of setting and environment.  Gail also talks a little about the geography of the Amazon rainforest, providing pictures and illustrations of maps of the rainforest.  This is a great book to introduce children into the topic of the rainforest.

5) Conceptual Web of Ideas:

South America Tropical Rainforest
ground plants
water falls

Assessment Matrix

 Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.

Lesson 1, 3
Students will re-cap the information they learned by writing short paragraphs or excerpts on their maps or flip books.
 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Lesson 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Students will be expected to participate in classroom discussions whether as a whole group, in small groups, or one-on-one with a partner about the information being taught. 
Summarize a written text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Lesson 4, 5
After reading informational books, the students will be expected to understand and summarize what they have just learned in the stories. 
Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

Lesson 5
When talking as a whole class about the stories we just read, the students will be expected to try to quote things from the book that they remember and to explain them in a detailed way to the class so everyone can make inferences on what part of the text they are talking about. 
Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

Lesson 1, 2
After reading stories, the children will be expected to understand the main ideas, key concepts, and a summary of the story learned and talk about them as a class. 
Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.

Lesson 2
Students will be expected to learn facts from the lessons but then build on them with more details and examples. 

Scaffolding Objectives

     Scaffolding is a great way to slowly and gradually introduce the children to the topics being taught in the unit.  It is an opportunity for the students to fully understand the information they are learning at a pace that is good for all types of learners.  It is also a way for the teacher to start slowly and understand how each student learns and what each of them specifically need in order to succeed.  That way, the teacher can modify their future lessons to those standards so that each student learns to the best of their ability while keeping at a good pace.
     One way I scaffolded my unit so that the students would be able to build up to a deeper understanding of the topic was by gradually introducing the history of South America while working on art projects that gradually got harder as they went on through the unit.  In lesson one, we started out with a simple project of creating a collage map of South America.  They learned about the basic history of South America and had the chance to create a simple collage.  The second lesson involved learning about the types of land in South America which had a little more specific and scientific information being taught.  This learning lead them to create a pretty simple landform flip book, however, it was a little more difficult than just the collage map.  Finally, in the last three lessons, the students have a cumulating art project that is more difficult in the art itself and with understanding the rainforest.  The students will start lesson three by learning about the four layers of the rainforest and all that they entail.  After this lesson, the students will begin their Shoebox Project by choosing one layer they would like to focus on.  Then lesson four and five will focus one on plants and the other on animals specifically in the Amazon Rainforest.  The students will learn what species live on each layer and how they all interact with each other to create the whole ecosystem and environment they live in.  Then after each lesson, the student will add either the plants or animals to their shoebox layer.  In the end, the student will have learned a lot about the overall rainforest, its layers, and all of the main plants and animals who live there while gradually understanding each of these concepts as the lessons increase in difficulty level.

Lesson 1


UNIT TOPIC: South America Tropical Rainforest
LESSON TOPIC: South America
AGE/GRADE: 10-11 / Fifth Grade
TIME: This lesson with be done in two days, with each session held for 40 minutes.
What is the South America Tropical Rainforest?
What is South America?
I believe that this topic is very important for children to learn about.  My unit is South America Tropical Rainforests, so this lesson, “What is South America,” fits in with the unit plan by just giving the students some general background knowledge about the specific continent I chose to focus in on.  It is important for all children to know about the different parts of the world and all that they entail.  For my unit plan and lesson one, I would like my students to start by learning about South America in general to help them ease their way into narrowing down to the tropical rainforests it holds. 
South America is one of the seven continents in the world and experiences a different kind of culture than others.  There are about twelve countries and a few islands that make up South America, and they each use different languages due to their history of European migrants.  From its geography, language, clothing, and climate to its food, art, dance, and music. 
Common Core/Vermont Standard GE(s)/National Arts Standards:
Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.

 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.
Learning Objective(s): Indicate additional (to above) learning objectives what you want your students to know, be able to do, and experience.  These should complement the GE(s) and be assessable. 
  • I would like my students to learn how to work in groups and collaborate with their peers over certain topics being discussed.  
  • I would like my students to listen and respond respectfully to others who are talking and sharing ideas or thoughts.
  • I would like my students to participate and cooperate in each activity. 
Focusing Question(s):
  1. What and where is South America?
  2. What language do they speak in South America?
  3. What type of clothes do people in South America wear?
  4. What types of food do they eat in South America?
  5. What kind of art, music, and dance is important in their culture? 
Language Objectives:
  • South America
  • Geography
    • Continent / Country
  • Culture
    • Clothing, Language, Food, Art, Music, Dance
ASSESSMENT:   (How will you know what students have learned?) Include:                 
In order to assess if my students have learned everything I taught them about South America, I will have each of them create a collage map of South America.  The students will cut out a piece of paper in the shape of South America during the first day of this lesson.  Then during the second day of Lesson One, they will cut and paste pictures from magazines of everything that relates to this continent and its culture on the paper. However, they will not fill the whole collage yet.  After lesson 2 when the students get to learn a little more about the South American culture, they will finish their collages and write a few sentences on the back of their collage map about their favorite things in the South America culture. 
The form I will use to evaluate the students’ learning would be a checklist of the terms or concepts they included in their collage and few sentences.  The more terms or concepts used, the more they have learned or remembered from the lesson.  

  • Did the students listen?
  • Were the students cooperating and collaborating nicely with their peers?
  • Were the students respecting each others’ thoughts, opinions, and answers?
  • Did the students participate?
Reflection to Students:
In order to reflect on the work the students have done, I will keep a checklist of all of the terms, concepts, and learning objectives I would like each students to take away from this lesson and will keep track of how well each student does at learning them and incorporating them into their collage map.  Next, I would also like to meet with each student individually and go over the things they know and have taken away from the lesson; then I will let them know the terms and concepts that they should work on remembering a little more. 
Does anyone like to travel?  Has anyone ever wondered what different parts of the world are like? Well, South America is one of the many different continents around the world and is filled with many different countries that have each grown their own unique culture.  
A few days before starting this unit and this first lesson, I will do a KWL chart and ask the students what they already know, what they want to know, and what they want to learn about South America.  By doing this, it will ease the students into the overall unit and give them a general idea about the future lessons as well. 
DAY 1 (40 minutes total)
  1. Lesson Overview Part 1 (1 min)
  2. Morning Greeting (2 min)
Students will go around the room and say good morning in a different language. 
  1. Geography!
A. Activity #1: Continents Song (5 min)
The students will view a song about the seven continents around the world. 
Then I will have 2 volunteers come up to the map on the board and name the seven continents to the class.
B. Activity #2: South America Countries Song (8 min)
Next the students will view one more song, this time about the particular countries in South America. 
Finally, the students will work in pairs to fill out a blank map of South America with a given word bank 
C. Activity #3: Create Your Own South America (8 min)
Each student will be given a piece of paper and they will have to draw what they remember South America looking like.  Then they will cut it out and save this map of South America for an activity at the end of the lesson. 
  1. Language
A. Activity #4: Hello!  (5 min)
As a class we will learn how to say Hello in each of the five different languages used in South America. 
Portuguese - Olá
Spanish - Hola
Dutch - Hallo
French - Bonjour
English - Hello
  1. Reading about South America
A. Activity #5: Moon Was Tired of Walking on Air by Natalia Maree Belting and Will Hillenbrand (10 min)
I will read this short story to the class about myths and tales of South American Indians and their culture they live in.  After the story is over, I will call on certain students to re-cap main events that happened in each myth or tale and try to relate  it to what we have learned so far in the lesson.  When calling on the students, I will make sure they understand the key concepts and main ideas about the text.  
DAY 2 (40 minutes total)
  1. Lesson Overview Part 2 (1 min)
  2. Morning Meeting (2 min)
The students will go around the classroom saying good morning and naming their favorite food to eat.
  1. Clothing 
A. Activity #1: Clothing (5 min)
I will put up a few pictures of the traditional outfits that North Americans in the United States wear on one side of the board.  Then on the other side, I will put up pictures of traditional outfits that South Americans wear.  The students will be able to talk in small groups to compare and contrast the different styles between the two different cultures.  Then each group will tell the class the similarities and differences they have spotted between the two cultures. 
  1. Food
A. Activity #2: Food (5 min)
I will start this section by asking the students what foods they think people in South America eat.  Once the students give their answers, I will present to them the traditional foods that they really eat in South America.  We will see which answers were right or wrong and give the students the correct knowledge about South American cuisine. 
  1. Art, Music, Dance
A. Art (5 min)
I will show pictures of a few traditional art pieces of South America. Then I will ask the students: What do you see? When do you think it was made? Does it tell a story? etc.
B. Activity #3: Music (7 min)
I will play a few traditional pieces of music from the United States then compare this to a few traditional pieces of music from South America.  After the songs are over, I will ask the students to say a few things they noticed about the songs in general.  Were there any differences between the songs from each country?  What kind of feelings were involved in each song?  Were the beats from each country generally happy and engaging or gloomy and boring?
C. Activity #4: Class Dance (5 min)
As a class, we will learn how to do the Salsa Dance. 
  1.  Activity #5: Create Your Own South America Continued (10 min)
The students will continue to create their own version of South America.  They will pull out the blank map they made from Day One of the lesson, and this time they will have the chance to cut out pictures from magazines of anything they can remember that relates to South America.  With those pictures, they will create a collage in their map of South America they have created.  However, they will not finish the whole collage during this lesson.  It will be completed at the end of Lesson Two when they finish learning about the landforms in South America.
Closure and Connections
The cumulating experience that will help the students develop and demonstrate their knowledge learned will be the collage map of South America that they make during the lesson.  The essential question for this lesson is “What is South America?”  This cumulative experience relates to this essential question because the students will have a clear understanding of South America’s geography and shape, along with the cultural aspects that they will glue onto the map.  This cumulating experience will be a sum of everything they learned about South America during this lesson.  It will connect to the future lessons about South America because they now have background knowledge about one of the main subjects in the lesson and will have a better understanding of the country in general when we go further into talking about its landforms and rainforests. 
This lesson about South America’s geography and culture leads into the next lesson of South America’s landforms.  Before learning about South America’s landforms, the students need to gain a general background about what South America is, where it is, and the culture behind it before they go into more detail about what type of land this continent has.  This way, the students will know the exact part of the world we are talking about in lesson two and have general background knowledge about the subject matter instead of going in blind to the topic. 
If my students do not understand the instructions I give, I will repeat them in a different way to help them better grasp the concept.  If they still do not understand, I might ask a student to try to explain the instructions.  Sometimes having a peer explain or someone who thinks alike to the person confused explain the instructions, the confused student will understand it better.  However, if it is an art project, such as the collage map, I will create one on my own so that the students have an example to go by instead of having to go in blind for a project.  I know it always helped me in school if I had an example to help guide my learning. 

  • Blank computer paper/Loose-leaf lined paper
  • Printed blank/fill in maps of South America
  • Scissors, Pencils, Glue sticks
  • Magazines
  • Computer/Youtube
  • Projector
  • Large World Map
  • Moon Was Tired of Walking on Air by Natalia Maree Belting and Will Hillenbrand