Grade 4: Building Background Knowledge—Animal Defenses and the Research Process


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Scroll down to Units to download “Building Background Knowledge: Animal Defenses and the Research Process” (Module 2B: Unit 1).


Reading: Foundational Skills  

RF.4.3 Know and apply grade-level phonics and word analysis skills in decoding words.

Reading: Informational Text 

RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.

RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.

RI.4.9 Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.


W.4.8  Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.

Speaking and Listening

SL.4.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

SL.4.2 Paraphrase portions of a text read aloud or information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


L.4.4 Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 4 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.


This Grade 4 unit titled “Building Background Knowledge—Animal Defenses and the Research Process” developed by Expeditionary Learning is intended to be completed in three weeks of integrated ELA/Literacy and Science instruction.  In this unit, students begin by building background knowledge on a science topic by using a research journal to record notes and synthesize new information. Unit activities incorporate a variety of learning protocols and strategies as students practice the close reading of science informational texts: understanding vocabulary in context, interpreting information in visuals and diagrams, identifying the main idea and supporting details, summarizing, note-taking, and participating in text-based discussions. In the culminating assessment, students: independently read an informational text, identify and record the main idea in a graphic organizer, answer text-dependent questions, and paraphrase information after listening to a text being read aloud.


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that teacher notes and preparation materials will require familiarity to be used effectively.  Before starting the unit, teachers may want to prepare the research journal as a copied and stapled packet. Texts needed for the unit are not included; however, a recommended listing of texts with a range of Lexile® measures is included.  While assessment guidelines and a template for self-reflection by the students are provided, a Common Corealigned rubric to interpret individual student performance for the targeted standards will need to be developed.


This unit is an exemplary example of how to integrate science content with the application of literacy skills. It integrates reading, writing, speaking and listening so that students apply and synthesize advancing literacy skills. It integrates targeted instruction in such areas as grammar and conventions, writing strategies, academic vocabulary in context, discussion rules, and all aspects of foundational reading. Lessons are designed to facilitate rich and rigorous evidence-based discussions. Appropriate supports are provided in reading, writing, speaking and listening for students who are ELL, have disabilities or read well below or above the grade level text band. Formative and summative assessments are clearly aligned to the CCSS.  Optional extension activities are provided.

Click here for the Appendix: Protocols and Strategies