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Lesson Plan

Reading and Writing About Pollution to Understand Cause and Effect

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 45-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Pauletta Clark

Sylva, North Carolina


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry (Harcourt, 1992)

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Overhead projector and transparencies

  • Computer with Internet access

  • LCD projector (optional)

  • Lyrics for "Don't Go Near the Water" by Johnny Cash (Sony, 1974)

  • CD or MP3 player (optional)

  • Art materials for mural project

  • Clear plastic containers

  • Blue and red food coloring

  • Plastic fish

  • Water

  • Oil

  • Salt

  • Pieces of paper

  • Detergent

  • Soil

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1. Make a K-W-L chart on chart paper titled Facts About Water Pollution. The chart should have three columns: What I Know, What I Want to Know, and What I Learned.

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry. This book tells the tale of the ecological deterioration followed by the restoration of the Nashua River in Massachusetts.

3. Obtain the lyrics for "Don't Go Near the Water" by Johnny Cash. You can get a recording of this song by purchasing and downloading it from iTunes or another online music store or by getting Cash's 1974 album titled Ragged Old Flag from the library. You may want to simply type the lyrics to share with students, or you can make arrangements to play them the song during Session 2.

4. Visit Fires on the Cuyahoga River and review the photographs. Click on the link for "The Cuyahoga Revisited" at the bottom of the page and read this essay for background information about fires on this river, which actually happened twice prior to the more famous 1969 fire. Decide how you want to share the images with students during Session 2, either by printing them off and enlarging them or using an LCD projector. The concept of water catching fire is hard for students to understand and the use of actual photographs is powerful in teaching this lesson.

5. Print one copy of "A Fish Story" for each student in your class. Print one copy of the Definitions of Miscible and Immiscible to share with students and display in your classroom. Make a copy of the Sequencing Graphic Organizer and the Cause and Effect Graphic Organizer for each student in your class and a transparency of each for modeling purposes.

6. Divide the class into heterogeneous groups of no more than four students. Students should not be grouped by ability level, but you may want to make sure that each group has one student with strong reading ability, one with artistic ability, and a leader. Each group should also have an assigned work area in the classroom where they can conduct their experiment and complete their murals.

7. Gather materials needed for the experiment during Session 3. Each group should have a set of the materials listed in the Resources section.

8. Gather art materials for murals students create during Session 4. For each group, you need a large piece of poster paper measuring approximately two feet by four feet; this will serve as the background for the mural. You will also need to provide scissors, glue, construction paper, and markers. This part of the lesson helps visual learners to understand the effects of water pollution on living organisms.

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