Nature Reflections: Interactive Language Practice for English-Language Learners

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Eight 45-minute sessions
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Nature is a theme that both fascinates and inspires students of all ages and from all cultures. In this lesson, students whose first language is not English reflect on nature through readings, a visit to a green area, and bookmaking using the writing process and peer feedback. English-language learner (ELL) strategies in this lesson include previewing before reading, read-alouds, choral reading, total physical response, shared reading, listening to recorded text, explicit error correction, interactive writing, and a wealth of oral and written language practice.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Research has found that even English-language learners (ELLs) who seem proficient in spoken English because they can talk to their peers may need much longer to become academically proficient.

  • Teachers can help ELLs become more proficient using a variety of tools and strategies, including choral reading, shared reading, paired reading, books with tapes, language experience, interactive writing, total physical response, and read-alouds.

  • Having students physically act out songs, poems, or reading-all forms of the total physical response (TPR) methodology-is an effective way to support vocabulary development.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 9. Students develop an understanding of and respect for diversity in language use, patterns, and dialects across cultures, ethnic groups, geographic regions, and social roles.
  • 10. Students whose first language is not English make use of their first language to develop competency in the English language arts and to develop understanding of content across the curriculum.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • In A Nutshell by Joseph Anthony (Dawn Publications, 1999)

  • Butcher paper

  • Clipboards

  • Colored pencils

  • Colorful yarn

  • Hole puncher

  • Tape recorder and blank cassettes

  • Writing paper



1. Make preparations to take the class to a green area, either as a field trip (walking or by bus) or within the school grounds. This area could be a park, a part of the schoolyard that has plants growing, or a local garden.

2. Obtain and familiarize yourself with In A Nutshell by Joseph Anthony. Practice reading it aloud.

3. Make copies of the Peer Feedback Form for students to use. The form includes two review areas on a page and can be cut if you choose. You will need enough so that two students can review each book. Make one copy of the Book Rubric and the Nature Quotations handout for each student.

4. Gather butcher paper and tape, blank letter-sized paper for student books, yarn, colored pencils, clipboards, a tape recorder, and blank tapes. You should also get some leaves from various plants and trees (including an acorn if you can find one) to share with students (see Session 1, Step 1).

5. Prepare a sample book using two sheets of letter-sized paper. Fold each paper in half from top to bottom and place one inside the other. Use a hole puncher to make two or three holes at the folded edge, then tie yarn through the holes. Write page numbers on each page, starting with the third page (right after the cover).

6. Copy the text from the Book Format handout in large letters onto butcher paper. You may choose to make the format bilingual if it is appropriate for your class setting.

7. You may choose to teach the ReadWriteThink lesson "Peer Edit with Perfection: Teaching Effective Peer-Editing Strategies" so students gain experience in giving and using peer feedback.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Gain knowledge and practice English proficiency by listening to and reading reflections on nature

  • Practice observational skills by watching a life form during a class walk to a green area

  • Practice oral English by playing a guessing game with their peers

  • Apply their observations and practice writing in English by creating books and editing books written by their peers

  • Improve written and oral English through explicit error correction, including dictation and tape recording of statements they wrote

Session 1

1. Explain that the class will be reading, writing, and reflecting on nature. Pass around the leaves you have brought in (see Preparation, Step 4) for students to examine. Questions for discussion include:
  • Are these leaves all from the same plant or from different plants?

  • Are the different plants related to each other and how?

  • What happens when a tree or plant dies?
If you have an acorn, ask students if they know what it is and what it does.

2. Read aloud In A Nutshell by Joseph Anthony. During reading, pause to check with students, making sure they understand the text and explaining words or concepts as needed.

3. After you have finished the book, discuss the narrative with students. Questions for discussion include:
  • What happened to the tree?

  • How did it become a different tree?

Session 2

1. Distribute copies of the Nature Quotations handout.

2. Discuss the meaning of the word reflect and the phrase reflecting on nature. Questions include:
  • Why is nature a good thing to reflect on?

  • What else might we reflect on?

  • Why do we reflect?

  • What does it mean to observe? Is it different from reflecting?
You might want to steer students toward the following definitions: observing is "looking carefully" and reflecting is "thinking in different ways about what you see."

3. Have students pick one quote, read it carefully, and draw an illustration showing what it means to them. Have a few volunteers share their drawings and explain them to the class, or have students do a pair/share and take turns explaining what they have drawn to their partners. Collect students' work at the end of this session to assess their understanding and engagement so far.

Session 3

1. Take the class to the green area. Make sure students bring a sheet of paper, a pen or pencil, and a clipboard or something hard to write on. Bring a sheet of butcher paper and some tape.

2. When you arrive, gather students in a circle and explain that they will pick a plant or animal (they can imagine an animal that lives in the area if they cannot find one)-and spend five minutes sitting next to it (or thinking about it), observing it, and imagining that they are that life form. Students can choose a snail, insect, spider, squirrel, ladybug, butterfly, dog, cat, tree, weed, grass, or flower.

3. Gather students in a circle again. Have students take turns acting out the life form they chose as the class guesses what they are.

4. Using a sheet of butcher paper, pick a living thing that no student has chosen. Model for students how to take notes while imagining you have become your life form. For example, you might pick a piece of grass. While you are thoughtfully observing it, say something like this out loud to the students, writing each phrase on the butcher paper as you finish saying it:

I'm standing proudly, growing toward the sun. My roots are growing down, looking for wet soil and food. I feel content and healthy. I get mad when people cut me, but then I remember I will just grow back again. Once I saw a spider walking towards me and was worried the spider was going to eat me, but it walked right over me and didn't even take a bite.

Students might want to chime in with their own stories about the piece of grass; encourage them to do so.

5. Explain to students that they will write down what they imagine about their life form and then use these notes later on to write a short book.

6. Tell students they should go back to the spot where they chose their life form and take notes on it. Circulate while students are working, answering questions and providing guidance for any who are having difficulty.

Session 4

1. Back in the classroom, show students the sample blank book you made (see Preparation, Step 5). Have students prepare their own books.

2. Hang up the Book Format you prepared on butcher paper (see Preparation, Step 6). Ask students to copy the title for each page on the appropriate page in their books.

3. Using your own blank book and the notes you took during Session 3, model for students how to fill out one or two of the pages. Think out loud as you work. Fill in the name of the life form on the blank line and write a couple of sentences that go with the page's title. For example, your first page might say:

I wake up in the morning and see the sun showing its first rays on the horizon. I feel wet with dew. As the sun grows stronger, I feel warmer and drier. Then I get cold when the sun goes down and I go to sleep.

Finish up by writing a title and your name on the front cover. At the end of this session, make another page that is not well done to be used when reviewing the Book Rubric (see Session 5, Step 2).

4. Students should work on their books for the remainder of this session. Circulate while students are working, answering questions and providing guidance for any who are having difficulty.

Homework (Due by Session 5): Students who do not complete the book during this session should complete it at home.

Session 5

1. Have students take out the books they made. Pass out the Peer Feedback Forms and tell students they will help each other to improve their books. Have students work in groups of three. First each student reads his or her book to the rest of the group. Then students exchange books, read each group member's book again quietly, and fill out the Peer Feedback Forms. Finally, the authors get their books and two completed Peer Feedback Forms back to review.

2. Pass out the Book Rubric. Tell students you will be using this to grade their books. Read it aloud and explain how you will use it to check their books. Use your own book as an example as you read each point on the rubric out loud and ask students how well they think you meet each requirement. Have students write their names on their rubric and keep it in a safe place (perhaps folded and inside the book).

3. Give students time to make changes in their books as they desire based on the peer feedback and rubric.

Homework (Due before Session 6): Students who do not finish correcting the book during this session should complete it at home.

Session 6

Note: Before this session, you should collect the books and make corrections in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Depending on your students' English-writing proficiency, you can specifically write the correction next to the errors. You might also circle each mistake, mark whether it is a spelling, grammatical, or punctuation error, and have the student figure out how to correct it. You should also offer content suggestions for their final drafts. Do not use the rubric yet.

1. Give the corrected books back to students and tell them they will now make final drafts of their books for a grade. Be clear that they must correct all errors you marked and make changes that respond to all questions and suggestions to improve the book. Pass out paper and yarn so they can make new books.

2. Before they start on the final drafts, show students a large sheet of butcher paper with the title "Reflections on Nature." Explain that each student will write their favorite line or lines from their book for the rest of the class to read. Give them a few minutes to write their lines on scratch paper so they will be ready when it's their turn.

3. Have students come up two or three at a time while the rest of the class is working on the final drafts of their books. As students come up and show you their lines, use your pen to make explicit corrections needed on the student's scratch paper. Then have each student write the lines correctly in large letters on the butcher paper. Have them each sign their name after their entry.

4. When students have finished, read each line from the butcher paper aloud to the class as they listen and follow along. Then have them repeat each line aloud after you.

5. Finally, have students take out a sheet of paper and write dictation on top. Explain to them that dictation means writing down what someone reads aloud. Take the "Reflections on Nature" list down and read some of the lines slowly to the class as they write exactly what you say. Try to pick lines of varying lengths and ones with slightly challenging vocabulary and syntax for your students. Then put the paper up again and have students make corrections to their dictation as necessary.

Homework: Have students copy exactly what they wrote on the "Reflections on Nature" list and tell them to practice reading it aloud, as you will be recording them as they read it.

Students who do not complete their final drafts during Session 6 should finish them for homework (due by Session 8).

Session 7

1. Have students take turns reading their lines from the "Reflections on Nature" list loudly, slowly, and clearly as you record them. Correct their pronunciation and allow them to rerecord if needed.

2. Play the cassette and have the class listen and choose which quotation is being read from the "Reflections on Nature" list.

Session 8

1. Have students turn in final drafts of their books.

2. Project Reflection: Ask students to help you brainstorm all the activities you have done during the past seven sessions; list them on the board. Then ask each student to say something they liked about the project to the class.


  • Use the ReadWriteThink Printing Press to have students make printed versions of their books.

  • Have students read their books to students from other classes.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Use the Book Rubric to assess and grade student books. Check for improvements in written English from the earlier draft.

  • Collect the peer review sheets and check them to see how well students understand each other's books and much feedback they are able to provide.

  • Assess improvements in oral proficiency by listening and observing carefully as each student participates orally to complete the assignments in this lesson. Try to note spontaneous use of new vocabulary or more complex syntax.