Standard Lesson

Teaching Science Through Picture Books: A Rainforest Lesson

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Five 45-minute sessions
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This lesson introduces third- through fifth-grade students to a study of the tropical rainforest. Prereading activities, which allow students to access and build upon prior knowledge, include listening to sound effects of the rainforest, writing, and drawing. During reading, students use simple note-taking strategies, vary the reading structures, find patterns in text structure, and learn vocabulary in context. During postreading activities, students demonstrate synthesis of the text by writing efferent and affective responses to the text. As an extension to this lesson, students generate a list of questions to be pursued in small group research on the Internet.

From Theory to Practice

  • It is appropriate for primary and intermediate students to learn from a wide variety of content area texts.

  • Content area texts provide a meaningful context for reading and language arts goals.

  • Content area reading helps children develop the ability to process and analyze information.

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).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 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.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 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

  • One copy of Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen (The Putnam and Grosset Group, 1997) for every group of 4 students

  • One sheet of chart paper for every group of 4 students; 3 sheets of chart paper for the teacher

  • Cassette tape of rainforest sound effects

  • Crayons and pencils

  • Markers to write on chart paper

  • Wall map or globe

  • Writing and drawing paper


Student Objectives


Students will

  • Brainstorm a list of words associated with the rainforest

  • Draw and describe a picture representing their concept of the rainforest

  • Work together in groups to brainstorm a list of facts about the rainforest

During reading

Students will

  • Discover locations of the tropical rainforests through a globe or map

  • Listen to text read aloud

  • Determine and take notes on new vocabulary and facts about the rainforest

  • Participate in classroom and group discussions of the text

  • Draw and describe a picture representing a new level of knowledge about the rainforest

  • Discover features of the text structure

  • Reread the text to practice fluency


Students will

  • Choose from a variety of genres (e.g., letter, description, poem) and write about the rainforest

  • Generate a list of questions about the rainforest and proceed in a small group to research using the Internet

Session 1: Before Reading

1. Gather students in groups of four.

2. Tell students that they are beginning a study of the rainforest and that you would like them to think about and share information and ideas they already have about the rainforest.

3. Ask students to take out a sheet of paper and a pencil. While playing a tape of rainforest sound effects, instruct students to list words that they associate with the rainforest.

4. Play the tape of sound effects for 3-5 minutes.

5. Stop the tape and ask students to share their lists with their group. Allow 5-10 minutes for small group sharing.

6. Ask for a volunteer from one group to share the group's list of words. Record the responses on chart paper. Seek volunteers from the other groups to contribute words that have not yet been recorded.

7. Ask students to focus on a few of the words that they can "see" in their mind. Then ask students, "What does the rainforest look like in your mind?"

8. Have students draw a picture of what the rainforest looks like to them. On the drawing they should write a one- to two-sentence description of the picture. Students may complete this activity for homework.

Session 2: Before Reading

1. Gather students in their groups of four.

2. Review the list of words generated during the first session of the lesson.

3. Tell students to share their drawings of the rainforest with their group and view any of the websites below, which include photographs of the various plants and animals in the rainforest.

Students can compare their own drawings with the photographs on these two sites. After sharing their drawings and viewing the websites, they are to generate a list of facts about the rainforest. The list of facts may be recorded on chart paper. Allow 15-20 minutes for this activity.

4. Invite one group at a time to stand and share their drawings and list of facts about the rainforest. As each group finishes, tape or glue their drawings to the list of facts and post the chart paper in the classroom.

Session 3: During Reading

1. Gather students in their groups of four.

2. Briefly review the students' list of words from the first session, and drawings and list of facts from the second session.

3. Introduce students to the text, Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen. Ask students to gather a notebook and pencil, and then come forward to sit on the floor near you.

4. Using a wall map or globe, show students where tropical rainforests are located.

5. Direct students to listen to the text as you read and take notes on new vocabulary words and facts given in the text.

6. Read the text aloud.

7. Begin a class discussion of new words identified in the text. Record these words in a different color marker on a new piece of chart paper. Discuss and clarify the meaning of the words.

8. Ask students to return to their group seating. Distribute one copy of the text Welcome to the Green House to each group. Have groups discuss the new facts presented in the text. They may use the text to refer to and clarify facts.

9. Distribute drawing paper and crayons. Students will begin new drawings of the rainforest that incorporate the new facts that they have learned from the text. They should not copy pictures from the text; however, they should try and demonstrate their synthesis of new information. A one- to two-sentence description should be written on the drawing. Again, these sentences should not be copied from the text, but written using students' words. This activity may be completed for homework.

Session 4: During Reading

1. Invite each group of students to come up to the front of the room and share the fact drawings generated by the text. As each group shares, record the new facts on chart paper in a different color marker. At the end of this lesson, collect the drawings and tape them together. Post these drawings next to the new list of facts.

2. Have students view the website Zoom Rainforest to compare their drawings and list of facts with the information on the website. New information learned from the website can be added to the list posted in class.

3. Tell students that you would like to read the text again. This time they are to listen and observe patterns in the text structure. In simple terms, ask them to notice the way the author organized the text. Tell students to try and identify three different characteristics of the text structure.

4. Read the text aloud.

5. Begin a discussion of the following three features of the text structure.

  • The repeating lines, "Welcome to . . . " and "This is not . . . "

  • The repeated use of the phrase, "There are no . . . but there is . . . " to describe features of the rainforest

  • Circular ending
6. Explain to students that by using these features to present information, the author organized ideas and was able to express them in an interesting and effective manner.

7. Conclude this lesson by allowing students to practice rereading the text to develop fluency.

8. Instruct students to return to their group seating. Distribute a copy of the text to each group. Invite students to choose a page or section that appeals to them. One pair of students may read their choice aloud to the other pair in the group. Then the other pair of students can do the same. Allow 10 minutes for this activity so that each pair of students may have a few opportunities for read aloud.

Session 5: Postreading

1. Post the list of words, list of facts, and student drawings from before and during reading in a location for everyone to view.

2. Distribute a copy of the text to each group.

3. Review the list of words from before and during the reading.

4. Review the list of facts and drawings from before and during the reading.

5. Explain to students that there are different ways they could tell someone about the information and ideas learned through reading Welcome to the Green House. Their next assignment is to think about two or three interesting ideas that they would like to write about.

6. Students can choose to write letters to friends or relatives, or descriptive paragraphs or poems about the rainforest. Ideas should be presented through the use of vocabulary in context and facts based on information gained from the text Welcome to the Greenhouse and the website used during the lesson. The teacher may wish to play the sound effect tape while students write.


Small groups of students may generate questions for further research. Refer to the websites used in the lesson or those below for rainforest research:

  • Rainforest Action Network is a comprehensive and informative site that views the state of our world's rainforests

  • World Wildlife Fund is a conservation program that protects many key environmental places around the world.

  • Passport to the Rainforest is a site sponsored by NASA and the National Science Foundation that includes information about the rainforest and a chance for students to meet researchers who work there.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Sessions 1 and 3: Check for completeness of tasks (drawings and descriptions).

  • Session 2: Check to make sure that everyone participated in collecting facts and sharing with the class.

  • Session 4: Evaluate fluency by listening to students read aloud in their groups.

  • Session 5: Use a rubric or develop your own evaluation tool to assess the writing portion.

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