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Exploring the Rain Forest Through Print, Graphics, and Sound


Science, Social Studies  


2, 3, 4, 5  

Exploring the Rain Forest

Through Print, Graphics,

and Sound

A Thematic Unit by

Kyle Yamnitz

Overview of the Rain Forest Unit


: Exploring the Rain Forest Through Print, Graphics,
and Sound


: Art (creating a rain forest, save the rain forest
posters), Writing (a walk
through the rain forest, diary of a rain forest dweller), Reading
(about the
rain forests, research), Math (graphing precipitation), Music
(create sounds
of the rain forest on musical instruments), Geography (mapping
rain forests), and some Science (graphing precipitation).

Grade Level

: Third through Fifth


: I have chosen to use the rain forests for
this thematic unit because it can
provide numerous meaningful reading and writing activities. It
is also a
topic that I believe fourth grade students will have a large degree
interest in.

Overview of Activities


Days 1 & 2

: Mapping the rain forests

Day 3

: Reading about the rain forests (throughout the

Day 4

: Graphing precipitation

Days 5-7

: Creating a rain forest

Days 8 & 9

: Diary of a rain forest dweller

Day 10

: Creating sounds of the rain forest

Day 11

: Save the rain forest posters

Days 12-14

: A walk through the rain forest

Day 15

: Return to readings about the rain forests; discussion

Activities / Objectives


. Students will fill in the locations on a global map
that contain rain forests.


. Students will keep a journal based on their readings.


. The students will construct a graph comparing local
precipitation to precipitation
in the rain forests.


. Through group work, the students will create a rain
forest along a wall of the
classroom or in the hallway.


. The students will write a diary entry from the perspective
of someone who lives in
a rain forest.


. Using musical instruments, the students will recreate
sounds from the rain forest to
the best of their ability after listening to a CD or cassette
with rain forest sounds.


. After discussing the importance and relevance of the
rain forest, students will
create posters expressing their desire to save the rain forest.
They will include
specific reasons for saving the rain forest on their posters.


. As a final activity, students will write about their
imagined experience of walking
through a rain forest; what they see, hear, and feel, and their
experiences in

Lesson Plans

Lesson 2


Reading about the Rain Forests


: The students will keep a journal describing
the information they have gained
from different books. They will take part in a class discussion
on what they have


: Reading, journal keeping, and discussion



KWL would be an effective strategy to start off this lesson as
well as the entire unit itself. What they know can be used to
activate students’ prior knowledge, what they want to know can
be used to provide students with a meaningful reason to read and
research, and what they learned can be used in assessment or to
evaluate the effectiveness of the unit. What they learned will
also be useful in keeping the knowledge that they have gained
in their head, will allow for students to share information with
others, and will provide students with evidence that they really
did learn a lot through the unit.

Instruct the students to take out a notebook to keep their journal
in. Introduce the books on the rain forest, and have students
write down the three books they would want to read the most.
Use these votes to distribute the books to the class. Once the
students have received their books, instruct them to keep a journal
as they read. Suggest that they write in their journal after
every chapter or a specified number of pages. After the students
have finished their books (at the end of the unit) have them use
their journals to help them discuss in class what they learned
from the books. Talk with the students about the different animals
and plants native to the rain forests. Discuss with the students
what they liked or did not like about each book and the illustrations.
After the discussion is finished, allow students to write in
their journals a final time about what they learned from the discussion.


: As many books on the rain forest as possible.
Examples include:

Discover Rain Forests

by L. H. Baptista,

What’s in the Rain Forest

by S. Ross,


Rain Forest: Around the World

by E. Landau,

Rain Forest

by H. Cowcher, and

Animals of the Rain Forest

by L. Stone.


: Use the journal writings to assess the students’
knowledge about the rain
forests. Remember that some students will have more prior knowledge
than others
about the rain forests, so look mostly at the new information
that they learned.


: Have students create a poster to
advertise the book that they
read. They should include information about the book itself,
the illustrations, and
information about the rain forests.

Lesson 3


Graphing Precipitation


: The students will create bar graphs comparing
local precipitation levels to
precipitation levels in another nation that contains rain forests,
such as Costa Rica,
Brazil, or Ecuador. They will also be able to make comparisons
based upon the graph that they create.


: Math, graphing, statistics, and research (Internet)



Begin the lesson by introducing the concept of monthly precipitation.
Ask students whether it rains more where they live or in the
rain forests. These questions should prompt students’ thinking
before they begin their research.

Once the students have a good idea of what monthly precipitation
is, have them do research to find out how much rain falls each
month in the two different locations. Tell them that they need
accurate information because they will make bar graphs afterwards.
Encourage students to also look for general differences in climate
between the United States and these other nations with rain forests.
After all their research is done, they should begin work on their
bar graphs.

The bar graphs could be done in several different ways, but the
graph on the following page works well because it compares the
both places’ precipitation by month. Discuss with students the
need for clarity of the information in their graph. Thus, students
should see the need for having the data for each location next
to each other on the graph for direct comparison. Ask for comments
from the class on ways to make the graph and perhaps they will
come up with a graph similar to the following or another format
that would be acceptable. After a format has been decided upon,
have students create their graphs using the information they gained
through their research. These graphs should then be used by the
students to make written comparisons between the local precipitation
and that in a nation with rain forests. These graphs can then
be used in assessment.


: Any available resource materials that will
have information on Costa Rica
would be helpful for this lesson. The use of the library, encyclopedias,
encyclopedias, and other resources should be available. World
almanacs that show
precipitation around the globe would be particularly helpful.
Numerous web sites
provide detailed information about weather around the globe.
These could easily
be found by doing an Internet search on “rain forest climate”
or “tropical climate.”


Students’ comparisons
of the monthly precipitation levels locally and in rain
forest countries can be evaluated on how well they were interpreted
from their bar
graph as well as how accurate they were. The graph itself can
be graded based on
its accuracy. However, when evaluating students written comparisons,
how well they reflect the information on their graph. Do not
take off points twice
for inaccurate information.


: This lesson could be followed up
with students actually
recording their local precipitation for a month to have a real-life
example of what
monthly precipitation means. This extension would be great for
students that had
trouble with the lesson or in understanding monthly precipitation.
As an
adaptation to the adaptation, this extension could instead be
done before the lesson
so that students will know what monthly precipitation is coming
into the lesson.

Lesson 4


Creating a Rain Forest


: After listing and explaining the layers of
the rain forest, students will work
together to create their own artistic version of the rain forest
on a wall.


: research, language arts, listening, and art



This activity can be started by reading to the class a book on
layers of the rain forests. Encourage the students to listen
because they will need to discuss the book after it has been read.
Share with the class a transparency depicting the layers of the
rain forest and a list of animals that live in the rain forest.
Discuss what each layer is like and what its purpose may be.
Also talk about what types of plants and animals might be found
in each layer. Once again, provide books for the students to
look through to learn more.

Now students will work on creating their own rain forest. Divide
the class into groups of three or four and assign a layer of the
rain forest to each group, with several groups working on the
same layer, but on different parts of that layer. Provide each
group with pieces of butcher paper. Have the students recreate
their layer of the rain forest using construction paper, markers,
crayons, and any other material that they may find to be useful.
Instruct the students to depict the different types of plants
and animals that would appear in their layer of the rain forest.
Once they are finished, place each rain forest layer on a classroom
wall or the hallway and attach the sections together. Allow the
students to use markers and more paper to label the layers of
the rain forest and to name their rain forest once it has been
put up on the wall. Now may be a good time to discuss the relationship
the rain forest has with society and the deforestation of the
rain forests.


: Rain forest layers transparency, books on the
layers of the rain forest and
animals and plants that live in these layers, butcher paper, scissors,
paper, tape, markers, pencils, crayons, etc.


: Students can be assessed during their group
work on their knowledge of the
layers of the rain forest and the animals and plants that live
in each layer. This can
be done by use of a checklist.


: The lesson could be extended by
discussing Ethnobotany which
is that field of science that studies the products that an environment
may naturally
create. In addition, students could study about a particular
group of people that
live in a rain forest area.

Lesson 7


Saving the Rain Forest


: Students will be able to discuss why rain forests
are being destroyed and why
we should try to save them (their importance). Students will
also create a poster
indicating their desire to save the rain forests.


: Writing, art, speaking, and brainstorming



Spark students’ interest by asking them to help brainstorm ideas
of why the rain forests may be being destroyed. Next, brainstorm
reasons why we would want to save the rain forests and what their
uses are. Discuss with the class both of the lists that are generated.
Now have students begin work on their save the rain forest posters.
They should include illustrations and a strong message of why
they think the rain forest should be saved. Once they are finished,
the students will present their posters to the class and describe
their reason for saving the rain forest. Let students know that
there are many people that do not want the rain forests to be
destroyed and that they can make a difference through some of
the following organizations. They could write to these organizations
to request information on what they can do to save the rain forest.

Children’s Alliance for Protection of the Environment, Inc. (CAPE)

CAPE International Office

P.O. Box 307

Austin, TX 78767

(512) 476-2273

Global Response Newsletter

P.O. Box 7490

Boulder, CO 80306-7280

Rainforest Action Network

301 Broadway, Suite A

San Francisco, CA 94133


: posterboard (butcher paper), markers, crayons,
pencils, etc.


: A rubric could be used to assess the poster
and presentation.


: Have students write to the above
organizations for more
information and then share this information in class.

Evaluation Lesson Plan

Lesson 8


A Walk Through the Rain Forest


: The students will synthesize the information
they have learned throughout the
unit to write a story about their imaginary walk through a rain


: Writing, reading, critical thinking, and editing



Have the students brainstorm what they have learned about the
rain forest throughout the unit (the last stage of the KWL method).
Then provide the class with the reading and have them read it
silently. When they are finished, discuss the things that Vanessa
saw and experienced on her walk through the rain forest. Now
ask the students to write their own story about a walk through
the rain forest. Ask them to take on the role of an adventurer,
a scientist, an animal, a native, or some other character. Instruct
them to describe what they would detect with their senses, what
they would smell, feel, hear, see, etc. Their stories should
discuss particular animals, plants, peoples, climate, and other
aspects of the rain forest that they are in. Present students
with a version of the rubric that will be used to grade their
story. Have the students share their stories with another student
and then allow that student to edit the story.


: The story

A Jungle Journey

from Ranger
Rick’s Nature Scope, paper and
writing materials, books for reference, and (optional) string,
markers, and crayons


: Use the rubric on the following page. Since
this assignment requires
synthesis of the information learned throughout the unit, it can
serve as the final
evaluation on the unit. For additional evaluation, students can
write a self-
evaluation and this can be compared with the student’s rubric
for an overall grade.

I chose this lesson to contain the final evaluation because of
the synthesis of
information it requires. A great deal of information can be used
in writing this
story. I chose a rubric because it is less likely to involve
bias in grading. A rubric
also is easy to use and will keep my standards the same as I grade
each story.


: Students could make books out of
their stories by adding
illustrations and stitching the pages together. As an alternative,
they could
combine all the stories into one larger book.

Scoring Rubric for A Walk Through the
Rain Forest lesson


1. Eight facts must be included on the following aspects of rain
forests. Each fact will be worth three points for a total of
24 points. The facts must be accurate to receive points.

Vegetation: __________

Animals: __________

Climate: __________

People: __________

Total Points: __________

2. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar will be worth a total of
18 points.

Spelling: 6 5 4 3 2 1

Punctuation: 6 5 4 3 2 1

Grammar: 6 5 4 3 2 1

Total Points: __________

3. Neatness and creativity will be worth a total of 8 points.

Neatness: 4 3 2 1

Creativity: 4 3 2 1

Total Points: __________

Overall Total: __________ / 50 Points


Student Self-Assessment Rubric

I thought my story was accurate because…

My story was entertaining because…

What I need to do to make my story better is…

Circle One:

I described rain forest…

Vegetation: Well     /     Fair     /     Not at all

Animals: Well     /     Fair     /     Not at all

Climate: Well     /     Fair     /     Not at all

People: Well     /     Fair     /     Not at all

I think my…

Spelling is: Good     /     Fair     /     Poor

Punctuation is: Good     /     Fair     /     Poor

Grammar is: Good     /     Fair     /     Poor

Neatness is: Good     /     Fair     /     Poor


Children’s Books:

Baptista, L. H. (1992).

Discover rain forests

. Lincolnwood,
IL: Publications International, Ltd.


The large print and spectacular photography make this book an
source for slower readers and advanced readers alike. The large
print should not
give the impression that it is an “easy book,” however.
The content is quite in-
depth, the book is just made to be easier to read. It focuses
primarily on the plant
and animal life of the rain forests, but also discusses the layers
of the rain forest
and their importance, the destruction of the rain forests, and
animal survival in the
rain forest. Little is mentioned about the peoples of the rain
forest. A glossary is
included to clarify difficult terms. This book would be great
for student use.

Cowcher, H. (1988).

Rain forest

. New York: Farrar,
Straus and Giroux.

Goodman, B. (1991).

The rain forest

. New York: Tern
Enterprise, Inc.


Similar to the

Discover Rain Forests

book, this book
also has some
spectacular photography. It also discusses the plant and animal
life, the layers of
the rain forest, and deforestation and saving the rain forest.
In addition, this book
also has a large section on the peoples of the rain forest. All
peoples are discussed
from the hunter-gatherers to the Indians to the modern people
of the rain forest. I
do think that teachers should be cautioned of the typical display
of natives’ lack of
clothing when considering the use of the book for their class.
The rain forests’
effect on global climate and the products derived from the rain
forest are also
discussed. This book’s wealth of information makes it a good
choice for use in the

Knapp, B. J. (1992).

What do we know about rain forests?

New York: Simon &
Schuster Young Books (Peter Bedrick Books).


Unlike the previous two books discussed, this one has little
information on
the wildlife of the rain forest. It does however, deal more with
geography, the
environment, usefulness of the trees, mining, and a major emphasis
on farming in
and around the rain forests. Once again, teachers should be cautioned
about the
lack of clothing on the natives for immature students. A glossary
is also at the end
of this book, which can be helpful.

Landau, E. (1990).

Tropical rain forest: Around the world

New York: Franklin

Ross, S. (1991).

What’s in the rain forest?

Los Angeles:
Enchanted Rain Forest Press.

Sly, A. (1992).

The Brazilian rain forest

. New York:
Dillon Press.

Stone, L. (1994).

Animals of the rain forest

. Florida:
The Rourke Corporation, Inc.

Stone, L. (1994).

Rain forest at night

. Florida: The
Rourke Corporation.

Teacher Resource Books:

Fisher, R. (1990).

Emerald realm: Earth’s precious rain

. Washington D.C.:
National Geographic Society.

Gibbons, G. (1994).

Nature’s green Umbrella

. New York:
William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

Greenaway, F. (1992).

Rain forest

. New York: Dorling
Kindersley, Inc.

Nations, J. (1988).

Tropical rain forests: endangered environment

New York:
Franklin Watts.

Terbough, J. (1992).

Diversity and the tropical rain forest

New York: Scientific
American Library.

Internet Resources:

Edmark Products. (1996).

Destination: Rain forest


Eisele, S. (1997).

Who lives in the rain forest?

Fry, C. (1996).

Living in the rain forest-forests page

Rainforest Action Network. (1997).

Welcome to the rainforest
action network homepage

. [On-line]. Available:


This Internet site contains various information on the RAN (Rainforest
Action Network) organization. Within it, aspects such as their
current rain forest
protection projects are discussed. It offers tips for helping
in the battle to save the
rain forests. In addition to this information on the organization,
it also provides a
great deal of information on the rain forests themselves. There
is a kids’ corner
which offers even more information geared to a child’s perspective.
Many of the
topics here deal with plants and animals in the rain forest.
This site would be
useful for both educators and students alike.

StarkNet. (1997).

Rain forest


I received many of my ideas for this unit from this site. It
contains a
thematic unit for teachers to use that focuses on the rain forests.
There are
numerous more ideas for lessons that teachers could get from this
site as well.
There are sections of the plan devoted to each of the major content
areas. Each
content area contains at least three well-developed lessons.
This site is incredibly
useful for educators.


Edmark Products. (1996).

Destination: Rain forest

Edmark Corporation.


This program allows students to create their own interactive
stories from
CD-ROM. They are able to develop “professional-looking electronic
with this program (Edmark, 1). They are provided with information
on numerous
plants and animals to integrate into their rain forest story.
The students have a
wealth of rain forest photography to use to illustrate their books
with. There are
also sounds that can be included to aid in the telling of their
story. Of course, the
finished product can be printed out in a book format (well, not
the sounds). This
would be a great resource for students and would be excellent
to use with

Walk Through the Rain Forest

story lesson.


I feel that with some adaptations made to suit particular classrooms
and to consider every student, this thematic unit can be very
useful and informative to students. The list of resources that
I have compiled should prove to be very useful in carrying out
the unit. I think that the lessons that I chose tap in to all
of the content areas in some way or another. However, I do feel
that there could be some additions in certain areas, such as science.
Science could be integrated more with a lesson focusing on study
of the biological life of the rain forests.

The individual lessons should combine well to provide students
with a well-developed knowledge base on rain forests. Mapping
the rain forests will allow students to find out where exactly
the rain forests are located. Reading about rain forests will
simply allow students to soak up information and the journal will
help them to digest it. Graphing precipitation will help students
to understand the difference in local climate compared to rain
forest climate. In addition to the knowledge that must be applied
to do so, creating a rain forest will assist in drifting students
off into the rain forest for their upcoming writings. The diary
of a rain forest dweller will allow students to relate with people
that do live in the rain forest. It requires critical thinking
on the part of the students to put themselves in the place of
someone living in the rain forest. They must consider this as
well as all of the information they have learned so far about
what will be surrounding them. Creating the sounds of the rain
forest will also familiarize students with what it would sound
like to be in a rain forest. Listening will allow them to understand
the animal sounds, etc., while recreating the sounds will require
critical thinking on what the sounds were of and how to best represent
them. The save the rain forest posters will help students to
understand the usefulness of the rain forests and the danger that
they are in. Hopefully students will learn to support the rain
forest. The final activity, a walk through the rain forest, requires
synthesis of all the information they have learned throughout
the unit, and thus, it is a suitable final evaluation. The use
of a clear rubric and/or a student self-assessment will allow
for a fair evaluation. All of the lessons match up with the objectives
for the unit and these objectives should help to guide the development
of additional lessons. Either by using these objectives, or adding
objectives to make up for material that is missed, additional
lesson plans would help to enhance the unit.

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