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Rain Forest Unit




3, 4, 5  

Exploring the Rain Forest
Through Print, Graphics,
and Sound
A Thematic Unit by
Kyle Yamnitz
Overview of the Rain Forest Unit

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

Content: 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 the

rain forests), and some Science (graphing precipitation).

Grade Level: Third through Fifth

Rationale: 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 of

interest in.

Overview of Activities:

Days 1 & 2: Mapping the rain forests

Day 3: Reading about the rain forests (throughout the unit)

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


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

2. Students will keep a journal based on their readings.

3. The students will construct a graph comparing local precipitation to precipitation

in the rain forests.

4. Through group work, the students will create a rain forest along a wall of the

classroom or in the hallway.

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

a rain forest.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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

Objectives: 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


Content: 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.

Materials: 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, Tropical

Rain Forest: Around the World by E. Landau, Rain Forest by H. Cowcher, and

Animals of the Rain Forest by L. Stone.

Evaluation: 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.

Adaptation/Extension: 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

Objectives: 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.

Content: 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.

Materials: Any available resource materials that will have information on Costa Rica

would be helpful for this lesson. The use of the library, encyclopedias, CD-ROM

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.”

Evaluation: 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, consider

how well they reflect the information on their graph. Do not take off points twice

for inaccurate information.

Adaptation/Extension: 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

Objective: 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.

Content: 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.

Materials: Rain forest layers transparency, books on the layers of the rain forest and

animals and plants that live in these layers, butcher paper, scissors, construction

paper, tape, markers, pencils, crayons, etc.

Evaluation: 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.

Adaptation/Extension: 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

Objective: 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.

Content: 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

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

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

Adaptation/Extension: 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

Objective: The students will synthesize the information they have learned throughout the

unit to write a story about their imaginary walk through a rain forest.

Content: 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.

Materials: The story A Jungle Journey from Ranger Rick’s Nature Scope, paper and

writing materials, books for reference, and (optional) string, markers, and crayons

Evaluation: 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.

Adaptation/Extension: 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 excellent

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 forests. 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. [On-line].

Eisele, S. (1997). Who lives in the rain forest? [On-line].

Fry, C. (1996). Living in the rain forest-forests page. [On-line].

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. [On-line].


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 storybooks”

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

students’ 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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