Fourth Grade Unit 5

Stories of the Earth and Sky

Enduring Understanding:  Native American stories help us to better understand the early inhabitants of our country.

Focus Standards:


Questioning Stems: Narrative (literature) and informational texts questioning stems based on questions  WITHIN, BEYOND, and ABOUT  the texts, to be used throughout the unit.

Student “I Can” Statements:

  1. “I Can” read and discuss a variety of narrative and informational texts (e.g., Native American mound builders, earth, sun, moon, and stars.  

  1. Suggested texts  for this unit:   (Literature A 1)      (Informational Texts B 1)
  2. Read Children of the Earth and Sky by Stephen Krensky and James Watling.  Explicitly teach students about Native American traditions and cultures. While reading this book, stop at specific points to help student identify instances in which the Native Americans show their respect for the earth and sky.  Note places in the text where this respect is described and/or inferred. Ask the students if they have any stories about the earth and sky that have been told to them by their family.  Share stories.
  3. As a class, keep a running chart with information (title/author, culture the story is from, what role does the earth or sky play in the story, character’s interaction with the earth and sky, summary, theme of the story) from the books read about the Native Americans and other stories we’ve read about the earth and sky. This chart will assist the students as they continue with narrative and explanatory/informative writing.
  4. Use the series Leveled Texts for Science by Shell Education; Earth and Space Science, Wegener Solves a Puzzle (Wegener was a scientist that studies climates and the weather).  These have four levels of text to make it possible for all students to have a text they can read independently.  In small groups, have the students record their learning on an information web and then summarize the information. (Informative/Explanatory)
  5. Explicitly teach students that many different Native American groups lived in North America. Different groups living in the same region shared the same culture because the land they lived on had shaped their way of life. The following websites will help students to see that where they lived provided the necessary resources that helped to shape their culture.

First People the Legends

Native American Lore

Native American Myths and Lore 

Find and use informational books about Native American Tribes.  The websites above may also help. Compare and Contrast tribes using a graphic organizer.  Organize a  paragraph relating to the compare and contrast organizer.   (Informative/Explanatory)

  1. Read and discuss A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry.  Look at the cover and the first few pages.  Discuss why these Native Americans would choose to settle in this area.  Write a personal narrative paragraph about why your family lives where they live.  What resources are around your home that makes your life easier?  Compare and contrast why you live where you do and why one of the Native American tribes lived where they did.  graphic organizer.  Summarize your information.  (Informative/Explanatory)  A resource to help teach Environmental cause and effect
  2. Read and discuss Singing to the Stars by Mary Brigid Barrett Houghton Mifflin 4th Grade Reading Theme 4 Selection 4.  Include a discussion of Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night and how Ephraim  (character in story) may feel about the painting based on what is known about him from the story.  Have students write about their experience of looking up at a starry night.  Then, have students write what they think Ephraim reaction would be.  Compare and contrast these two reactions graphic organizer.

  1. “I Can” explain how knowledge of Native American mound builders, the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars increases understanding of literature that includes these topics.
  1. Read and discuss a literary story about rock carving such as And Still the Turtle Watched by Sheila MacGill- Callahan, then read an informational book, such as The Mound Builders of Ancient America by Barrie Kavasch. Students will use a Venn Diagram to compare these two books and then write a journal entry concerning similarities and differences  portrayed in these books.
  2. Read Children of the Wind and Water by Stephen Krensky and several other Native American texts, both literature and informational to learn about the various tribes, cultures, homes, etc.  Record the findings (tribe name, home styles, culture, etc.) for each tribe studied.  Use the information for students to complete a compare and contrast  three circle graphic organizer about the different lives of the tribes.  You could also create a chart with the different tribes across the top and the homes, culture, food, etc. down the side.  
  3. Examine history of Indians and popcorn and respond using a “quick write.
  4. In shared reading continue to read texts about different Native American tribes.  Have students choose a tribe to research.  Using information obtained digitally and in print as well as the information recorded on the charts, students will work in small groups to summarize information about their tribe.  Have students find pictures online (teach them how to cite the source of the pictures) to represent the culture, homes, food, clothing, and other interesting information about their chosen tribe.  Explicitly teach student how to use the technology to create a power point presentation of their information, which will include the pictures with citations and type the summaries to match each picture.  Have students share their power points with other students.  This is an extended project.
  5. Extend this objective to include geography.  Locate on a map the locations of the various Native American tribes you are studying.  Include this information on the running chart.

  1. “I Can” write a variety of responses to stories and poems.
  1. Choose one of the stories about the earth or sky. Compare how the facts we know about the earth and sky are modified in order to make a good story. This is called taking “artistic license.”  Have student use “artistic license” to modify a poem or short story.  Share in small groups.
  2. As a class, summarize what was learned in this unit as it relates to the essential question (“How are the earth and sky portrayed in literature and informational texts?”).  
  3. Select two texts that focus on either sky or earth. Students will compare and contrast the two texts, writing a short essay outlining their responses.  Students will present a short book-talk along with their essay to the class.  

  1. “I Can” perform poetry for classmates.
  1. Read and discuss the meaning of the poem “Indian Names” by Lydia Howard Huntley Sigourney.  Ask, “What is the message of the poem?”  Locate the rivers from the poem on a map of the United States. Discuss additional names of places whose names may have Native American origins, especially local places, and keep an ongoing list in your journal. Divide the poem into stanzas, and, with a group of three other classmates, perform the poem as a quartet.
  2. Read and perform Native American poems and skits from this website.  Have students practice fluency, dramatic elements of performance, and including all members of the team in the performance.
  3. Use Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 1 Poetry Link Pg 78-79 Haiku:Just a Moment! and have  students write Haiku Native American Poetry, after explicitly teaching how to write Haiku.
  4. Read Houghton/Mifflin (2001) Theme 3 Poetry Link Pg 322-323 Autumn poetry.  Explicitly teach various types of poetry.  Have students choose a form of poetry they would like to write about Autumn.  Types of Poetry
  5. A Pizza the Size of the Sun  by Jack Prelutsky

  1. “I Can” interpret information in print or online about constellations.
  1. Use a variety of texts to teach about constellations.  Choose a few of the most common ones to focus on.  Resource for Constellations  List of Constellations
  2. As a class, we will keep a chart of information learned about constellations (where does the name come from? What is the definition of a constellation? What is unique about this constellation? What does it look like?) With a partner, research a constellation on the Internet. Make sure to look for information in charts, graphs, diagrams, or interactive elements.  (Reading Informational B1)
  3. The following websites focusing on constellations will provide additional information as students continue to add to the above chart and continue their research.
  4. Explicitly teach students how to use a variety of text features (charts, graphs, captions, diagrams, etc.) Informational Text Structures to present the information about their constellations research.  This will be done with a partner.

Astronomy Around the World

The Stars

Native American and Greek Myths

  1. “I Can” summarize what was learned about the earth, sun, moon, and stars for classmates, using appropriate facts and descriptive details.

  1. Suggested texts for this unit:  (Reading Literature B1)
  2. Following partner presentations about constellations (above), students will write a summary of what was learned, using appropriate facts and descriptive details.
  3. Examine words that describe the earth and sky. As an individual and as a class, keep an index card file of new words learned in this unit. Keeping the words on index cards will allow the students to use and sort the words by spelling feature, root words, prefixes and suffixes. This is an on-going activity.
  4. After reading  The Astronomer’s Toolbox (Leveled Texts for Science by Shell Education; Earth and Space Science) students will write a summary of the information, focusing on the comprehension questions.

  1. “I Can” write a story based on Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night, incorporating factual information and “narrative”  techniques used by authors
  1. Introduce the painting to the students (websites below). As you discuss the varied aspects of the  painting you may refer to the description to help them visualize.  As a whole group write a description of the painting. There is the night sky filled with swirling clouds, stars ablaze with their own luminescence, and a bright crescent moon. Although the features are exaggerated, this is a scene we can all relate to, and also one that most individuals feel comfortable and at ease with. Below the rolling hills of the horizon lies a small town. There is a peaceful essence flowing from the structures. Perhaps the cool dark colors and the fiery windows spark memories of our own warm childhood years filled with imagination of what exists in the night and dark starry skies. The center point of the town is the tall steeple. To the left of the painting there is a massive dark structure that develops an even greater sense of size and isolation.

Resource #1

Resource #2

  1. Continue to discuss the painting, focusing on the factual information we receive from the painting (the night-time sky, the town, the buildings). These are all part of our world. As narrative books are written, the illustrator usually creates the pictures to help the reader visualize their words. Occasionally, when writing a narrative story, an author will receive inspiration from factual places or things in our environment, as they write the words. As you view Starry Night” you will begin to think about a narrative story with characters and a plot.
  2. After teacher modeling and discussion, students will create their own (Narrative) writing piece focusing on Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.”  These may be put into a class book (Starry Night Stories).  Have students focus on colorful adjectives and adverbs to increase the intensity of the text.

  1. “I Can” participate in group discussions about Native American mound builders and the earth, sun, moon, and stars.
  1. Compare and contrast how the earth and sky are treated in Native American stories and other texts in group discussions.  Students need to be prepared to participate in the discussion, taking turns talking and listening, adding information based on the stories and poems that have been read throughout this unit.  Students should be able to identify specific lines or paragraphs from texts to share specific details.
  2. More poetry to read to increase understanding of the Native American culture:

Mother Earth, Father Sky Poem

Native American beliefs

  1. After viewing the below website resources, students will complete an (Informative/Explanatory) report, summarizing the importance and the role played by each (sun, earth, star, and moon) to our existence and to the Native Americans.

Sun Resources:

Earth Resources

Star Resources:

Moon Resources:

Additional Resources