Purpose: This unit is designed to support students' writing of informational texts within a content area study, in this case a science lesson on cephalopods. This unit is aligned to the CCSS expectations for 5th grade.
There will be several areas of focus during the first few weeks:
Learn more information about cephalopods from the science lesson tab above
Write several quick drafts of research reports and revise these reports
First draft focuses on organizing information in subsections
Second draft will revise their thinking and writing from the first draft to write a new and improved research report
For homework, I asked students to give me a definition of informational text, topic, and subtopic. Below are several students responses that best represent the definition.
"is a type of nonfiction. It text that is factual" - J.R.
"Text that gives information." - A.
"A article or report that gives the reader information about the subject." - S.J.
"Informational text gives you information about something." - E.C.
"Informational text is nonfiction writing, written with the intention of informing the reader about a specific topic. It is typically found in magazines, science, history, books, autobiographies, and instruction manuals. They are written in a way that allows the reader to easily find key information and understand the main topic." - T.R.
"The definition of topic is the main idea of the whole story." - J.K.
"is a subject that matters" - J.R.
"The main subject" - A.
"The title of the report or article and what the whole thing is mainly about" - S.J.
"The definition of the subtopic is to give details about the topic." - J.K.
"a subordinate title of a published work or article giving additionation about its content." - M.
"Different parts of the text and what you're learning about next." - S.J.
"A division of a main topic." - A.
Below is a work in progress example of an informational text essay that I am writing to model for students what their paper will look like.
Giant Pacific Octopus
In the marine world, there is a class of species known as cephalopods. Cephalopods consist of the octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. These highly intelligent sea creatures are known for having fun by opening jars and escaping from aquariums! In early days, cephalopds were once known as the "devil fish" because sailors thought the cephalopods would use their arms and crush the ship into pieces. Today, we know that is not true and I would like to inform the reader about cephalopds, especially the Giant Pacific Octopus. In this informative essay, the reader will learn more about the parts of a body, camouflage use, environment life, and conservation efforts as it relates to the Giant Pacific Octopus.
Parts of a Body
The Giant Pacific Octopus is a very beautiful sea creature but has a complex body structure. Most people think that an octopus has tentacles but they do not. Only the cuttlefish and squid have two tentacles which are used for feeding and grasping. The Giant Pacific Octopus has eight arms with two rows of suction cups. If one of the Giant Pacific Octopuses arms gets bit off by another sea animal or is decapitated for another reason, they don't have to worry about being short an arm. It takes on average six weeks for the new arm to regrow. If there happens to be blood loss, the Giant Pacific Octopus has blue blood. The blood is blue because they have a high concentration of copper in their bloodstream. Copper helps them survive in the deep cold temperatures of the North Pacific Ocean. Unlike humans, the Giant Pacific Octopus does not have a spine or any bones in its body. This makes it easy for them to squeeze into tight spaces as small as a quarter. The only hard part on the Giant Pacific Octopus is its beak, which is made of chitin. This prevents the Giant Pacific Octopus from traveling though even smaller spaces. The only hard part on the Giant Pacific Octopus is its beak, which is made of chitin. The beak is used to bite its prey or open shells.
When it comes to being masters of disguise, the Giant Pacific Octopus is the winner among all the other ocean species. Camouflage is defined as blending in with certain aspects of their environment. There are four main vocabulary terms that will be discussed when talking about the Giant Pacific Octopus: shape, texture, size, and color.
Shape is defined as the outline or area of an object. For example with the "moving rock" trick the Giant Pacific Octopus will curl its body into the shape of a rock which is circular. The definition of texture is the way something feels using your sense of touch or how you think it looks using sight When the Giant Pacific Octopus does the "moving rock" trick, it changes its skin to look rough or bumpy to blend in with its surroundings. When it comes to size, that means how big or small something is and how much space it takes up. The Giant Pacific Octopus changes its size by squeezing its body together very tightly so it does not use much space around it to look like a small floating rock on the base of the ocean floor. Lastly, color is the pigmentation of something; the way something appears based on how it reflects light. The coolest thing about the Giant Pacific Octopus is that its skin has special pigmentation called chromatophores which allows it to change color in less than one second. Chromatophores come in three different colors such as red, brown, and yellow. These colors twitch all the time because they are constantly moving around day and night blending in to their habitat. Another neat thing is that their skin can resemble patterns that help them survive in the ocean from their predators.
The reason why the Giant Pacific Octopus uses camouflage is because they need to protect themselves from halibut and ling cod as well as large marine mammals such as whales. Using camouflage also allows the Giant Pacific Octopus to be crafty when hunting for their own food by hiding to then surprise attack their prey. Next time you go scuba diving, see if you can find a Giant Pacific Octopus lurking around you.
When the Giant Pacific Octopus is not found living in aquariums found around the United States or other parts of the world, they are living in the wild in their natural habitat. I would like to list several facts about the Giant Pacific Octopuses habitat, diet, life span, and tool use.
North Pacific Ocean
Along Korea and Japan (right side of map in blue)
Along Alaska and California (left side of map in blue)
Around 330 feet below the ocean surface
Approx. 60 degrees Fahrenheit
Live in dens
Lay 18,000-74,000 eggs
Use coconuts to hide in from predators
Use coconuts for play activity
I would like to elaborate more about why the Giant Pacific Octopus is a terminal spawner. According toCreating Pacific Octopusesby Julie Kalupa of University of Wisconsin - La Crosse, after the female Giant Pacific Octopus lays her eggs, she will protect them for about six to seven months. During this time she will not leave the eggs alone, even to find food. The male octopus will swim around the ocean and will not eat either. He will die shortly after reproduction from hunger, muscle loss, or victim of prey from another animal. The female octopus will care for her eggs by moving them around with her arms and use her siphon to clean the eggs to make sure that algae does not grow on them. After the eggs hatch, she will blow them away using her siphon from her and the tiny baby octopuses will float to the surface of the ocean. For about 30-90 days the baby octopuses will float around. This makes them easy prey and why only 2 out of 57,000 baby octopuses will grow to maturity. The mom octopus will not live for much longer after the eggs hatch because of starvation, illness, or become prey as she does not have much strength to protect herself from danger.
Even though the Giant Pacific Octopus is not on the endangered species list, it is still wise to protect our sea creatures. Some common threats to sea life is water pollution and over-fishing. The Giant Pacific Octopus is consumed by humans or used for food to catch other sea life by fishermen. Ways we can protect our sea critters is to reduce, re-use, and recycle our items. Reduce our use of plastic bottles and to clip those plastic rings around soda cans so they can’t get caught in them. Water pollution does not hurt marine life but all life. Every year there is Cephalopod Awareness Days from October 8-12. What will you do to protect our marine life?
I hope you enjoyed learning about the intelligent marine species of the North Pacific Ocean, the Giant Pacific Octopus. Now that I have explained more about their parts of a body, camouflage, environment life, and conservation, the Giant Pacific Octopus will not scare you like those fisherman in the past who called them the “devil fish.” What are three pieces of information you will pass along to someone to make them more informed about the amazing cephalopod, the Giant Pacific Octopus?
A list of books and websites with authors names you used to gather information for the informational text. If you don't cite your sources, it is known as plagiarism and you can get into big trouble in school and in the real world for using other peoples work as your own.
At least three sources need to be included!
This is what the informative text would look like typed as an example from Ms. Nowak.
Below is a work in progress example of an informational text essay in Google Slide that I am writing to model for students what their paper will look like.
Student Expectations for Informational Text Draft:
Have at least six paragraphs for the informational text that include the subtopics such as: Introduction, Parts of a Body, Camouflage, Environment Life, Conservation, and Conclusion.
Each of the subtopics (excluding introduction and conclusion) should have at least five facts that are elaborated with even more information.
The introduction included a quote or "WOW" fact to begin. I stated all the subtopics that I would develop later in my essay. I included my own opinion.
The conclusion restated the main points and offered a final thought or question for readers to consider but not any new information.
In my writing I included AT LEAST 5 of the following transitions: for instance, in addition, therefore, such as, because of, as a result, in contrast to, unlike, despite, and on the other hand.
Create a table and find images, maps, and/or other visual representations for at least one of the subtopics.
Nightly and Weekend Homework Expectations
Each night students are expected to finish their research from class about the Giant Pacific Octopus for the subtopic that is being elaborated with more information. If they have not written a complete first draft with at least six paragraphs (each subtopic is a paragraph), they should write a paragraph on the subtopic that is missing so that when they come to school the next day they can get valuable feedback from the teacher. If there is nothing for the teacher to work with, it will take more time outside of class to complete work.
The final assessment will be for students to write their own informational text on a topic of their choice (not the Giant Pacific Octopus) that is very similar to the example above during a 45 minute time frame in class according to their writing curriculum by Lucy Calkins.
Students will be expected to have a title, several subtopics with information that is explained in greater detail, in text citations when using a quote or exact information from the author, a visual representation of some sort (map, image, table, list), introduction and conclusion, and a source list.
Below is an example of what 5th grade work looks like for the final in class assessment that came from the writing curriculum teachers manual:
How to Create a Table for Parts of a Body Subtopic In Class Example
This is a student created example of a chart for Parts of the Body subtopic
This is an in class example of how to include vocabulary into a subtopic