winds.jpgUnit 4: Winds of Change

In this fourth six-week unit of first grade, students look at changes in nature through non-fiction, changes in the feelings of characters through fantasy, and changes in their own writing through revision.


Building on the simple characteristics of fable characters, students describe the characters’ feelings. Focusing on verbs, students act out the various ways Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz could “walk” on the yellow brick road. They read an article on wind power to look at how wind can provide energy efficiently. They view the non-fiction in this unit through the lens of cause and effect. Finally, students look at writing as a moldable, changing piece of work that improves with revision.

Unit Overview/End of Unit Learning
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How do you know what a character is feeling and when these feelings change?

Focus Standards
LAFS.1.RI.3.8 Identify the reasons an author gives to support points in a text.
LAFS.1.RL.2.4 Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses
LAFS.1.L.2.5 With guidance and support, demonstrate understanding of word relationships and nuances in word meanings
LAFS.1.L.2.5(d) Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs differing in manner (e.g., look, peek, glance, stare, glare, scowl) and adjectives differing in intensity (e.g., large, gigantic) by defining or choosing them or by acting out the meanings.
LAFS.1.W.2.5 With guidance and support, focus on topic, respond to questions and suggestions from peers, and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
LAFS.1.SL.2.4 Describe people, places, things, and events with relevant details, expressing ideas and feelings clearly

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Suggested Objectives:

    • Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings and appeal to the senses.
    • Identify cause and effect relationships in informational text.
    • Add details as needed to strengthen writing through revision.
    • Distinguish shades of meaning among verbs by defining, choosing, or acting out the meanings.
    • Using commas to separate the words, dictate sentences with a series of nouns.
    • Write a narrative text with a focus on feelings.
    • Revise writing using temporal words, feeling words, and vivid verbs.
    • Distinguish between the root and affixes of verb conjugations, such as walk, walks, walked, walking.
    • Use commas in a series and identify the conjunction (e.g., “I see monkeys, tigers, and elephants at the zoo”).

Interdisciplinary Connections

  • This unit teaches:
    • Art: Richard Diebenkorn
    • Music: Violin concertos (by Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven)
    • Science: Weather (e.g., wind and tornadoes)

    This unit could be extended to teach:
    • Science: Changing states of matter (e.g., solid, liquid, and gas)
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Suggested Activities
Reading Literature, Reading Comprehension
Read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz aloud to the class. As students meet each character in the text, guide them to think about the character’s feelings and how the author shows us how the character feels. Discuss how the author helps us use our senses to see, smell, feel, hear, and even taste while we are reading a book. As you read aloud, model the way you are drawn to use your senses. For example, in the second paragraph of Chapter One, the author describes Kansas so that you can “see” the countryside clearly. Then he goes on to describe Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Toto, and Dorothy, with a focus on their feelings. (RL.1.3, RL.1.4)
Reading Informational Text, Language Usage
As you read books about the topic of wind or tornadoes, place the word “tornado” in the center of a display board. Look for causes of tornadoes (post on the left) and the effects of tornadoes (post on the right), creating a visual graphic organizer for cause and effect. Have students use the graphic organizer to create sentences showing cause and effect (e.g., “The high winds of the tornado tore the roof from the top of the Civic Center.”). Repeat this activity as you read other informational books with a cause-and-effect structure, giving students more of the responsibility for placing sticky notes on the graphic organizer and writing out the sentences. (RL.1.10, RI.1.8)
Narrative Writing, Language Usage
Give students this prompt: “Write a story about a time you felt happy. Be sure to include at least two sequenced events, use time cue words, provide some details, and include a sense of closure.” Combining the focuses of this unit (revision, appealing to the senses with details, and using well-chosen verbs), zero in on details and synonyms while the students revise their stories. Help the students to watch for the proper use of personal, possessive, and indefinite pronouns (e.g., I, me, my; they, them, their; anyone, everything) as they are editing. (W.1.3, W.1.5, L.1.1d)
Reading Informational Text, Informative Writing, Poetry Writing
Introduce an informative article such as “Wind Power” (National Geographic Young Explorers). First, ask students to think about what wind causes and brainstorm with the children. Then, have the students read the article independently, with partners, or with the teacher to find out what the wind causes.
“Whips up fun” (study illustration for specifics)
Kites fly
Pushes sailboats
Windmills spin, turning wind energy into electricity
Continue this activity with more nonfiction articles and books, continually giving students more of the responsibility for recording their own ideas. Throughout the unit, continue reading and reciting the poems in the unit to build a love for poetry. Blend the recording of ideas from the nonfiction works into a creative writing activity by creating an illustrated free-form poem using the wind cause-and-effect chart as inspiration. As a class, generate more effects of wind that students may have witnessed. Begin and end the poem with the word wind. (RL.1.10, RI.1.8, W.1.7, W.1.8)
Language Usage
To teach the use of a comma in a series, list the five senses on the whiteboard. Give students a “setting” card (e.g., zoo, farm, or beach) and have them dictate a sentence using one of the senses, naming three things they sense in that setting. Explain that when we use the word and we are using a conjunction. For example, “At the zoo, I smell popcorn, elephants, and cotton candy.” Write the dictated sentence and then challenge them to write their own sentences using and in the sentences. (L.1.2c, L.1.1g)
Language Usage, Vocabulary
To reinforce the idea of a wide range of alternatives for a word like “see,” write the words “look,” “peek,” “glance,” “stare,” “glare,” and “scowl” on cards. Have the students arrange the cards in order from the most to least cautious (e.g., peek →glance →look →stare →glare →scowl). Use a thesaurus to add other synonyms of “to see” and add them into the range of words. (L.1.5d)
Music, Reading Literature, Speaking and Listening
Throughout the day, play some violin concerto music in the background. Ask the students how the music made them feel. For example, ask them to finish this sentence: “During the music, I felt ___.” Continue to listen to the music at any opportunity. Then, read the book The Bat Boy and His Violin, which is the story of a boy who loved to play the violin. After the students listen to the story, go back through the text and have the children talk about how the author used words and phrases to let the reader know how the characters in the book felt. (RL.1.4, L.1.1i)
Art, Speaking and Listening
Take time to have students look at each painting closely. What changes in Diebenkorn’s series of Ocean Park works? Where? Discuss together the use of one subject in this selection. What aspects of the paintings stay the same? (SL.1.1, SL.1.3, SL.1.4, SL.1.6)
Art, Language Usage, Speaking and Listening
Show students a sampling of Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park series, which the painter began in 1967 and worked on for the rest of his life. What do you see in these images—the ocean? Clouds? Sand? What techniques has Diebenkorn used to convey the look and feel of these objects? Use adjectives and action verbs to describe what you see. (SL.1.3, L.1.1, L.1.5)
Language Usage
Choose some verbs that are rather bland, such as “to walk.” Ask the students to imagine that they are in the book (The Wonderful Wizard of Oz) with Dorothy and that they are walking on the yellow brick road. Have them imagine that they are really happy (e.g., when they see the Emerald City). How would they walk? (Possible answers: skip, run, dance.) Allow students to show us how that kind of motion would look. Then, have them imagine that they are feeling scared (e.g., when walking through the forest). How would they walk? (Possible answers: tiptoe, creep.) Make a list of all the words that could be used as a better choice than “walk.” This lesson on verbs can be extended to cover tenses, roots, and affixes -ed, -s, -ing. To make the extending lessons more fun, create a word cloud (using a free online program like Wordle) for each verb tense (i.e., present tense verbs for “walk,” past tense verbs for “walk,” . . . ) (SL.1.4, L1.1e, L.1.5d, L.1.4b, L.1.4c)

Additional Online Resources:

Read Works Passages/Lessons:

Sight Words
The expectation for first grade is for students to learn the first 200 words by the end of the year.