Unit 3 of Benchmark Advance

Let’s get started on Unit 3! Here, friends, is your home for all of my resources, tips, tricks, project ideas, and freebies on Benchmark Advance Unit 3, our first science unit.

My shop is filled with grade-specific Benchmark resources and many other fun resources.  Be sure to check out my Close Reading Companions for Unit 3!

Let’s Dive in to Unit 3!

The themes for Unit 3 across all grade levels, taken directly from the Teacher’s Resource System (TRS), are as follows, along with a few notes where indicated:

Kindergarten: Plants and Animals Have Needs
Essential Question: Why do living things have needs?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about animals and plants to learn what living things need to survive.

First Grade: Plants and Animals Grow and Change
Essential Question: Why do living things change?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about animals and plants to understand how living things grow and change.

Second Grade: Plants and Animals in Their Habitat
Essential Question: How do living things get what they need to survive?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about animals and plants to understand how living things get what they need in their habitats.

Third Grade: Animal Adaptations
Essential Question: How do living things adapt to change?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about animals and plants to learn about animal adaptations.

Fourth Grade: Observing Nature*
Essential Question: How do we respond in nature?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about nature to analyze how different writers respond to the natural world.

Fifth Grade: Cultivating Natural Resources*
Essential Question: How do we decide which resources we should develop?
In this unit, students read and compare selections about cultivating food in the past and today to understand how we develop our natural resources.

Sixth Grade: Relationships and Nature**
Essential Question: What roles can we play in the balance of nature?
In this unit, students will read and compare selections about people’s experiences in the natural world, to develop an understanding of the role we play in the balance of nature.

*A note about fourth and fifth grade: there is a huge shift in the theme for 4th and 5th grade and teachers generally either really enjoy teaching this unit, or desperately hate it.  But, if you are struggling, you can find ideas within the Facebook group by doing a search within the group. You can find all of the goodies that have been created, ideas shared, and photos, which will hopefully help.  For fourth grade, you also have the option of doing a novel study to replace this unit.

**Unfortunately, there’s not much out there for sixth grade on this unit, but hopefully, we will have more collaboration from sixth grade teachers this year–we’d love to hear from you!

Tips and Freebies

I’m really excited to share a few new freebies, beginning with this Fourth Grade Unit 3 Freebie, a Nature Reflection Booklet, crafted to help fourth-grade teachers with journaling activities.  Teaching Unit 3 in fourth grade is often centered around the reading of a lot of advanced writing (like the poem, “Birches” by Robert Frost) and naturalist writers like John Burroughs, analyzing the writing, and examining observations about nature.  One often-shared idea is to take the students out into nature (teaching outside if weather permits is great), and introduce the opportunity to record their own reflections and observations about nature.  I hope you enjoy using this booklet!

I also have a Unit 3 Freebie for Fifth Grade: a “Find the Corn” worksheet to facilitate a quick and easy scavenger hunt. Unit 3 in fifth-grade centers around A LOT of discussion about corn (and the history of corn; structure of a corn plant; about corn’s uses and corn products; discussions about the controversies surrounding corn and ethanol; argument analyses and debates).  By the end, your fifth graders will be corn EXPERTS.

Veronica Phillips, a teacher who embraced the corn theme with her fifth graders, has fantastic ideas about how to bring unit 3 to life.  Definitely check out her guest blog post, where she also shares photos of her focus wall and charts, and ideas for how she uses the corn scavenger hunt.

Anchor Chart for Unit 3

Benchmark Advance Unit 3 Anchor Chart
Benchmark Advance Unit 3 Anchor Chart by Markers and Minions

One of my favorite tools for Unit 3 is this anchor chart, which is third grade-focused, but can easily be customized to other grade levels.  More notes on that below.

For Unit 3, this anchor chart aligns really well to Next Generation Science Standards’ Ecosystems and Interactions, and became our central tool for discussions around all of our texts.  The photos of animals in their habitats were pulled from National Geographic magazines.  I built the chart to feature our main discussion topics on animals: Descriptions, Ecosystems, Diet, Lifecycle, Interactions and Adaptations.  You can examine the detail of each topic in the image above. This could be adapted easily for second grade (Lifecycle would be focus) and simplified for first grade and Kindergarten (Adaptations is specific to third grade).  I introduced this chart at the beginning of instruction, we discussed it and then we referenced it with every text that we read.  It was a huge resource for us. See a video here of me and the chart in action in the classroom.

Google Slides Animal Research Report

Benchmark Advance Unit 3 Animal Research Report

One of the ways I love to extend learning in unit 3 is by having my students complete an animal adaptations research report. They become an expert on their animal and create a Google Slides presentation! The inspiration for this came directly from the writing prompt of the Benchmark program (California Edition) for third grade, week 1, and although it compliments Unit 3, it can be used in any classroom learning about animals, habitats and adaptations. To help guide my students, I did the research project alongside them (on the African elephant).

The resource is built using the main topics from the anchor chart as research prompts–and though it’s third-grade specific, it could work well for second grade, too. 

I made a few other fun resources for animal adaptations, including a Class Apps Digital Animal Report and an Animal Adaptations Jeopardy Game!

Videos, Pinterest, and Some Great Teacher Tips!

I have several unit 3 videos that might help you. You can watch me introduce the unit to my class using my anchor chart, watch me teach an inferencing or key details/main idea lesson, or watch a video to help you with planning the unit.

Make sure you check out our collaborative Pinterest board series, especially the one dedicated to Unit 3 resources by grade level. Reach out to me with your links and ideas and I am happy to add them to our community boards on Pinterest!

The live Facebook feed of my video on Unit 3 also featured a terrific live discussion from our FB group members, full of other ideas for implementation of Unit 3.  Some highlights:

Live videos are Sunday evenings at 4:00 pm (PST) in my Facebook group.
  • Liz shared a great link for exploring California State Parks, where you can arrange to Skype with rangers to support this unit in the classroom.
  • We were reminded of a great Zoo Flip Book made by Robyn, which is available to download if you’re part of my Facebook group.
  • Quyen shared so many of her great ideas during the FB feed, including making use of Skype to connect with National Parks, museums and famous children’s authors around the country!
  • Sarah reminded us that Google Draw is a great resource for pulling in lots of discussion about photosynthesis as part of this unit!
  • Andrea supported the heavy corn discussion by recommending The Popcorn Book, by Tomie de Paola.  And, of course, everyone supported the idea of a popcorn party.
  • For fourth grade, do bring in a lot of poetry to support Unit 3, inviting students to create their own poems.  And for fifth grade, corn art is a popular idea, as is assigning an argumentative writing piece and inviting students to choose a stance on a controversial issue, then publishing the results on Writer’s Universe if your district supports it.
  • When I taught this three years ago to my second/third grade combo classroom, I brought in a zoologist from our community who showed a video of her research in Madagascar, studying animal adaptations and interactions.  It was a big hit!
  • Check out these beautiful self portraits incorporating nature! This was done in a fourth grade classroom alongside Observing Nature.

That’s all for now, guys! Don’t miss my next discussion around Unit 4!

Hi! I’m Toluca from Markers and Minions, where I help teachers feel more effective and confident with high-quality resources and an awesome teacher community!

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