This unit was created by Dani McCormick, a fourth-grade teacher in Washington, D.C., as part of the 2021-2022 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program. It is designed for facilitation across ten 45-minute class periods, with work outside of class.
For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.
Students will be able to…
- Analyze underreported stories on the causes and impacts of climate change from multiple perspectives in order to deepen their empathy.
- Identify the main idea and key details of texts focused on how climate change disproportionately impacts vulnerable people and potential solutions to combat the impacts of climate change.
- Use close reading strategies to analyze these texts and determine how writers and artists develop credibility and empathy.
- Identify an impacted person in their community and write an article that amplifies this person’s story and advocates for a climate solution.
- Integrate high quality writing craft identified through analysis of examples to establish credibility and empathy in their own writing.
In this unit, students explore climate concepts and investigate underreported stories in order to uncover who is most impacted by climate change, why, and what climate initiatives can be taken to enhance community care and safety. Students will begin exploring written articles and photojournalism projects from the Pulitzer Center to explore multiple perspectives on the impact of climate change on communities in D.C. They will then use close reading strategies to understand, interpret and analyze these pieces, and use them to inspire their own reporting. Ultimately, students will amplify the stories of people in their own communities who have been impacted by climate change, and advocate for concrete climate solutions with original articles.
Persuasive Letter Informed by Research and Interviews:
Students will choose a community member, ideally who is local to their communities, who has been impacted by climate change to profile. They will write an article about the community members they have selected. First, they will conduct original interviews with the people they have selected. Then, they will research and/or utilize articles, maps, data, and interviews to write an article that describes the community member’s biography, how they’re impacted by climate change, and concrete solutions that would improve community care in the face of the climate crisis. Students’ persuasive letters will be evaluated by their peers, and then by the teacher, using the Opinion writing checklist by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project from Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing, Grade 4 (firsthand: Portsmouth, NH).
Ten-lesson unit plan for teachers, including pacing, texts and multimedia resources, leveled texts, guiding questions for group discussions, scripts for facilitating discussions on how to analyze informational texts and plan to write persuasive texts, and performance task instructions and grading rubric for the unit.
|Videos||“A Message from the Future,” a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple for The Intercept
What is an Underreported Story? Video from the Pulitzer Center
Video: Interviews- Journalist's Toolbox (from Pulitzer Center)
|Texts||“Envisioning the Effects of Big Oil and Gas” by Amal Ahmed and Ivan Armando Flores for The Texas Observer
“Temperatures in Heat Islands are Higher than in Leafy Neighborhoods” by HOLA CULTURA S.P.E.L. TEAM for The Washington City Paper
Optional: “Temperatures in Heat Islands are Higher than in Leafy Neighborhoods” Scaffolded article [.pdf] [.docx]
Campaigns - Amplifier
“‘Ecofeminism Is About Respect’: The Activist Working to Revolutionize West African Farming” by Ricci Shryock for The Guardian
|NewsELA articles||“Indigenous Youth Take Global Stage in Madrid to Voice Climate Change Worries” By The World, adapted by Newsela staff
“Climate Activist Nakate Seeks Immediate Actions in Glasgow” By Associated Press, adapted by Newsela staff
“Fight Climate Change Before It's Too Late, Say Youth Around the World” By The Washington Post, adapted by Newsela staff
“Kiribati: The Face of Climate Change” By Maddie Rhoden, iGeneration Youth, adapted by Newsela staff
“Climate and Social Activist: An interview with Jerome Foster II” By Emily Cambias, Cricket Media
“Artist is One of the Faces of the Youth Climate Movement” By Olivia Green, The Baltimore Sun
|Teaching materials||Boxes and bullets graphic organizer [.pdf] [.docx]
Heat Islands Gallery Walk [.pdf] [.docx]
Example Interview: Boe Luther Interview with 4th grade students from Mundo Verde Public Charter School in Wasington, D.C.
Community Changemaker Graphic Organizer [.pdf] [.docx]
Opinion writing checklist by Lucy Calkins and Colleagues from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project from Units of Study in Opinion, Information, and Narrative Writing, Grade 4 (firsthand: Portsmouth, NH).
Informational hook worksheet from Education.com
Common Core Standards:
RI.4.2: Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
RI.4.8: Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
RI.4.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1: Write opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.A: Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which related ideas are grouped to support the writer's purpose.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.B: Provide reasons that are supported by facts and details.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.C: Link opinion and reasons using words and phrases (e.g., for instance, in order to, in addition).
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.1.D: Provide a concluding statement or section related to the opinion presented.
W.4.7: Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.
W.4.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
The following images capture how fourth grade students at Mundo Verde Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. explored and practiced close reading analysis and persuasive writing with their teacher.
By the end of the unit, students will choose a community member who has been impacted by climate change to profile. They will write an article about the community members they have selected. First, they will conduct original interviews with the people they have selected. Then, they will research and/or utilize articles, maps, data, and interviews to write an article that describes the community member’s biography, how they’re impacted by climate change, and concrete solutions that would improve community care in the face of the climate crisis.
Here are examples of how students from Mundo Verde Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. researched and planned their articles.
Here are examples of their final letters.