Teaching Ecosystems with a Mentor Text

I love a mentor text to help explain content.  Today I would like to share a great one for teaching ecosystems.  The goal of the lesson was to introduce students to the Ohio’s Fourth Grade Science Standard that states, “Changes in an organism’s environment are
sometimes beneficial to its survival and sometimes

This post shares a great mentor text for showing the effects of change on the environment.  A free graphic organizer is included.

The book is called Aliens from Earth.  From the text to the illustrations, it is the perfect mentor text to help explain animals’ effects on the environment.  The book tells stories of how different animals came and “invaded” new territories.  The “invasion” seems harmless at first, but students soon learn of all the problems  that can be caused when an animal enters a new environment.

A fantastic book for showing very clear examples of how changes in the environment affect ecosystems.

One example I shared with my class was how fire ants arrived in our country entirely by accident.  They hitched a ride on a cargo ship from South Africa.  Once the fire ants arrived in the United States, their population flourished, as they had no natural predators.  Unfortunately, fire ants cause billions of dollars in destruction every year.  Ruining air conditioners and killing crops are a couple of examples of their destructive behavior.

Here is the illustration from the example in the above paragraph.  As you can see, all of the animal species are labeled.  I like how they are coded alien (a) or native (n).  This helps students to see how the native animal were affected by the change in their environment.

Aliens from Earth is a fantastic book for showing very clear examples of how changes in the environment affect ecosystems.

This book and the science concept lend themselves to reviewing cause and effect.  The text is very clear about the effects of the “invasions” to the natural balance of the ecosystems and how they caused a variety of problems.  Below are a couple of cause and effect relationships found in this book.

Cause – Some of the gypsy moths that were brought here from Europe escaped, and they have no predators.

Effect – Gypsy moth destroy over a million acres of forest each year.

Cause – The brown tree snake came to Guam on a military cargo ship.  There are no natural predators.

Effect – Some of Guam’s native birds are now extinct.

I created a graphic organizer for students to continue practicing cause and effect.  You can easily use the organizer with this book or any other mentor text that has a cause and effect structure.  You can download it by clicking here or on the picture below.

This cause and effect organizer is free!  It goes great with the mentor text found on this post.

If you teach ecosystems or a unit on informational reading, I highly recommend this book.  It is well-organized, full of great information & illustrations, and highly engaging for our young readers.

Thank you!

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Teaching blogger for elementary teachers

Mary Wingert, licensed educator (K-12 Special Ed. & 1-8 General Ed)

I started teaching in 1993.   I have taught special education, fifth grade, and fourth grade.  I moved to second grade in 2015, and I am still there today.  

I believe in teaching strategies that are effective, differentiated, and engaging. I am looking forward to building a community of teachers who feels the same!  Read more here.