Layers of the Rainforest

Name: Diana Pyatigorsky

Subject: Science

Lesson Title: Layers of the Rainforest

Grade: Fifth


  • Kids Discover Rainforest magazine
  • Scholastic Rainforest magazine
  • Layers of the Rainforest Article, Vocabulary Worksheet and Venn Diagram
  • Crayons
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Colored Pencils

Pre-assessment of Students Knowledge & Skills: (A) Students have been immersed in a unit on animals and plants in their environment. Students have explored several habitats and have strong knowledge of the animals and plants that live there but are lacking in-depth knowledge of the rainforest environment.

(B)Students were able to somewhat accurately describe the components of a rainforest. They completed a K-W-L Chart on and used several resources to develop knowledge.

Content-Specific Standard(s):

English Language Arts

Key Idea: Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

RI.5.7. Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.

RI.5.9. Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.


Standard: Life Sciences: Know about the diversity and unity that characterize life.

Standard 7: Observe, identify and record the component of a rainforest ecosystem.

The Arts

Standard 1: Creating, Performing, and Participating in the Arts Students will actively engage in the processes that constitute creation and performance in the arts (dance, music, theater, and visual arts) and participate in various roles in the arts.


Students will understand that rainforests have four distinct layers and will study the different animals and plants that live in each layer.

Students will work together to create a class mural distinguishing the features of each layer in the rainforest.


Introduction: Teacher will lead a discussion on the many ways that the rainforest can be inhabited.

Engaging Question: Let’s think about two level of the rainforest. What could they be?

Students will brainstorm the topic.

Teacher introduces key vocabulary: habitat, emergent layer, canopy layers, understory layer, forest floor, epiphyte, leaf litter, and liana.

Engaging Question: What animals might be on the forest floor? What animals may be in the upper canopy?

Students will read the Layers of the Rain Forest Article individually and fill in the Vocabulary Worksheet.

Direct instruction 15 min: Teacher will initiate a discussion about the many layers of the rainforest and the animals that live in each layer of the forest. Students will brainstorm what each layer is like and what its purpose may be. Teacher will lead discussion and complete Venn diagram of the similarities and differences of the four layers including the types of plants and animals might be found in each layer.

Work Time 20 min: Teacher puts on soft rainforest music.

Students will be divided into groups of four and each assigned a layer of the rainforest. Some groups will be working on the same layer, but on different parts of that layer. In their groups, students will use their resources to research their layer of the rain forest including different types of plants and animals that would appear in their layer. Students will list, draw and label their findings. Students will depict the different types of plants and animals that would appear in their layer of the rain forest. Once they are finished, each rain forest layer will be placed on a classroom wall or the hallway and attach the sections together.

Closure 10 min: Students will present their rainforest layer creations to the class.

Assessment: Student assessments will include their ability to: define key vocabulary words, fill in the Venn diagram using clues from the Layers of the Rainforest Article, identify the four layers of the rainforest including the animals and plants that live there and discuss the differences and similarities of the four layers in the rainforest.

Teacher will assess understanding during conference time and during the share. Ask follow up questions if students are not confident with their explanations. Students will be assessed for their activity participation, their participation as audience members and their working material. Student project work will be reviewed against the rubric below.

Diversity: This lesson continues the work of opening a window into different modalities of learning such as Collaborative and Flexible grouping, scaffolding, varied time allowance, multiple intelligences, varied demonstrations, simulations, use of visuals and role play.


“A hands-on activity supports students who struggle with verbal skills” (Cornett, 2011). Using visual and tactile skills, students that struggle with writing are able to use the images to show that they understand the content. This lesson also supports concreteness of the topic with the use of pictures, labels and names.

Layers of the Rainforest Handout

Layers of the Rain Forest
Did you know that rain forests are home to over half of the world’s plants and animals?The trees of the tropical rain forest provide shelter for many animals, such as birds, monkeys, cats, butterflies, insects, snakes, and frogs. Because most trees in the rain forest are very tall, they are equipped to hold many different animals. Some animals live at the bottom of the trees, where it is dark and damp. Others live towards the top of the trees where it is light.Picture a tree in the rain forest and divide it into four layers: the bottom layer is the forest floor; the second layer is the understory; the third layer is the canopy; and the fourth is called the emergent layer.The emergent layer is where the treetops join together to form the roof of the forest. This is where trees soak up the most sun. The harpy eagle lives and hunts here. Other animals, such as the toucan, sloth, macaw, and parrot can be found here as well.The canopy is a bright and colorful place, full of animals and plants. That’s right, there are plants that grow on trees! These plants are called epiphytes. Epiphytes grow along the branches of a tree. They dangle their roots and collect moisture from the damp air; they also get nutrients from decayed leaves, algae, and moss.The canopy is also home to many wonderful creatures such as howler monkeys, spider monkeys, orangutans, sloths, and fruit bats. These animals love to eat the sweet fruit that grows in the canopy. Other animals that live in the canopy are tree frogs, parrots, hummingbirds, butterflies, toucans, and bees.The understory is darker than the canopy as it is farther away from the sun. Boa constrictors, emerald tree snakes, anole lizards and monkeys cling to lianas. Lianas (thick, woody vines) grow up trees and act as ladders for animals to climb up from the forest floor to the understory. Many cats, such as the jaguar, leopard and ocelot, hide in the branches of the understory waiting to pounce on their prey below.The forest floor is the darkest and dampest part of the forest. Not much sunlight penetrates through here, so little plant life grows. The soil is covered by leaf litter (decayed leaves), which provides nutrients for tree roots. Leaf cutter ants, spiders, termites, mice, anteaters, jaguars, leopards, panthers, and gorillas live here. Now we know how just one tree in the rain forest can provide many different habitats for various animals and plants to live.

Rainforest Project Rubric

  4 3 2 1 Score
Content Contains accurate and clearly explained factual information about the Rainforest Contains accurate, factual information about the Rainforest Contains mostly accurate information about the Rainforest Contains  many inaccuracies about the Rainforest  
Chart/Graph Contains a clear title. Clearly demonstrates mastery of subject knowledge. Has accurately completed checklist Contains a title. Demonstrates subject knowledge. Has somewhat accurately completed checklist Contains an unclear title. Demonstrates little mastery of subject knowledge. Has completed checklist Contains no title. Does not demonstrate mastery of subject knowledge. Has not completed checklist  
Mechanics Correct spelling and grammar Mostly correct spelling and grammar Some mistakes in spelling and grammar Many mistakes in spelling and grammar  
Presentation Neat, creative enticing display Neat display Sloppily compiled Sloppily compiled with missing information  

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