Captain Ahab's Weird Wide World- Sleepy trees

article by Karen Wasson , photo by Alamy

Learning Intention:

I am learning to use context clues to understand the intended use of language so that I can expand my vocabulary on a particular subject, including technical language.


Success Criteria:

  • I can discuss my understanding of the use of familiar words
  • I can consider different ways these words can be used
  • I can answer comprehension questions based on learning technical language.



Prior to reading, ask students to think, pair and share about what foods they make for themselves. This may be something as simple as a bowl of cereal or a sandwich through to cooking a meal. Choose some students to share their answers, which they should do by standing up the front and acting out what they do when they make their own food. Once a few examples have been given, ask students to consider how trees could possibly make their own food and how it would be different to what people do. Choose a few students to share their answers or even act out any guesses they may have.

Read the introduction to the text and the paragraph titled ‘I’m Awake!’ and reflect on the answers given by students, comparing it to the information in the paragraph.

Next, have students think, pair and share about how they would describe what are indications that someone is sleeping (e.g. laying down, closing their eyes, snoring). Choose some students to act out the way they sleep in front of the class. Using the answers given, ask students to consider how trees might sleep, considering they don’t have eyes or mouths and can’t lay down in a bed like we do. Choose some students to demonstrate their ideas about what a sleeping tree might look like.

Read the paragraph titled ‘Sweet Dreams’ and compare the information about the way some trees sleep (branches drooping, flowers closing) with what students had demonstrated.

Finally, ask students to recall any nocturnal animals they know of (e.g. possum, bat, sugar glider, porcupine). Ensure that students understand that nocturnal means to be active at night, rather than sleeping. Have willing students act out their animals for the class to guess. Discuss what it would mean for these animals to be active at night (e.g. bats will fly around and catch bugs to eat). Ask students to think, pair and share about what it would mean for trees and plants to be nocturnal and choose some to share their answers.

Read the final paragraph titled ‘Night Owls’ and compare the information with answers given by students.


Understanding text:

After reading and discussing the article, revisit the first section (‘I’m Awake!’) and ask the students what they think might be involved in the process of photosynthesis. Discuss any prior knowledge they may have. View the video Photosynthesis – The Dr Binocs Show and use the following quiz questions as a comprehension exercise:

  • Which vitamin is sunlight a good source of? (D)
  • What does the word photosynthesis mean? (using light to put things together)
  • What three things help plants with the photosynthesis process? (sunlight water and carbon dioxide)
  • What are the tiny openings called in plants and where are they located (stomata, located on their leaves)
  • How do plants and trees absorb food? (through their roots)
  • What is the name of the tiny pigments in leaves? (chloroplasts)
  • What do the chloroplasts turn carbon dioxide, water and sunlight into? (sugar and oxygen)
  • Where is the oxygen given out to? (the atmosphere)


Assessment for/as learning:

Have students complete an exit ticket to summarise what they have learnt in this lesson about trees and plants.