Reading and Writing Connections for this selection:

Surviving Cold Nights: Torpor

Reading Strategies:

  • Activate Prior Knowledge
  • Ask Questions and Make Predictions to Set a Purpose for Reading
  • Recall Main Ideas and Details
  • Reread for Text Details
  • Summarize Main Ideas and Details
  • Make Inferences and Draw Conclusions
  • Make Text-to-Self Connections
  • Make Text-to-Text Connections
  • Identify Text Structure
  • (About Reading Strategies)

    metabolism, conserve, warm-blooded, body temperature, generate, torpor, torpid, muscles contract, degrees, stored energy, ornithologist, Fahrenheit, Celsius, consumes, predator, vibrating, blood supply, circulates, infusion, succumbs, hypothermia




Introduce the selection by tapping into students? background experiences. Use the Clue Collector activity to elicit students? prior knowledge. Reveal the following clue words and phrases one at a time: warm-blooded, circulation, exercise, food, heart rate, energy, body temperature, shivering, hypothermia, torpor, and hummingbird. Ask questions to facilitate students? thinking: What thoughts pop into your mind when you hear the word ________? Which words are related or connected in some way? How are food and energy connected? What do you know about circulation? How are exercise, heart rate, and body temperature related? What is hypothermia? What does torpor mean?

Variation for Clue Collector activity: Place students in small groups. Give each group a set of the clue words and phrases. Have them write questions and predictions about the upcoming reading selection. Encourage students to use a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words. Invite each group to share their work with the class prior to reading. (Activating Prior Knowledge, Making Predictions, Asking Questions, Setting a Purpose for Reading)

Read "Hummingbird Metabolism: Ruby-throated Hungrybirds." Encourage students to "mark up the text" by circling unfamiliar words, underlining key words and phrases, and writing notes in the margins.

Related Reading Selections: These two nonfiction articles provide students with additional information about hummingbirds and torpor. Hands-on activities are included to help students develop a concrete understanding of how torpor works.
1. Torpor Students explore temperature drops using modeling clay, a balance, a thermometer, and a refrigerator.
2. Hummidees, Jaybins, and Ravoons: A Lesson about Volume, Surface Area, and Body Heat. Students explore the amount of heat a warm-blooded animal produces in relation to its body volume by creating "cubic birds."

Give students five minutes to list VIP?s (Very Important Points) without looking back at the text. Encourage them to use the clue words from the pre-reading activity to recall key facts. Invite them to reread the text after they write and add more facts to their list of VIP?s. (Recalling Main Ideas and Details, Rereading for Text Details)

Have students revisit the text in small groups to write a group response for the following questions: (Summarizing Main Ideas and Details)

1. Why does the title of the article refer to ruby-throated hummingbirds as hungrybirds? Why do hummingbirds need to eat 1-1/2 to 3 times their weight in nectar and insects per day?
2. How would you define metabolism?
3. How do hummingbirds survive in cold temperatures?
4. Why are hummingbird feeders with perches potentially dangerous for hummers?
5. How would you describe a typical day and night in the life of a hummingbird?

Challenge students to incorporate the clue words from the pre-reading activity in their answers to the questions.

Journaling Questions (Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions)
1. What are the risks and benefits of torpor for hummingbirds?

2. Why do tiny birds like hummingbirds and chickadees lose body heat so much more easily than large birds like ravens and loons? Related Link: Hummidees, Jaybins, and Ravoons: A Lesson about Volume, Surface Area, and Body Heat.

3. What are three ways people can help make their backyards a haven for hummingbirds?

Making Connections: Survival Strategies
1. How does the human body use food? (Making Text-to-Self Connections)

2. How do people cope with cold weather? What strategies do we use to survive in cold temperatures? (Making Text-to-Self Connections)

3. Research other tiny birds, such as chickadees and swifts, to learn more about torpor. (Making Text-to-Text Connections)

4. Research other animals to discover other adaptations and survival strategies. Which species hibernate, migrate, and/or insulate to survive during winter seasons? (Making Text-to-Text Connections)

Evaluate (Identify Text Structures)
In nonfiction texts authors often introduce readers to new information. How does an author teach unfamiliar words and concepts to a reader? Examine the reading selection and other nonfiction articles to identify the following writing strategies:

1. Similes/Metaphors: How does an author use comparisons to connect new concepts to ideas that are more familiar to readers? (In the reading selection, the author compares torpor to a sleep-like state. In the related reading selection, Torpor, the author compares the weight of a hummingbird to coins.)

2. Context Clues: Sometimes an author writes descriptive information before and/or after introducing a new concept to help readers make inferences that lead to understanding. The context provides clues that a reader puts together to see the whole picture, like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. (In this article, the sentence after the word metabolism describes how hummingbirds burn food so fast they often eat 1-1/2 to 3 times their weight in nectar and insects per day. Readers can infer that metabolism has to do with the rate at which a body burns food.)

3. Definitions: Authors often specifically define a word introduced in nonfiction texts. (In the related reading selection titled, Torpor, the writer included a definition sentence: This temporary drop in body temperature is called torpor.)

4. Illustrations/Photographs: Authors may include pictures or photographs to illustrate a new concept for readers.

5. Examples: New words or concepts are often followed by examples to help readers make connections. (In the reading and related reading selections, the authors provide hands-on lessons. The activities provide models or examples for the new concepts.)

Writer's Workshop

  • Descriptive
    Use sensory details to describe an active hummingbird visiting a flower or feeder. Use sensory details to describe a hummingbird in its sleep-like torpid state. Use facts from the text to provide vivid details for readers.
  • Expository
    Create a dictionary page to define torpor. Write context-rich sentences to define and describe torpor. Make comparisons using similes or metaphors. Find photographs or illustrate the page.
  • Persuasive
    The reading selection described how hummingbird feeders with perches could be hazardous for hummers. Reread the facts about why hummingbird feeders should not have a perch. Use the facts to write a letter to your local newspaper to inform your community about the best way to create backyard havens for hummers.
  • Creative
    Design and advertise the perfect hummingbird feeder. What features will your feeder have? Why should consumers purchase your hummingbird feeder over other products on the market? Use facts you?ve learned about the needs of hummingbirds to design the perfect feeder.