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Grade 5
John Muir: Speaking Out for Conservation

Unit Concept:

John Muir, an immigrant to the United States, spoke out about his experiences and his visions for conservation. Like Muir, people today speak out on the same themes involving the outdoors and conservation.


In several 45- to 50-minute sessions, students review information about events in John Muir's life, read some of his quotes, compare their lives to his, and create their own persuasive essay or speech.

California State Academic Content Standards:

Grade 5 English and Language Arts

Reading Standard 3.0 Literary Response and Analysis
Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature. They begin to find ways to clarify the ideas and make connections between literary works. (Includes excerpts from Recommended Readings in Literature, Kindergarten Through Grade Eight )

Structural Features of Literature 3.1 Identify and analyze the characteristics of poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfiction and explain the appropriateness of the literary forms chosen by an author for a specific purpose.

Writing Standard 1.0 Writing Strategies
Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the students' awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.

2.0 Writing Applications (Genres and Their Characteristics)
Students write narrative, expository, persuasive, and descriptive texts of at least 500 to 700 words in each genre. Student writing demonstrates a command of standard American English and the research, organizational, and drafting strategies outlined in Writing Standard 1.0.

2.4 Write persuasive letters or compositions:
a. State a clear position in support of a proposal.
b. Support a position with relevant evidence.
c. Follow a simple organizational pattern.
d. Address reader concerns.

1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies
Students deliver focused, coherent presentations that convey ideas clearly and relate to the background and interests of the audience. They evaluate the content of oral communication.

Organization and Delivery of Oral Communication
1.4 Select a focus, organizational structure, and point of view for an oral presentation.

1.5 Clarify and support spoken ideas with evidence and examples. 1.6 Engage the audience with appropriate verbal cues, facial expressions, and gestures.
Analysis and Evaluation of Oral and Media Communications
1.7 Identify, analyze, and critique persuasive techniques (e.g., promises, dares, flattery, glittering generalities); identify logical fallacies used in oral presentations and media messages.
1.8 Analyze media as sources for information, entertainment, persuasion, interpretation of events, and transmission of culture.


  1. Make a copy of the page Celebrating Our Lives for each student. Make six copies of the John Muir Power Quotes [ downloads Adobe Acrobat file; includes "Celebrating Our Lives" ] and cut them apart to distribute one or two quotes to each student.


  1. Ask the students if they know why John Muir was a famous author and record their responses. Ask a few volunteers to read the John Muir Power Quotes. Discuss and record what the students like about John Muir's writing .

  2. Ask each student to choose one Power Quote and complete the page Celebrating Our Lives.

  3. Ask students to think about a natural place they have been in and to write about it. They might include a description of the place, the plant life, animal life, and a persuasive argument for action to conserve their natural place.

  4. Use writing techniques to improve essays or speeches and invite the students to present their speeches to the class.


  1. Hold a contest for the most persuasive speech in John Muir's style. Invite the winner(s) to address the student body and the school board on or near John Muir Day.

  2. Write and submit letters on neighborhood conservation issues to the local newspaper.

  3. Get involved in local efforts to protect and conserve natural areas in the community.

Download files in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format:

The entire Study Guide is also available in PDF format.

John Muir Day Study Guide Home

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