Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8, K-3

In the BrainPOP ELL movie, Recycling (L2U6L4), the two friends pack their lunches for a picnic at the park, and Moby reminds Ben to use eco-friendly products, such as reusable bottles and bags. When they arrive at the park, they are shocked by its polluted state and work together to clean it up, recycling paper, plastic, and glass. In this lesson plan, adaptable for grades K-8, students review modals by participating in a variety of activities.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Create a poster or multimedia presentation about caring for the Earth using images and captions with modals.
  2. Rephrase sentences from the movie, with alternate ways to express the same ideas.
  3. Create a poster of rules for various settings using modals.
  4. Act out scenes in which they demonstrate their understanding of the different modals.



For Activity 1, Table of Modals, make a modal chart to post in the room. Organize it by function, as presented in the Grammar section of the movie. You can present the information in six columns, or in rows, as follows: Ability: can / could / be able to Advice: should / ought to / had better Possibility: may / might / could Expectation: should / be supposed to Obligation: must / have to Prohibition: mustn’t / can’t / not supposed to For Activity 5, Role Play, write brief descriptions of scenarios on index cards, such as the following. You may add more or different ones: You have a bad cold with aches, congestion, and fever. You have a big exam tomorrow but can’t decide whether to study or go to the movies with a friend. You arrive at your favorite park to find it full of trash. You see someone steal something from a store. You made two different plans for the same time by mistake.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Table of Modals. You can review the modals before any of the following activities by referring to the table on the board (see Preparation). Point out how some modals mean the same thing. Provide an example of a caption such as, You should drink water from a reusable bottle. Tell students that they can also include what not to do, such as, You mustn’t litter. Have small groups share their posters or presentations with the rest of the class.
  2. What Should We Do? While watching the movie Recycling (L2U6L4), instruct students to pay attention to the different ways Moby and Ben take care of the environment, such as using reusable bottles and bags. After the movie, have students work in small groups to list in two columns what we should and shouldn't do to help the environment. For example: Should: use reusable bags / recycle newspapers. Shouldn't: use paper bags / throw newspapers in the garbage. To review their ideas, make sure students use complete sentences.
  3. Web It. After the movie, create a web together on the board of different things Ben and Moby did. Then have students Think-Pair-Share at least three sentences about the web, using modals.
  4. Rules! To begin a discussion about rules, ask the class about your class rules. If you have a Classroom Rules chart posted, then refer to it, and ask students to explain the rules, using modals. For example: We must not chew gum in class. Next, assign each small group a different setting they are familiar with, such as home, school, library, park, restaurant, etc. Each group is to make a poster with a list of rules for that setting. The rules are to include what people can and can’t do in that setting. Display the finished products around the room.
  5. Role Play. Distribute different scenarios (see Preparation) to each pair of students that encourage the use of one modal or another. For example, one pair might act out a scene in which a student is giving advice to the other, so they will use the modals should, ought to, and had better while another pair may be discussing what they are good at and so will use the modals related to ability including can, could, and be able to. Invite pairs to switch roles so each person has an opportunity to use the modals in context. Then invite pairs to share their scenes with the class.
  6. Another Way to Say It. Watch a repeat viewing of the movie Recycling (L2U6L4), pausing each time you hear Ben use a modal. Invite students to identify the modal and then to repeat the sentence using an alternate modal that has the same meaning. You can model the first example:
    Original sentence: Today is supposed to be sunny and warm. Modal: supposed to. Alternate sentence: Today should be sunny and warm.
  7. Words with the Prefix re. Point out the prefix re in the word recycle. Explain that the prefix re means again. Recycle, then, means to cycle again, or use again. Brainstorm with the class suggestions of other ways we can do or use things again to help the environment. Whenever possible, encourage students to describe or rephrase their ideas using words with the prefix re. For example, We can reuse plastic bags, rather than throwing them out. We can rethink how much we throw away to reduce garbage. Then, elicit from students words with the prefix re that mean: build something again / paint something again / read something again / send again / try again / order again / tell again / make again / do again / play again. For example: to pack again = repack.