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Readtopia Thematic Unit — Bodies that Work

Cover of "Readtopia Teacher Guide: Bodies that Work" Anchored by Jane Goodall and the Chimpanzees of Gombe.

The Readtopia® Team is creating some very powerful content and resources for special needs classrooms. Thousands of special educators now have access to the just-released thematic unit for middle and high school classrooms. The theme, Bodies that Work will introduce students with complex needs to biology concepts (like how hearts work), while close reading lessons will teach how archaeologists look for clues about how people lived long ago. Animals are always a favorite for students and teachers alike, and the reading component of Bodies that Work features Jane Goodall and the Chimpanzees of Gombe graphic novels at six levels!

The unit comes filled with videos, leveled graphic novels, audiobook chapters, activities, content-area instruction, and life skills lessons to thoroughly engage students with special needs. It provides the background for an integrated thematic unit extending across multiple English Language Arts and Content Area Standards, skills, and topics.

ELA / Literature Component—ELA graphic novel at Six levels

Jane Goodall and the Chimpanzees of Gombe comes complete with fascinating stories of the natural sciences legend, Jane Goodall. Students will learn how she drove to understand animals in their natural environments and her ongoing mission to save animals and our planet. She will tell students how they can help, too.

Cover of "Jane Goodall and the Chimpanzees of Gombe" by Jerry Stemach and Helen Sillett with animated image of Jane Goodall and a chimpanzee.

“Would you crawl through a jungle in Africa looking for wild animals? That’s what Jane Goodall did by herself when she was 26 years old. Lions and snakes would not stop her. She was looking for chimpanzees. She wanted to study them. Back then, no one knew very much about wild chimpanzees.

Jane would discover some amazing things. She would learn that chimpanzees make and use tools. Until then, scientists believed that only humans can make and use tools.”
Six pages from the Readtopia Bodies that Work graphic novel about Africa.
Graphic novels at six levels cover the same story, but the text is leveled to cover the widest range of reading levels.

Every Readtopia Thematic Unit includes informational text at several levels covering multiple text types. Here students learn to identify a map (where Jane Goodall lived) and a chimpanzee.

Lesson page from Readtopia thematic unit Bodies that Work, with a geography activity about chimpanzees in Africa.

Informational Text Types for Bodies that Work

  • Article with a Sidebar
  • Biography
  • Compare and Contrast
  • Directions
  • Fantastic Facts
  • Job Description
  • Map
  • Table
  • Two Text Types
Topic areas across math, social studies, life skills, and science. The thematic unit connects topics in meaningful ways. In Bodies that Work, students will learn an entire range of topics from a job description to environmental preservation.

Content Area Topics for Bodies that Work

  • Social Emotional – Job Description
  • Science
    • Archeology
    • Study of the Heart
    • Gorillas vs Chimpanzees
    • Traits of Animals
    • Environmental Preservation
Lesson page from Readtopia thematic Unit - Bodies that Work about giraffes, with a matching activity
Math lessons at several levels are introduced by video. Students will learn about money, time, and even the concept of division in a stepwise approach.
Page from Readtopia thematic unit Bodies that Work, with a money math lesson.

Math Domains for Bodies that Work

  • Division
  • Expressions & Equations
  • Geometry
  • Money
  • Statistics & Probability
  • Time

If you have a Readtopia license, the Bodies that Work thematic unit is already available to you at If you don’t have Readtopia yet, we would love to get you started. You can dig in and get access to some sample materials. Or request a quote.


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Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D.​

Karen A. Erickson, Ph.D. is Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. Her focus is on understanding the best ways to assess and teach reading and writing to children with the most severe disabilities. As a special education teacher, Dr. Erickson has worked to support students with a range of disabilities in a variety of classroom settings, particularly students who do not use speech as their primary means of communication.


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