Rural or Urban?

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Students will be able to sort common objects into categories to gain a sense of the concepts the categories represent.

Big Idea

Finding and sorting images from magazines helps students define urban and rural.


10 minutes

Gather students on the rug using a preferred classroom management technique. I like to use my “Stop, look, listen.” The students stop what they are doing, look at me and listen for the direction. I usually preface the direction with, “When I say go…” This reminds the students to listen to the whole direction before moving to follow the directive.

In this case I would say, “When I say go I would like you to clear your space, push in your chair and go take a spot on your dot. Walking feet go.” By saying walking feet I am reminding the students to use walking feet in the classroom to ensure safe movement between areas.

When all of the students are seated on their dot in the rug area I open up the screen on the SMARTBoard.

On the SMARTBoard I have already loaded the PebbleGo website. This website has many resources on numerous topics but it is a paid subscription site. Our school subscribes to the site so we have access to many research opportunities for our students. The site can be used either to introduce students to a topic, which is what I am doing today, or used to support instruction.

“Boys and girls, today we are going to look at a rural area. Does anyone want to take a guess as to what a rural area might be?”

Occasionally I have a student who is bold enough to give it a go, but more often than not I do not have any students raise their hand.

“That’s okay that no one knows because we are going to listen and watch the SMARTBoard to find out. I will ask the question again when we are done.”

“You will need to use your listening ears and observing eyes to pick up on all the facts we are about to see and hear.”

Once we have listened to each of the little informative section I turn off the SMARTBoard and ask the students, “Now can anyone tell me what a rural area is?”

I will select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to answer the question.

“Yes Finnley, a rural area is a country area.”

“I would like you to keep the word rural in mind while you are listening to the story.”   

 I use the PebbleGo website to give my students an introduction into what a rural area is. We live in a suburban area surrounded by shrinking rural areas. We have to drive an hour to get to a big city – Washington D.C. or Annapolis. My students are used to calling the surrounding area the country but I want them to understand a different terminology for out map unit. The interactive multimedia will help the students increase their vocabulary and give them insight into what they should be looking for in the magazines later on in the lesson.   


45 minutes

“Today’s book is called Town Mouse, Country Mouse. It is written by one of my favorite authors. Does anyone remember who that is?”

I select a student who is following the correct protocol of raising their hand to answer the question.

“That is right Jamie; the author is Jan Brett. She also happens to be the illustrator and I love the way in which she adds clues for the reader in her pictures as to what is going to happen next. If you look at the edges of the pages surrounding the pictures (I open the book to a random page), you will often see clues as to what is going to happen next, or a little sub-plot will be going on.”

“Does anyone have an idea as to what a sub-plot might be?”

I point to any student brave enough to try and respond.

“Wow Rachel; how did you know it is small story inside the main story?”

“Oh I see, your sister in middle school was working on a project about it. That is great that you were able to share that piece of literary information with us.”

“Let’s go ahead and read our story.”


During reading I will go over new vocabulary words such as; exhausted, sooty, hustle and bustle, etc. We also review old vocabulary words such as; predator, prey, etc. We also discuss how the bright red jacket gives the city mouse away whereas the earthy tones of the country mouse’s jacket keeps him well hidden/camouflaged. I like to work with the vocabulary while we are reading because the words are heard in context which makes it much easier for the students to understand the word meanings. This aids in both vocabulary development and comprehension of the story itself. 


After reading we discuss how the author left the ending open because she had the owl and the cat talk about trading places which leads the reader to believe the story starts all over again with new characters.  


When we have finished having our discussion about the book itself I ask the students to recall the new word for country that we heard in our multimedia reader this morning.

“That’s right rural. Well just as there is an opposite for most words, there is an opposite for rural and what do you think that might be?”

I call on a student to respond.

“Nicely done Finnley; city is a great guess. I am going to introduce you to another word and the word is urban. Can everyone say urban?”

After the students have said the word urban I say, “Urban is another word for city.”

I open a blank screen on the SMARTBoard and write the word Urban on one side and the word Rural on the other side. I draw a rectangle in the middle and label it both.

“I would like you to tell me some things you would find in a rural area, an urban area or both.”
I select as many students as I can without losing my students attention.

After we have several items in each section I tell the students to take a seat around the edge of the rug. While the students are moving to take a seat, I get my supplies from a nearby location.

I sit at the head of the rug and lay out my supplies.

Once all the students are settled I say, “Here I have a large sheet of construction paper (I show the students my paper). I am going to fold it in half, then I will open it back out and now I have two sections (I model the process as I speak). I will label one side Rural and one side Urban. Next I will draw a line down the middle of my paper. Now my paper is ready.”

“Once my paper is ready I go through magazines to find items that belong on either the rural or urban side. Ahhh… here I have found a cow. I will cut it out place it where?”

I let the students call out the answer, “Rural!”

“Great (I glue it down on the rural side).”

“Now that you have seen how to go about this activity you will be able to work on this assignment at integrated work station time.”

“Of course I am going to use a checklist to go over your work to see if you followed the directions correctly for this assignment and I will leave this model on the board by the work station.”      

“Does anyone have any questions?”


Once I feel the group has a good grasp of the instructions I send the students over one table group at a time to maintain a safe and orderly classroom. It usually sounds like this;

“Table number one go have some rural/urban sorting fun.

Table number two, you know what to do.

Table number three, hope you were listening to me, and

Table number four, you shouldn’t be here anymore.”


Allow the students 15 minutes to work on this activity. Set a visual timer and remind the students to look at the timer so they will use their time wisely.



Sorting is important as it is part of the classification process. When students are sorting they are classifying items based on a specific set of similarities. At first these skills are purely based on sight, sound, or texture. Later on these skills become more refined and groups can be broken into sub-groups. For example the animal group in an animal / non-animal sort can be broken down to mammalian and non-mammalian.

Students need to practice classification skills as classifying saves people a lot of time. Think of a filing cabinet with hundreds of files. Information is easy to find when it is organized in a way that makes sense to the user. The office manager of a doctor’s office organizes the patient’s files alphabetically by their last name. Any file that is needed can be found almost instantly. But if hundreds of files were scattered and stacked without any order, it would be very hard to find a file you needed.


10 minutes

When the time is up I blow two short blasts on my whistle and use the “Stop, look, listen” technique mentioned above.

“When I say go, I would like you to clean up your space remembering to take care of our things, push in your chair, and use walking feet to go and take a spot on your dot.”

Students know to put completed work in the finished work bin. Any work that is not completed goes into the under construction bin and can be completed throughout the day whenever the student finds he/she has spare time or it will be completed during free choice center time.

Student sample of sorting.     Middle performing student sorting.     Middle performing student sorting 2.     Higher performing student sorting.

Once all of the students are seated on their spots on the rug I tell them, “Today for your exit ticket, I am going to hold up a picture and you will need to tell me if it is a rural or an urban area.”

I use the fair sticks to select the order in which the students will go.

Once the student has told me whether the image is rural or urban, they are free to go and use the hand sanitizer and go to get their snack.

If the student is unable to give me a response to the image I show them they can do one of two things. They can:

  1. Ask a friend for help.
  2. Wait until everyone is gone and we will come up with an answer together. 

This strategy gives me a quick insight as to whether  the student understands the difference between the new vocabulary words they were just introduced to - rural and urban. 


10 minutes

For this activity I use a Rural Urban Sort Checklist. to go over the student’s work. The checklist serves two purposes. First, the checklist helps me stay focused on what I am looking for in the student’s work which shows me whether the student has met the objectives set for the assignment. If the student does not meet the objectives then I know I need to re-teach the lesson in a different way to the student during a small group session or one-on-one.

Secondly the checklist helps convey information to the student’s family about how well their child is doing in the classroom.

The student may also go over the checklist to see where they did well and see what areas they could improve on.  

Discussing student work for the rural and urban sort.


At another station the students are sorting items/words into the correct sound circle. Their choices are /c/ like country or /c/ like city. The items to be sorted are things like celery, candy, corn, circle, etc. The student cuts out the items and glues the item into the correct circle on the recording sheet. This recording sheet/activity is taken from the Teaching with Favorite Jan Brett Books

Student sample 1     Student sample 2      Discussing student initial sound sort 


At another station the students select an inventory bag labeled with a letter. The students must write the letter of the bag they selected in their math journal and then dump the items out. Inside the inventory bag there is a mixed number of two city things. For example, Bag A might have four cars and three traffic lights. The student must sort the items, count the members of each group and then add the two amounts together to get a total number. The final thing the student must do is write a number sentence to represent what they did. For example, 4 + 3 = 7.