I wanted to give my students the opportunity to learn more about different countries around the world and about the students who live in each. This ties into the Common Core focus on research and cultural knowledge. My focus for this lesson is on helping them develop research skills that utilizes information from various books, websites and magazines to collect facts and write a summary about each of the different continents. This understanding of cultural differences carries over into so many different units from classroom-to school-to home.
I opened the unit by asking students to name all the seven continents. So sad, most could only name 2 or 3 and weren't even sure what the difference between a continent and a country was. At least I knew where their misconceptions were - we reviewed vocabulary of continent (shared all 7), country vs. continent vs. state, and where they could be found on a world map. I need to get my world map with their nationalities up quickly!
I then moved the focus to our project (this project is shared as a single lesson here, but after the introductory lesson and assignment completion, students continue to work on this throughout the rest of the year).
I discuss the terms "passport" and "abroad". I have my own passport so I project it on the board and show them how it looks and the information and stamps I have inside. Some students have their own as well from family vacations they have been on. I share that a passport contains important information about its holder, like which country that person is a citizen of. It allows its holder to travel to many places all over the world.
I now distribute the student passport books (I cut out the front cover page and glue it on the cover, the traveler information page and paste it on the inside of the cover, and the rubric which I glue to the last page prior to giving it to them to save time - but this could be a part of your lesson if you want to spread it out over a couple of days) I have students complete their traveler information sheet and answer questions on surname, given name and nationality. Some students also didn't know their place of birth. While students are completing this I give them their photo to paste on the picture box (I have sticker photos from their last school pictures but these could also be drawn in).
We do this section quickly so that we can get to the rubric and understanding of their task directions. I share that they will be required to travel to all seven continents and that they will be able to chose some weeks where they are going, and on others will have a class focus area. (We get "Time For Kids" magazines that send us four cultural based magazines a year that we use for this task).
I review the Continent Research Requirements Sheet, the My Continent Notebook worksheet, rubric and Country Fact Collection Chart (or you could use the Country Fact Sheet) to show them how and what information they will be required to collect. I have copies made of each of these that they fold in half and put in the back pages of their passport journals. I also have extra copies in baskets near the cultural books that they can grab if they lose their due to the length of the project. I take questions - and close with how do you think we could find information on a continent?
From this question I move over to the computers and the boxes of books and magazines on each continent. I share with students that they will use the internet, books from the classroom or our school library and magazines with articles on different countries or cultures to compile information on the continent of their choice. I also share that while the illustrations are a valued part of this task, they are not the most important assessed component (keep rubric posted for reference). I make a point here to share that the summary writing about their continent complete with facts, and interesting information will be the part I look at the closest. I set the timer for 50 minutes and release them to work on their passport journals. They also have additional time in the next center to complete their entries.
I post a sample journal and leave it up for them to review as they complete the task. High excitement and interest all around! This is a great opener for sharing between students who have connections or have found interesting information in their research. I let them work as small groups in the collection and sharing of facts, but I stress that their summaries must be written independent of the others work.
When we use the whole class magazines, I let them cut out pictures that demonstrate good illustrations of what they are sharing in their summaries.
I anticipate only a few questions and some minor difficulties identifying facts on the internet that were usable. I suggested students add facts+kids in their internet search box to narrow down the sites to only kid friendly ones.
Here's some students sharing what they are adding to their passport books and why:
At the end of the day students were able to post their best pages on the board for others to view. We did a classroom walk around so that all students could get the opportunity to view others work. A benefit to this strategy is that compliments encourage effort and interest was build for the activity.
Here's a video of some of their work:
We ended the lesson by asking How does learning about other countries change the way you feel about it's citizens, or the people who live there? I didn't know if they would understand this yet, but students shared all sorts of insights from - I never knew how much poverty was there..so that's where pizza was invented. It will be fun to see how their opinions grow as they move through the continents throughout the year.
For homework I send home the Cultures of Our World information sheet for students to complete with their parents. I will use this information to add their faces to the world map in our classroom and to identify nationalities in my classroom so that I can make sure to address them in my reading, history and math lessons throughout the year.
When they complete a passport entry I apply a stamp to entries that have a passing score. This is a way for students to track where they have been. There are some stamps that are generic and can be used for a variety of locations, too.