Melody Casey
English Language Arts, Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Lower Primary
  • #EmergingCRT
  • GEDB
  • Global Education
  • emergingcrt
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    Education Standards

    GEDB Informative Writing About Cultures: Activating Prior Knowledge (Lesson 1 of 3)

    GEDB Informative Writing About Cultures: Activating Prior Knowledge (Lesson 1 of 3)


    Three activities to build background and interest in the topic and to activate any prior knowledge students have about cultures. This lesson was developed by Julie Glaser as part of their completion of the North Carolina Global Educator Digital Badge program. This lesson plan has been vetted at the local and state level for standards alignment, Global Education focus, and content accuracy.            

    Lesson Plan


    Three activities to build background and interest in the topic and to activate any prior knowledge students have about cultures.


    Student Engagement/Motivation

    The teacher will pose the compelling question: Who am I?  Then the teacher pulls out a paperbag with 5 objects that represent him/her and his/her culture.  The teacher tells how each item is a part of his/her story.  The teacher explains that the students will be having a show and tell about themselves over the next week.  The teacher sends home a parent letter stapled to a paperbag asking the child to bring in 5 things that express who he is. (Along with the "About Me Paperbag" letter, the teacher sends home the "Name sheet" for parents to fill in and return.)

    Learning Targets and Criteria for Success

    Learning Targets


    I can understand that all of us are unique and come from different backgrounds.

    I can understand that we all have some things in common.

    Criteria for Success

    I will explain my name poster to tell something unique about myself.

    I will tell something that is the same about all of the cultures.


    Paperbag with 5 items about you in it

    Culture Boxes (shoe boxes with items from a culture: piece of jewelry or clothing, piece of art like pottery or a musical instrument, a tool used for cooking or eating, a book/map/brochure/newspaper, a toy, etc)

    Parent Letters (see attached: About Me Paper Bag and Name Sheet)

    The Name Jar by: Yangsuk Chai  (or a computer to show the read aloud video on youtube

    Poster material (large construction paper, markers, individual photos of students)

    Learning Tasks and Practice

    1. Name Inquiry: The teacher poses the questions: Where did your name come from?  What does it mean?  Do you like it?

    The teacher reads aloud: The Name Jar by: Yangsuk Chai.  Then the teacher models how to create a name poster using Unhei from the story as an example.  Provide a word bank and sentence stems for them to write their own poster.  My name is ______.  You can call me ________.  My name means _________.  I was named by _______.  Other optional sentence stems:  I was named after ________.  My family celebrates by __________.  Our tradition is to ________.   We speak _______.  We eat _________.  (see attached photo for an example)  Some children can use the "Name sheet" their parents filled out and others can look on the web to find answers.  Here is an example of a website to find the meaning of their names:


    2. Explore culture boxes. (see attached photo for examples)  In groups of 4, rotate around the room examining boxes from different cultures.  Groups will play the Explanation game.  Take each object out of the box and attempt to answer: "what is it?"  "what is it used for?" "why do you think that?"  If any questions arise, they can write it on a sticky note and post it on the wonder wall.

    The class gathers back together, and using the strategy List Group Label, notes what is the same about all the cultures and what is different.  First, they list all the things from the boxes on sticky notes (or provide laminated photos of each object from the boxes).  Then they group the sticky notes/photos by commonalities.  Finally, they label each group.  Some possible labels are: Clothing, Art, Food, Language, Toys, Religion, Symbol.

    If time, students can guess which culture each box is from and tell why they think that.


    3.  Once Name posters are complete and most children have brought in their "About Me Paperbags", they can present them to the class.  The teacher may model some sentence stems to help the students present what is in their bags.  This is _______.  I use it for ______.  It is important to me because _______.  Students will practice active listening by asking questions at the end of the presentation and by recording something they learn about their peers on a sheet.


    4. Students play the Yes/No game where children move to one side of the room for each answer.  The teacher asks cultural questions to see how they are alike and different: Do you have a name? Do you speak Spanish? Do you eat with chopsticks?  Do you wear a yamaka?  etc.

    Technological Engagement

    Students use the internet to find the meaning of their names:

    Online videos of people using the objects from the culture boxes they explored.

    Collecting and Documenting Evidence of Learning

    Students will fill in an exit slip saying "I used to think _______, but now I know ________."  (For students who have trouble writing their ideas, you could video record them saying their answer.)

    Either videotape students presentations about their name poster and about me bag, or check off that each student could tell something about his/her culture.

    Student Self-Reflection and Action Steps

    Students will have a chance to ask questions about each other's names, About Me bags, and the culture boxes they explored.  At the end, they may want to add more to their own name posters.  At this point, the teacher records if all the students have some answer to give to the question "Who am I?"  If they do not, the teacher will ask them to tell how they are the same or different from someone else in the room or even Unhei from the story.

    If there are still unanswered questions on the wonderwall, students can choose to partner up to research the answers.

    Feedback/Instructional Adjustments

    After reading The Name Jar, students expressed wanting to create a name stamp for their names.  If the class has time, it could be fun to have students create a symbol for a stamp to represent who they are.

    Some parents did not understand traditions.  It would be a good idea to send home examples of traditions with the parent letter, like a photo of a Christmas tree, a turkey at Thanksgiving, etc.  It may be good to include a list of choices for them to circle if they cannot think of one to write.

    Extended Learning Opportunities

    Books and objects from different cultures are placed at the inquiry table for students to explore in their free time.  If possible, include an IPAD with links to videos of different cultures.

    If the teacher or students know people from another country, then the class could interview them about their cultures over skype or email.  (Ideally skype or facetime would give immediate responses to their questions and allow them to see different things the person is talking about, but if there is a time difference, emailing photos or even a video might be a better option.)

    Teacher Reflection of Learning

    Many students were excited to discover what their name meant on the internet or by reading what their parents wrote.  To take this to a more global scale, students could research on the internet variations of their name's meaning or pronunciation around the world. (Eg. Mary, Maria, Myriam, etc)  Then they could put the different names on different locations on a map template (either a worksheet or by creating it online with links using something like thinglink or prezi).  This could be a good project to do when pairing a first grader up with an older student like a fifth grader to help them.

    I noticed that for many of my students the middle name was equally important to the first name.  So some students may want to record information for their first and middle name.  This could even be expanded to include last names by adding some questions on the parent letter about where their last name come from.  For example, many students from Hispanic cultures have a double last name, one coming from the father and one coming from the mother.  Some Asian students have an Americanized name and then a Chinese version of their name.