Melody Casey
Social Studies
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Primary
  • GEDB
  • Global Education
  • License:
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Education Standards

    GEDB Feeding the World: Agriculture & Importance Throughout Time (Lesson 1 of 12)

    GEDB Feeding the World: Agriculture & Importance Throughout Time (Lesson 1 of 12)


    In this lesson, students begin thinking about the importance of farming and how we get our food. Note: This lesson was created in accordance with the VIF Global Competence Indicators for Grade 4. For more information about VIF and these indicators, please visit This lesson was developed by Brenda Todd 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


    In this lesson, students begin thinking about the importance of farming and how we get our food. Note: This lesson was created in accordance with the VIF Global Competence Indicators for Grade 4. For more information about VIF and these indicators, please visit


    Student Engagement/Motivation

    Activating Prior Knowledge

    Teachers may start the unit with one or more of the Guiding Questions.

    Give Pencil/Paper Pre-Assessment/Brainstorming: This will give teachers a general idea of how much students already know about the topic. The pre-assessment consists of generating ideas about the concept of “agriculture.”

    Independent Thought: Have students write down the word “agriculture” at the top of their papers. Then, have students write down what they think this word means and words and phrases that they associate with it. Next, have them write down why they think this topic would be important for them to learn about.

    Learning Targets and Criteria for Success

    Learning Targets:

    I can define “agriculture” and explain how important it is in feeding world.

    I can describe challenges early farmers faced using the tools they had and how farming has changed over the past 100 years.

    I can summarize how society has changed because of farming.

    Criteria for Success:

    I will participate in collaborative discussion in order to define agriculture and its importance.

    I will create a timeline to show how farming techniques have changes over time and how this is related to societal change.


    • SMARTBoard™ or other Interactive Whiteboard or Projector
    • Websites
    • Pencil/Paper
    • Document camera (optional)
    • Book Primary Source Reader-  Farmers Then and Now, Lia Zamosky, 2007 Teacher Created Materials  (optional - use pages as needed)

    Information can also be put on a slide show such as PowerPoint™, Google Slides, or flipcharts from Promethean Board software.

    Learning Tasks and Practice

    Guiding Questions:

    1. How do you think people had food to eat in the past?
    2.  What were some challenges families faced in the past in getting enough food?
    3. How have farming practices changed over the years?
    4. If we produce a lot of food, then why do you think some people are malnourished and some are hungry?
    5. How has being a citizen in a global world changed the foods we eat?

    Building Background Knowledge / Turn & Talk:

    Have students turn and talk to a partner or triad about what they wrote in the Pre-Assessment activity, and have each pair/triad come up with a quick definition that they might share with the rest of the class. One student can record this pair/triad definition on one of the papers where the independent brainstorming occurred. The teacher listens into the discussions to see what students are thinking. After sharing individual thoughts, some students may actually say, “I think I changed my mind” with regard to what they thought the word means. Select a few partnerships/triads to share their definitions with the whole class. Then, have the students discuss why they believe agriculture is important.

    Whole Group Discussion:

    Now that students have brainstormed on their own, have shared their thinking with each other, and the whole class has talked about why they think agriculture may be important, ask follow up questions to guide students into making further connections from the concept of “agriculture” to a more familiar component of a farm.

    Possible Questions to ask:  What do you find on a farm?   What does a farmer do? Now that we have thought and discussed a little of “agriculture,” what do you think of when you hear the word agriculture?  Why do you think it may be important to understand agriculture? (Teacher could list/record responses on chart paper, in a digital manner, etc.)

    The following are a few of the students’ thoughts of why studying and understanding agriculture is important:

    • It’s important to know about others.
    • It’s good to learn about food.
    • It’s good to learn about eating healthy foods.
    • Learning about the world and its cultures is important.

    Ask students to think about what they had for breakfast today. (Brainstorm foods.)

    Let students tell or draw a picture for you of where that breakfast food came from— (Most will answer grocery stores, kitchen cabinet, etc.).

    Show students a video that shows breakfast foods from around the world and discuss or make charts of ones that are similar to what the students eat for breakfast: “What Does the World Eat for Breakfast?

    Share with students pictures, information, and info-graphics and discuss the information found at other online resources as you see fit.

    Ask Questions:

    • What are challenges early farmers faced?
    • How did early farming tools change their life and what has happened since the first farming days? How has farming changed the last 100 years?
    • How did agriculture/farming change society?
    • What would happen if farmers were all told they couldn’t farm anymore?   (Possible answer: There would be no farmers or farms.)  What impact would this have on society?

    Investigate and Analyze

    1. Show students the video “History of Agriculture.”

    Second grade has studied ancient civilizations in India, China, and Greece as part of their ELA curriculum; so, students will have some background knowledge on farming and agricultural practices.

    2. Discuss hunters and gatherers in ancient times. What was life like as a society? What foods did they eat?  (Answers related to hunters and gatherers and what they ate: mostly plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and meats. Mostly all the carbohydrates hunters and gatherers ate came from fruits and vegetables.)

    Hunters-Gatherers Background Information

    3. Discuss how the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims learn how to plant in America. (This will be a review from previous lessons in the fall.)  What was different/same about their ways of planting?  One method of the Native Americans were “3 sisters’ together” (beans, squash and corn with fish in hole as fertilizer).

    Native Americans - Agriculture & Food Background Information

    Additional Native American Food Background Information

    4. Share with students facts about “Early Farming” in the 13 Colonies to “Modern Agriculture.”  Discuss why? How? What if? Using a map, point out the different groups of colonies in America. Guide students to understanding that farmers had to depend more on animal power and manpower whereas today, farmers are dependent on modern machinery.

    New England Colonies

    • Rhode Island
    • Connecticut
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire

    Middle Colonies

    • Delaware
    • Pennsylvania
    • New York
    • New Jersey

    Southern Colonies

    • Maryland
    • Virginia
    • North Carolina
    • South Carolina
    • Georgia

          Farming in the 13 American Colonies Background Information

         Farming Today and Tomorrow Background Information

    Show about 1- 2 minutes of this video highlighting farm equipment: Farm Machinery Through the Ages

    Discuss challenges early farmers had with their simple tools, how things changed when they added animals, and then, with modern equipment, how things changed again.

    Synthesize and Create

    1. Students will write brief answers to questions posed throughout the lesson and discuss with peers.
    2. Students will work independently or with a partner to create a time line of transition from hunters/gatherers to modern agriculture showing how crops changed over time. Depending on time, teachers may want students to divide modern farming into decades instead of one large block of time.


    Zamosky, Lia. Farmers Then and Now. Teacher Created Materials, 2007. Print.

    Technological Engagement

    Students will be presented with content via various technological media.

    Collecting and Documenting Evidence of Learning

    Formative Assessment:

    • Pre-assessment activity
    • Monitoring of student discussions
    • Checklist to track student participation and responses to questions posed throughout the lesson

    Summative Assessment

    • Time line that summarizes student understanding of the lesson content

    Student Self-Reflection and Action Steps

    Ask students questions like the following: What did you learn? What did you enjoy about this lesson? What did you like least?

    Feedback/Instructional Adjustments

    The gradual release model is suggested for use with this unit. In this model, the teacher demonstrates the work/skill, then the teachers and the students work together, then the students work together, then the students work independently. Because students have many opportunities to practice the skill/concept, the teacher has ample time to assess understanding and address student misconceptions.

    A variety of instructional activities are also used in order to meet the learning needs of diverse students.

    Remediation, if needed, would be through ongoing discussions (both teacher-student and student-student) and extending or repeating during a new lesson as some lessons build on others.

    Extended Learning Opportunities

    Ask questions about crops each of the following groups grew and the hardships each faced: Native Americans, Early Colonists - North, Middle and Southern, Modern

    Have students research tools that Native American and early farmers used and create a brochure to sell them.