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

    Education Standards

    GEDB Feeding the World: Being an Importer/Exporter (Lesson 9 of 12)

    GEDB Feeding the World: Being an Importer/Exporter (Lesson 9 of 12)


    In this lesson, students research imports and exports for various countries around the globe and discuss the effect on the global economy. 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 research imports and exports for various countries around the globe and discuss the effect on the global economy. 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

    Display a map of the world and ask students: “Have you ever wondered where cocoa is grown for your favorite candy bar? (Brazil) What about the cinnamon on your breakfast toast? (Brazil, Sri Lanka) And what about the vanilla used to flavor your favorite dessert? (India, Jamaica) What about the wool for your favorite winter coat? (Spain, Australia, New Zealand) Grapes and other fruits? (Chile). ”

    Tell students that if they have ever thought about this, then they were thinking about international trade. Have students locate the countries mentioned in the scenario above on a world map.

    Learning Targets and Criteria for Success

    Learning Targets:

    I can conduct research in order to identify the imports and exports of various countries.

    I can analyze the effect international trade has on the global economy.

    Criteria for Success:

    I will create a spreadsheet that organizes information about the imports and exports of various countries in order to demonstrate the effect on the global economy.


    • Computers / internet-accessible devices for student use
    • SMARTBoard™ or other Interactive Whiteboard or Projector
    • Paper/pencil
    • Items for investigation (shirt, coat, blanket/pillow, some raw fruits/vegetables, some processed food in packages, cotton-if available)
    • Markets Around the Worldby Casey Null Petersen
    • Document camera (optional)

    Learning Tasks and Practice

    Guiding questions:

    1. What challenges would you face as an exporter of agricultural products?
    2. What challenges would there be in importing foods?
    3. Which are the top countries we export foods to? Why do we export more to them than others?
    4. What are the advantages or disadvantages of exporting foods?
    5. What are advantages or disadvantages of importing foods?

     Students need to remember and understand the concepts of trade by explaining that just as the word “trade” implies, countries sell (export) basic commodities (raw products like wheat, wool) and then buy (import) other regular products.

    The need for a country to participate in international trade can be determined by the following elements: Geographic terrain, Location, and Climate

    Examples: -Look at Japan on the map. Why would this country need to import beef and wheat? (Not enough land, wrong climate, etc.)

    Saudi Arabia will not receive rain for years in some parts of the country. How would this affect agriculture?

    Customers in Manitoba, Canada, ask for seedless grapes. Why would they need to import fruit and which countries would be logical sources?”

    Gather together a few items and look at tags to see where they were made. Look at a world map and ask students how the items got here [to NC.]  Ask students how they think these items traveled to get here? Using a world map, locate different areas and discuss if the item was imported or exported.

    Ask questions:

    1. How do we get the products we need? Importing products to make the economy work
    2. How do other countries get what they need? Exporting our products to other countries
    3. Why would countries import and export items? How does this change agriculture production?
    4. What foods do we import and export and where do they come from?


    Investigate and Analyze

    Have students complete the lesson “Coming and Going: Imports and Exports Throughout the World.”

    Share the book Markets Around the World by Casey Null Petersen and discuss. Read from document camera and stop to discuss in small groups.

    Share with students: China is 2nd largest trading nation behind US. Leads in exports and 2nd in imports.

    Assign different groups to explore the websites listed below for facts about imports and exports. Come together afterwards to create a group chart/spreadsheet about each country: China, Japan, USA, Brazil, UK, Australia, Mexico, and France. Each link can be put on an index card for groups to copy in search box or use an URL shortener, like


    Economy of China- Family Adventure

    Top Exports and Imports in Every State (This may need to be shown to the whole group, as some ads that pop up on side may not be appropriate. Showing it from a computer will allow it to be shown in full screen to circumvent the pop ups that may appear on the side of the videos. The information is good to discuss, however.)

    Economy of Japan

    Australia States- exports and imports

    Economy of Mexico

    Economy of France


    Background and Information- Maps



    Top 15 Countries US Trades with

    Where Did You Come From?  (Use parts as needed.)


    If you want to learn more about 2 common exports check these out….

    Bananas, Chocolate

    Rainforest Alliance- Banana Imports

    Global exchange- Chocolate Activity Book


    Focus on early colonies and Egyptian trading if you would like to investigate early exporting and importing for a more historical perspective.

    13 colonies- exports and imports

    Investigate ancient trading partners and then, compare with modern ones

    Ancient Trading Partners- Egyptians

    Synthesize and Create

    Students will work in groups to create a spreadsheet with the imports/exports of these countries after comparing them using the above websites.


    Countries of focus: China, Japan, USA, Brazil, UK, Australia, Mexico, France

    After completing a spreadsheet (or chart /table if no technology is available) students will answer the following statements/questions:

    • “What are the top 5 exports and top 5 imports from these countries?
    • Who is the top exporter and where do their products go?
    • Who is the top importer and what do they get?  How does it travel to get to them? Is this the most efficient method and why?
    • Which affects these countries weather/climate, location or geographic terrain?  Are there certain reasons that these countries need to export or import a certain item?  If so what is the reason?
    • How much money is involved in exporting and importing in the USA?

    After exploring imports and exports and creating the spreadsheet, students will create graphs (such as a pie graph and bar graph), comparing products exported versus products imported.

    Through class discussions on imports and exports of each country, students will share graphs or drawing of imports/exports. What can the group as a whole infer from the information shared with each other and learned individually?

    Technological Engagement

    Students will use technology tools to gather information and/or present information for the final product

    Collecting and Documenting Evidence of Learning

    Formative assessment

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

    Summative assessment

    • Answers to the questions based on the spreadsheet

    Student Self-Reflection and Action Steps

    Ask students questions like the following: What did I learn?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of trading with another country? What would I change?

    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

    Have students compare NC and Canada exports and imports using the site listed below and complete a T-chart showing what is learned by comparing the two.

    Comparing US and Canada exports and imports

    Teacher Reflection of Learning

    At first students had little concept of imports and exports. Students became more interested in foods they had gotten at the store and where they might have come from. They noticed that the export and import of agricultural products were quite large and that many places grew things that we imported so we could have particular fruits and vegetables especially. I would try to explore this more with them as to where the food grown and produced in NC goes. Is is better to save on cost and keep foods local? What would happen if we stopped exporting and importing would be a further extension of activity that would create some higher thinking discussions.