When we study about communities, there are three things we can mean by the word “community.” Usually we study all of them.
A community is a place.
- Learn to read the name of the town where you live, find it on the map, and identify your own neighborhoods, the location of the school, and other places that are important to your students.
- Use chart paper to list the places and buildings that are important for a community, including places to live and work, sources of electricity and water, means of transportation, sources of food and other necessities, opprtunities for learning and entertainment, and any other ideas that your students consider important. Make frequent references to your own community.
- Build a community. You can make houses from origami that will stand up, by following directions from the Victoria and Albert Museum. If you have older students in your class, are very patient, or are teaching an art class, check out this amazing page of patterns for origamic architecture buildings. As always with origami, these projects provide practice with math concepts, folding, listening, following directions, and visual-spatial skills.
- Check out our posts on Skyline Lesson Plans and Car Classroom Theme Ideas for more ideas about studying physical communities.
A community is a group of people.
- When you study communities, you can learn about the people who live and work in communities. Younger students can learn about community helpers and safety while older students learn about career options.
- There are so many ready-made materials for this topic at preschool and primary levels that making your own lessons on this subject is a little like reinventing the wheel. The theme book shown here is from The Mailbox, but there are plenty more. Chances are your favorite company has one. There are also flannel board sets, puzzles, puppets, dress-up sets, bulletin board sets, picture books, and much more. Most focus on the traditional basic set of community helpers: firefighters, police officers, mail carriers, and their ilk. Some also show businesspeople, judges, bakers, doctors, and other workers.
- FirstSchool has a lesson about police officers, including a PDF template of a police officer’s hat and badge for younger students to use in dramatic play.
- Here is a lesson about mail carriers, with special reference to their annual food drive.
- Make a center using community helper figures from borders or the headers of bulletin boards.
Here we used pictures and words on index cards to make a matching game. Just keep the header from the bulletin board set you use for community helpers. Cut out the figures of the workers and the labels.
Glue the figure and the labels onto index cards, leaving a bit of space. You’ll cut them apart, so kids can match the labels to the pictures for literacy and social studies practice.
Cut the edges in different patterns to make them self-checking. Put them into an envelope or box for your centers area.
A community can also be an abstract idea.
When we talk about a community, we can be talking about a society, a set of agreed-upon rules and customs, a feeling of mutual support or kinship among people who may not be close to one another in physical terms.
- With thanks to Ozarque for alerting me to this resource, “Sticking Together: Differences and Similarities” is a lesson plan on community building through storytelling. This is a PDF file. The lesson involves having students get into groups and talk about experiences in their lives when they felt like part of a community or about other community-related experiences. There is a reproducible sheet for structuring listening within the group, and a guide to working from the stories to a practical plan to increase a sense of community in the classroom. This is a good lesson for teens, and a nice one for developing a sense of community in the classroom.
- One of the central issues in studying about communities in this sense is rules. As a class, brainstorm a list of rules and write them up where everyone can see them.
- An interesting take on rules is You Can’t Say You Can’t Play, by Vivian Gussin Paley. While this book is not about rules but about inclusion and exclusion, it looks at the results of a school’s decision to focus on one particular rule: namely, excluding people from groups was forbidden. Here is a brief article about the book. Other single rules that classrooms have used include The Golden Rule (“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) or “Treat yourself, your school, and one another with respect.” At the other extreme is The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child, by Ron Clark, which offers 55 rules of widely varying levels of seriousness and importance. As a class — as a community — try to make a list of the smallest number of really necessary rules. Challenge students to follow the rules for a week and then revisit the list. Are there some that can be removed or some that need to be added?
Talking about community is a good way to start off the school year, and can also help get an unruly class back on track.