A CountryFar Away

by Nigel Gray

Illustrated By: Philippe Dupasquier

Publisher and Date: Orchard Books, 1989

Curriculum Developer: Melissa Mills Williams

Summary: This book is a picture book that displays the differences between the life of an American boy living in a suburban community and that of an African boy in a rural African village. The story depicts these differences through the use of illustrations.

Social Studies Relevance: This book would be used as a base in developing a unit on families. It is excellent for comparing how cultural and geographical differences have an impact on family life.

Grade Level Focus: 1st grade

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:
(according to State of Utah Core Curriculum for first grade)
*Show ways in which families provide the basic needs of love, food,
shelter, clothing, companionship, and protection to their members.
*Show that every individual has dignity and worth and is unique.
*Demonstrate how geographic features, climatic conditions, and natural resources influence how they live.
*Compare similarities and differences among families, schools, and neighborhoods.
*Show that every individual has dignity and worth and is unique.
*Categorize items of information that are similar from those that are different.

Lesson Plans

Title of Lesson: Guest Interview

*Students will be able to compile questions they want to learn about other people. *Given the information shared by the guest speaker, students will become familiar with customs from another culture.
*Students will be able to recall what they learned about another country and write about it.

Materials Needed: Guest speaker from any foreign country.

1. Explain to students that they will be having a guest speaker coming to their classroom from another country. Explain to them that sometimes people from another country may live very differently than they do. Ask the students to think of some questions that they would like to ask this person about his family, work, home, etc. Give students an example such as "Do you celebrate Christmas?, If so, what do you do?" Have students write their questions on a 3x5 card and give them to the teacher. (This should be done to make sure there are no questions that would be embarrassing to the guest speaker.)
2. Pass the 3x5 cards back to students. Invite the guest speaker to come into the classroom. Explain to the guest speaker that your students have compiled some questions that they would like to learn about you and your culture. Allow the guest speaker to introduce himself and then have students proceed with their prepared questions. (You may want to have students go up and down the rows, etc. to keep this going in an orderly fashion.)
3. At the conclusion of the guest speaker, wrap up any questions and thank the guest speaker for coming to your classroom.
4. Guided Discussion. Allow students to openly discuss what they have learned about this person's country and culture. Guide them to compare and contrast the things that are the same and different between the guest speaker's culture and that of their own. Have students write a "Thank You" note explaining what they learned from him/her. Give these Thank You notes to the guest speaker.

Evaluation: Examine the students' 3x5 cards. Observation of students' contributions to the guided discussion. Make notes of any students' misunderstandings. Examine the Thank You notes explaining what each student learned.

Title of Lesson: Understanding Families

*Students will be able to recall facts and events from the story A Country Far Away.
*Given the story A Country Far Away, students will be able to compare similarities and differences among families, schools, and neighborhoods.
*Students will be able to categorize items of information that are similar from those that are different.

Materials Needed: A copy of the book A Country Far Away, paper, pencils, chalkboard

1. Teacher Read Aloud. Teacher will introduce the book to the students and explain tho them that this book explains the differences in the everyday lives of two young boys from two very different parts of the world. Explain that these differences are depicted through the use of the illustrations. Tell the students that they must pay close attention to the events of the story because they will be making a list of these events at the conclusion of the story. Encourage them to try and predict where the two young boys are from.

2. Guided Discussion. After completing the book A Country Far Away, begin a guided discussion of the events of this story. Ask students if they were able to predict where these two boys might be from. If any of them are correct, (even as close as saying Africa and U.S. ), ask that student to explain what details made him/her come to this conclusion. Explain to students that the two boys are from a rural village in Africa, and a suburban community in the U.S. Have students explain the differences and similarities between these two young boys as you list them on the board. Discuss these differences and similarities and allow students to share their ideas about the cultural diversity, transportation, families, schools, neighborhoods, etc.

3. Have students choose one of these differences that is listed on the board. Give them a piece of paper and have them fold it in half and draw a line down the middle. Have them draw a picture of what this would be like from their point of view on one side and what it might be like for a young boy in Africa. (e.g. one student might choose the differences of the schools and draw a picture of what a day might look like inside his classroom on one side of the paper and how he pictured the classroom of the young African boy on the other.) Have students also categorize and list three things that were similar and three things that were different on the bottom of their pictures.

Evaluation: Observation of students' contributions to the list and throughout the guided discussion. Examine the students' pictures for understanding of the different situations, and examine their list of similarities/difference to check for categorizing skills.

Title of Lesson: Making A New Friend

*Given the pen pal address, students will begin writing to a penal throughout the rest of the school year.
*Given the pen pal club, students will become acquainted with someone from a foreign country.
*Given the pen pal acquaintances, students will become familiar with cultures and family traditions of the children they are writing to and share these with the class
*Given the opportunities to correspond through letters, students will practice their writing skills.

Materials Needed: pen pal club address, stamps, envelopes, paper, pencils, maps,

1. Teacher will introduce the concept of having a pen pal by reading a letter that he/she has received from someone from a foreign country. Teacher will discuss what can be learned by corresponding through a pen pal club.

2. Teacher will pull down a classroom map and briefly discuss 10 or 12 foreign countries to the students to help them get an idea of what some foreign countries are like and where they are located. After completing this, teacher will have students begin writing a short autobiography about themselves describing the members of their family, interests, where they have been, favorite food, pets, etc. As students are working on their autobiographies, teacher will pull students aside two at a time and help them choose a country from where they would like to have a pen pal.

3. After, all the countries have been chosen and autobiographies have been written, have students send their autobiographies to the following address in order to receive the information needed to get started.

Make A Friend
Children Just Like Me Pen Pal Club
DK Publishing, Inc.
95 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Note: This pen pal club does require a small fee. You may want to check with the principal about having the fee paid for with school funds.

4. Send a letter home to parents explaining the pen pal project and encourage parents to help their child write the letters, send pictures, and address them correctly, etc.

5. Assign students to correspond to their pen pal's throughout the entire school year. Provide a set aside writing time in class at least once every two weeks in order to make sure students are keeping up on their writing and to provide any other assistance students may need. Ask them to please share their letters with the class as they receive them and to explain the things they have learned. Tell students to make sure they save their letters and offer to keep them in a safe folder for them in the classroom.

Evaluation: Observation of students learning will be done throughout the year as they share their letters with the class. (If teacher notices any students that have not shared letters, they will be questioned and assistance will be provided to help encourage this.) Teacher will examine autobiographies for writing skills content, etc.


Title of Lesson: Family Tree

*Students will be able to list and categorize the members of their family in correct sequence and order.
*Students will be able to describe and list at least three different characteristics of each member of their family.

Materials Needed: Poster paper, crayons or markers, pencils

1. Explain to students that they are going to be making a family tree. Ask students if they have ever seen a family tree or if their parents have one at home. If so, have the student explain to you what it looks like. Then, explain to students that a family tree is a representation of their family that is often depicted in the shape of a tree. (It would be a very good idea to have one as an example already drawn at this point to show them.) Explain to students that their family tree would begin with themselves at the bottom of the trunk with each of their brothers and sisters listed to the side of them and then branches out with their parents above them.

2. Pass out paper and markers, etc. Explain to students that their family trees may look very different from their neighbors, or anyone else's in the class. Explain to them that each family tree is very unique just as their families are each very unique. Allow students to design their trees by themselves. Encourage students to add step siblings, pets, etc. (Whomever they consider to be part of their families.) Allow students to create their family trees.

3. After students have completed their family trees, give them another piece of paper and have them list each of their family members from oldest to youngest. Next to each family members name have them write at least three words that describes this person.
(example: Grandma-loving, funny, nice). After students have completed both the family tree and the characteristics paper, staple the characteristics paper to the bottom of their family tree. When the entire class has completed their papers, allow them a chance to share them in front of the class. Display the completed family trees in the room on a bulletin board titled "Our Forest Of Families".

Evaluation: Examine the family trees to see if students have identified at least four family members. Examine their Characteristics page to check for understanding of correct order from oldest to youngest and check to see if they have at least three describing words of each family member.

Optional Activities

1. Family Traditions: Send a letter home to parents asking them if they have any family traditions that they would like to come and demonstrate to the class. (e.g. if a student has a family tradition of making gingerbread houses at Christmas time you might have one of their parents come in and make graham cracker gingerbread houses right before the Christmas holidays.)

2. Book Writing: As a concluding lesson, have students make their own books following the same format as A Country Far Away. Do this activity after students have had an opportunity to correspond with their pen pals. Then, have students write their books so that the top half of the book depicts a day in the life of their pen pal's family culture and the bottom half of the book depicts a day in the life of their own family and culture.

3.Family Time Line: Have students make a time line depicting important events in their own families history. (e.g. June 4, 1972-mom and dad got married, May 7, 1974-older brother was born, etc.)