A Unit for Second Grade










Curriculum Unit: Social Justice Issue

ELED 4050 Social Studies Methods

Dr. Geurtsen




Emily Newbold






Overview and Rationale

Teacher Background Information

Unit Planning Chart

Organization and Subject Matter Overview

Goals and Objectives

Learning Activities Bank

          Lesson One

          Lesson Two

          Lesson Three

          Lesson Four









            In the education world I have observed a lot of talk about creating a learner centered environment and creating an atmosphere that promotes risk taking.  A learner centered environment and a “safe” atmosphere focusing on the child is important to me. In my classroom I desire to do more than create a learner centered environment; I want to create a community of learners who work towards a common goal.  In the world we live in today some students don’t have appropriate role models at home or in the media that will teach them how to contribute positively to society.  I believe that students need to feel part of something positive and have experience with positive social expectations.  I also believe that a classroom can serve as a welcome place where children can be nurtured and grow into responsible members of society. 

            The type of environment that fosters development does not need to be generated by the teacher alone.  I believe that children have the ability to work together responsibly and to lift and help the other children around them.  I believe that children should be taught responsible social behavior and given authentic opportunities to practice responsible social behavior.  Social studies instruction is an important part of teaching this behavior.

            I believe that social studies education should be applicable to the child’s life both here and now, and in forming a basis for their social interaction and contribution to society later in life.  In “A Vision of Powerful Teaching and Learning in the Social Studies: Building Social Understanding and Civic Efficacy,” (emphasis added) the National Council on Social Studies states that


Powerful social studies teaching helps students develop social understanding and civic efficacy…The nation depends on a well-informed and civic-minded citizenry to sustain its democratic traditions, especially now as it adjusts to its own heterogeneous society and its shifting roles in an increasingly interdependent and changing world…

The NCSS House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly in November 1992 to approve the final version of the definition of “social studies” presented by the NCSS Board of Directors: “Social studies is the integrated study of the social sciences and humanities to promote civic competence. Within the school program, social studies provides coordinated, systematic study drawing upon such disciplines as anthropology, archaeology, economics, geography, history, law, philosophy, political science, psychology, religion, and sociology, as well as appropriate content from the humanities, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The primary purpose of the social studies is to help young people develop the ability to make informed and reasoned decisions for the public good as citizens of a culturally diverse, democratic society in an interdependent world.”


            According to national and state standards students should be taught how to interact appropriately with others.  NCSS Standard Ten states “In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group.”  Thus educating our children in the community ideals and socially appropriate behavior is appropriate.

            As stated in the Utah core curriculum students of this age should identify important aspects of community and culture that strengthen relationships.   They should be able to recognize and follow family and classroom rules, describe the school community (e.g., students, teachers, secretary, custodian, principal), and describe resources in the community (e.g., police officer, firefighter, library, museum).      

This unit of curriculum focuses on establishing the classroom as a community and as part of a larger community where children can play an important part.  This unit is designed to integrate and expand the typical classroom setup that takes place at the beginning of each year with social studies curriculum and concepts.  In establishing the classroom community children need to understand unifying aspects of community and how they can contribute.  This unit is intended to form a basis of classroom behavior where students will contribute to establishing appropriate classroom expectations.




            The content of this unit is based upon the NCSS standards and Utah core curriculum that focuses on developing a sense of community and individual responsibility.  Students will study community figures, different roles in the community, types of communities, functions of a community, and their roles in the community.

An understanding of the community in which we live is important for teachers as well as students.  Teachers will need to gain an understanding and concept of the important places and individuals in their respective communities.  Teachers will also need to understand what a community is i.e. why it functions the way it does, how it was first established, how it functions, etc.  Teachers will also need to decide how much control they will allow the students to have on determining the classroom rules.  These items form the basis behind a background for the unit.

In this unit children will explore the figures and places that make up the community at large in order to understand resources in the community.  Therefore, it is important that teachers have a similar understanding.  Teachers must know who the civic leaders are (mayor, police chief, and fire chief).  Teachers also must know locations and functions of local museums, libraries, civic centers, and other community resources.  Familiarizing oneself with the community can be a challenge if one is not originally from the community.  Resources that can help in becoming familiar with the community include the local library, the chamber of commerce or city hall, community web pages, neighbors and colleagues, and the tourism bureau.  Teachers can also draw upon the parents for greater understanding of the community.

A community can be defined as a group of people, a neighborhood, or a kinship united in a common goal.  In a larger sense, a community can be any group of individuals in the society that have unifying elements.  Because of this broad definition of community there are many types of communities.  Groups of people for promoting one cause such as the performing arts, clubs, classrooms, schools, neighborhoods, cities, counties, regions, states, and countries are examples of communities. One can be part of many kinds of communities at one time.  Many communities can be a subset of another type of community.  Some communities are more formally established than others i.e. official rules or charters.  An underlying element in each community is that they function because of implicit or explicit rules and understandings of how things work.

Prior to this unit teachers will need to obtain a background or history on the community.  There are histories or backgrounds specific to each community.  These histories can be formal (like a town history that details who founded the community, the community charter, amendments to this charter, etc.) or informal verbal histories and descriptions.  The amount of background information available will vary depending on the type of community.

Before teaching this unit, teachers must also decide how much control the students will have on determining the makeup and rules of the classroom community.  One of the main goals of this unit is to develop rules and roles that will be the basis for the classroom community that will exist during the school year.  Determining the degree of student control that will work with the individual style of each teacher is important to do before teaching this unit.










Unit Issue:  How can We build our community?


Social Skills:






Teacher Resources:



City officials



Read Alouds:


The Crayon Box That Talked


Somebody Loves You Mr. Hatch



Student Reading:







Oral Language:


Interview a peer


Discuss “same” and “different”


Verbalize rules for the classroom



Written Language:


Make a list of things necessary for a community


Written rules

Social Studies:


What is fair?

What is a community?

Who is in our community?

Responsibility for own actions


How do we set up our community?


Classroom govt.





Draw a picture with one color, then one with multiple colors then compare.


Make a personal flag/coat of arms.


About me posters.



Songs about cooperation, caring, helping


Have students cooperate to perform a piece of music.



Resources that are affected by communities.


What role does science play in our community?

PE/ Movement/Health:


Effects others can have on us.




Sense of Self



Grouping of how many should be in each neighborhood.


Identify math concepts used in community.



How does technology play a role in our community?


Community web pages

Field Trips/Guests:


Community leaders


Go to civic center





Shorter assignments


Dictate to a peer buddy.







Outcomes/Unit Goals:


Students will develop a sense of self in relation to families and community


Factors that influence relationships


Identify aspects of community and culture that strengthen relations.


Rights and responsibilities of students




Observations of groups (anecdotal notes on groups)


Define and identify aspects of community.


The ultimate assessment will be whether our class community functions well.

Culminating Activity:


Design our classroom so it will function and be “fair” for all.


Build a diagram of a community











            Content Organization:  In this unit students will help develop a classroom community.  Due to the nature of the unit, the lessons will build upon what was discussed previously.  These discussions will drive the adaptations of lessons presented.

            The content of this unit focuses on objectives related to NCSS Standard 10.  According to this standard students should learn to consider how they can make a positive difference in the community.  Utah core standards reflect similar ideas.

            This unit is designed to be part of the foundations of the classroom community.  Therefore the time frame may vary depending on the day, but will typically require thirty to forty minutes daily.  Once a regular classroom "town meeting" time has been established these lessons can be addressed during that time.  Many of the activities will be part of a class discussion or group work type activity.  The culminating activities will be ongoing in nature as the classroom community develops over the span of the school year.  All activities of this nature throughout the school year will be based on this unit.

            The classroom must be set up so that there is adequate room for children to sit in a circle for group discussions.  This may require moving desks prior to discussions and community building activities.










Classroom Plan:  Community Building




Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Our Classroom



Our school community

Our city community

Other Types of Communities

NCSS Standard


  Standard 10:  In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group.


Utah Objective


Standard 2:1 Describe behaviors that influence relationships with family and friends.

 (Describe characteristics of healthy relationships (e.g., caring, responsibility, trust, respect).   Identify benefits of cooperating and sharing.   Explain how families and communities change over time.   Recognize how choices and consequences affect self, peers, and family.   Identify behaviors that might create conflict situations and ways to resolve them.)

Standard 2:2 Examine important aspects of the community and culture that strengthen relationships.

(Explain why families, schools, and communities have rules.  Compare rural, suburban, and urban communities.  Relate goods and services to resources within the community.  Participate in activities that promote public good (e.g., respect cultural and ethnic differences, identify community needs).


Learning Activities

Introduction to classroom community


Tour of the school to familiarize students with school workers and resources.



What makes up a city or neighborhood community?

Small/Civic groups or communities – what is their purpose. 

What are the rules of our classroom community?  Classroom discussion of rules.


Class discussion with school leaders (i.e. principal, PTA president) to discuss positive contributions students can make.


Lesson: Important people in the community...  How they are important and how they contribute.

Discuss community ideals within our state community.

What strengthens a community?  Helping Hands lesson.

School rules review and discussion.  Discuss reasons behind the rules.


Family contributions to community.  Parent volunteers discuss their occupations.

Overview of our national community and how it has developed and is developing.

Roles in our classroom community.  Discuss and organize classroom jobs.


What role does our class play in the school community?

Community field trip or community picture walk.  Lesson: Places in Our Community

How might other cultures differ in their communities?

Personal responsibility in the classroom community.

My ideal school activity - groups brainstorm important rules for the school.

Build a model community out of boxes.

Our classroom community compared to the world.

Evaluate our community and make possible changes.








Lesson 1



Title of Lesson:          Important People in the Community: How and

Why They Are Important

Teacher (s):  Newbold

Date:  Week 3 day 2

Time Allotted:  30-40 minutes

Grade Level(s): 2

Number of Learners:  25


Unit Theme:    Building Our Community

Standard(s) Met: see below  

Goal:  Standard 10:  In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group. 

Objectives:  Given the materials below, the learners will listen to a story and discuss helping out and who in the community helps out and how they are similar to our class helpers in order to examine important aspects of the community and culture that strengthen relationships. (Utah Standard 2:2)

Materials Needed:  Large chart paper or marker board, Book: Tops and Bottoms, by Janet Stevens


Motivation: Have you ever been in a situation where you were treated unfairly?  Discuss this with the students.  Tell the students that we will be learning about ways we can treat others fairly and learn about people who work together.




1. Read the book, "Tops and Bottoms," by Janet Stevens

2.  Ask the children what it means to cooperate?  Did the rabbit really cooperate?  Brainstorm ways that we show we are cooperating and getting along.  Write these ideas on the chart paper.
3. Ask the children if they ever help out at home. Is there anyone else who helps out at home? What do they do? Stretch this concept of "help-out" past the home and into the community. Ask the children if they can think of anyone that helps the community? If no one offers any suggestions, ask them who helps if there is a fire? A crime? Then re-ask the original question.
4. Make a list of all the community helpers the children can think of along with what they do in the community. Ask how our communities would be different without them. Do we really need them? Should we be afraid of them? This last question is trying to break the stereotypical bounds that have been created between such community helpers as the police force and society.  


Accommodations: To accommodate second language learners, I would have the story translated or read in their native language.


Closure:   Ask the children how these community helpers are similar to helpers in our classroom community and school community.  Point out that the helpers in all of these communities all work to help others and to make the community a better place.





Extension: Have students write a letter to one of the community helpers identified during the discussion to tell them something they appreciate about their job.


Teacher Reflection: 






Lesson 2



Title of Lesson: Places in My Community

Teacher (s):  Newbold

Date:  Week 3 Day 4

Time Allotted:  45 minutes

Grade Level(s):  2

Number of Learners:  25


Unit Theme:  Building Our Community

Standard(s) Met:  see below


Goal:  Standard 10:  In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group.


Objectives:  Given photographs community locales students will identify pictures of their neighborhood, define the purpose of each location in the community, and discuss the benefits of each locale in order to relate goods and services to resources within the community.  (Utah Standard 2:2)


Materials Needed: Various photographs of key locations within the community, typed location identification cards, direction card for the "reader" to read to the group.


Motivation: Introduce today's lesson by explaining to students that they will have the opportunity to work with a group match familiar places with their descriptions.




1.         Each table will be given an envelope with assorted photographs and separate identification cards.  Students will take turns being the reader. The reader will read the ID cards and the students will match the cards to the appropriate photograph.

2.         After students have matched the places with their descriptions tell the students they will discuss the importance of each locale.   Have students group the locations according to common attributes.


3.         Once each group has finished grouping locations according to common attributes the teacher should signal for this activity to end.


4.         The teacher should then lead a discussion to find out what each group found out.  Students should compare and contrast things that were the same or different about these places.
5.         Students will then return to their group discussions to decide which locations every community should have and why. After 5 minutes the teacher will ask for responses from each group and those responses will be recorded on chart paper. 


Accommodations:   For second language learners I would have them stay together in a group and work together in their own language then have them explain what they discussed.


Closure: Briefly discuss what would happen if we didn't have these locales in our community.

Assessment/Evaluation:  Each student will list one location that they would like to see added to our community with 2 reasons why it would be good to have.



Extension:  Students can brainstorm ideas of why each location is important and suggest possible situations where specific locations would be good.



Teacher Reflection: 






Lesson 3


Title of Lesson: Helping Hands

Teacher (s): Newbold

Date:  Week 1 Day 3

Time Allotted:  20 – 30 minutes

Grade Level(s): 2

Number of Learners: 25


Unit Theme:  Building Our Community

Standard(s) Met:  see below


Goal:  Standard 10:  In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group.

Objectives:  Given a class discussion and poster with ideas on helping and a student response journal students will list ways to help others and identify why certain actions are helpful in order to describe behaviors that influence relationships with family and friends. (Utah Standard 2:1)

Materials Needed: poster board cutout in the shape of a hand, student response journals, and pencils


Motivation:   What are ways that we can help people? How do you feel when you help someone? Distinguish between helping people and hurting people.


1.  Create a large hand out of poster board to place on the wall.  Brainstorm ideas or ways that children can lend a helping hand in the classroom.

2. Write (or draw) the things the students think are the five most important ways the children can help out with in the classroom each day. (Example: setting tables, line leader, making sure that centers are cleaned up, etc.)

3.  Have the students pull out their student response journals.  Instruct them that this is a place where they can draw or write about the nice and helpful things they do for their family or friends.  

4.  Tell the students they will have 10-15 minutes to write in their journals.  They are to write at least one nice thing they did and why it was nice.


Accommodations: Have learning disabled students work with a peer buddy to help record their responses in their journals.


Closure:   Have one or more volunteers read to the class what they wrote in their journals.  Thank the volunteers for sharing their examples.


Assessment/Evaluation:  Teacher should read through the responses and determine whether each child was able to list at least one way to be helpful or nice and why it was helpful.


Extension:   Have students pair up and share their entries and give a compliment to their partner on their positive actions.


Teacher Reflection: 












Lesson 4


Title of Lesson:  Introduction to Our Classroom Community  

Teacher (s):  Newbold           

Date:  Week One, Day One                                       

Time Allotted:  45 minutes

Grade Level(s):  2

Number of Learners:  25


Unit Theme:  Building Our Community

Standard(s) Met:  see below


Goal:  Standard 10:  In the early grades, students are introduced to civic ideals and practices through activities such as helping to set classroom expectations, examining experiences in relation to ideals, and determining how to balance the needs of individuals and the group


Objectives:  Given the materials below students will discuss, illustrate, and discover commonalities and strengths of a partner in order to identify benefits of cooperating and sharing and participate in activities that promote public good (e.g., respect cultural and ethnic differences, identify community needs). (Utah Standards 2:1 and 2:2)


Materials Needed:   The Crayon Box That Talked, by Shane DeRolf, crayons, a dictionary, paper or “booklets”


Motivation: Show students a box of crayons (preferably a large box with many colors).  Ask the students to tell you what they notice about the crayons.  What colors are the students’ favorites?  Tell the students that you are going to read a story about these crayons.







  1. Read the story The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf.  Comment during the reading on the things each crayon was good for (i.e. yellow is good for suns, red for roses, blue for the sky, etc).


  1. After reading the story ask the students why the crayons didn’t want to work together.  What effects did this have?  How was this problem fixed? (They worked together).  What happened at the end?



  1. Explain to the students that our classroom is very much like this crayon box.  We all have individual talents, abilities, and personalities that can help our classroom.


  1. Tell the students that our classroom is a community.  Have one student read the definition of community from the dictionary.  Talk about what this means (cooperation, goals, rules, etc).  Explain to the students that we will be learning how to be a community.



  1. One of the first steps to developing a community is to get to know one another and their abilities.  Pair students up.  Have them interview their partner to find out what they are interested in and what they think they can do to help the classroom community.  They may also find out what things they have in common.


  1. Have each person illustrate a picture that depicts one of their partner’s strengths or things they have in common.  This should be colored with crayons.



  1. While the students are working, the teacher should circulate around the room and comment on what is seen and heard.




Students may dictate their work to another student or to the teacher for them to illustrate or draw.


Closure:   Call on one partnership of students to share their work and talk about what they learned.  Ask students what they like about their partner or about what the volunteers shared or did.


Assessment/Evaluation:  Students will be assessed on whether they identified strengths or commonalities in their partner.  While the teacher is circulating around the room, he/she should take anecdotal notes on what each partnership is talking about.  The anecdotal notes should include a list of all the children to cross of when each child has been observed.


Extension:   Have students interview their partner.  Instead of drawing just one of the talents or abilities, have them illustrate a picture book about their partner’s abilities and talents.  Help students in writing about each picture.



Teacher Reflection: 














            In order to observe and know that learning has actually taken place teachers must assess and evaluate their students based on the objectives for each lesson.  I believe that assessment should be relevant, use a variety of methods, and give an accurate picture of where the students are and what can be done to improve learning.


            The teacher should keep a reflection journal to write down observations made of the whole class functioning as well as individual anecdotal notes. A journal page to make notes on each student’s progress could be used as well and included in the student’s portfolio later. Some evaluations made by the teacher may be observations of classroom interactions.

            Other assessment options include reading student response journals and recording whether the student has completed the assigned task (ex:  Did the student write about the things they can do to be helpful in the class?  Were there any extensions that the student made?)

            The overall goal of the unit it to build a stronger community through increased understanding of acceptable social practices, roles, and responsibilities.  Because of the somewhat qualitative nature of this unit, many of the assessments for the lessons will depend on anecdotal notes or student reflections.  In addition, the outcomes of this unit may not be completely measured until the classroom community has been formed and is fully functional.   The biggest test of whether this unit and the objectives contained therein were actually achieved will be to see how the class community functions.  







Important People in Our Community... Lesson plan # 1 adapted from, Members in a Community, a lesson plan by Scott Dan as seen on


Places in My Community... lesson plan # 2 adapted from Places in My Community by Nancy Hagerty, found on


Web References:


Children's Literature Resources:

DeRolf, S. (1997) The Crayon Box that Talked. New York: Random House


Stevens, J.  (1994)  Tops and Bottoms.  San Diego: Harcourt Brace