Opening Doors to Social Studies with Childrenís Literature

1-  Book Title: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

2-  Author:  Mem Fox

3-  Publisher:  Kane/Miller Publishers, 1995.

4-  Curriculum Developer:  Rebecca Palazzolo

5-  Summary:  Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge is a little boy who lives next door to an "old peopleís home."  He is friends with all of the residents, but his favorite is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper.  One day Wilfrid hears his parents talking about how Miss Nancy has lost her memory.  Wilfrid doesnít know what a memory is so he decides to ask everyone he knows.  When he is finished he sets out to find something to fit each of the explanations that he received.  When he gives them to Miss Nancy she gets her memory back.

6-  Social Studies Relevance:  Using the content of this story you could integrate this into history as you discuss the memories that Miss Nancy has when she does find her memory.  You could also discuss memories and helping others.  You could discuss friendships and respecting your elders.

7-  Grade Level Focus:  1-2

8-  Relationship to State Core:

        First Grade:

1. Describe possible solutions to problems in family, school, or neighborhood.               

2. The student will understand that the family, school, and neighborhood provide basic needs and learning experiences.

3. Identify examples of how individuals learn from the family, school, and neighborhood.

4. Show that every individual has dignity and worth and is unique.

5. Identify acts of honesty, morality, courtesy, and good citizenship/character in classmates, teachers and other adults.

Second Grade:

1. Use a variety of resources to study their community.

2. Identify community events of the past, present, and future.

3. Conclude that when individuals make choices they must give up something (opportunity cost).

4. Identify talents of self and others and discuss how they can be developed.

5. Show ways in which the talents of others have influenced the community.

Lesson Plans

Title of Lesson:  What Makes a Good Friend


*Given the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge  students will be able to list five things that make a good friend.

*Given the Book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge students will be able to finish the sentence "You are a good friend because______." on a card saying thank you to a close friend.


The Book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge By Mem Fox

Butcher Paper

Marker for Writing on the Butcher Paper

Crayons, Pencils, and Markers for Student Use

Pre-made or Outlines for a Thank You Card with the sentence "You are a good friend because_____." on it.


1.  Read the Book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox to the children.

2.  Guided Discussion.  Explain to the children that there are many different things that friends do for each other (e.g., They cheer you up when you are sad).  Have students think of some things that friends do for each other and list them on a piece of butcher paper.

3.  Give each student a pre-made card or outline with the prompt "You are a good friend because______." on it.  Have each child make a thank you card for a friend listing why that person is a good friend.  Have the children deliver these cards to a friend who is not in the class.  This will not only make the card a surprise for the recipient, but it will head off any problems involving fair distribution of the cards.  You do not want any children getting their feelings hurt or being left out.


Read each childís card to make sure that they understood the concept of thanking a friend.

Title of The Lesson:   What is a Memory


*Given the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox the children will survey others and create their own list of definitions of what a memory is.


The Book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

An Interview Outline for Students to Record Responses.

Butcher Paper



1.  Guided Discussion.  Discuss with children how in the book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox Wilfrid Gordon doesnít know what a memory is.  When he doesnít know the answer to his question he decides to ask all the people he knows what a memory is.

2.  Review the responses that Wilfrid Gordon received when he asked others what a memory is.

3.  Have children go home and survey and record what their friends and family say a memory is.  Have children record answers on a given interview sheet.  You may wish to span this assignment over a weekend  to allow children more time to ask different people.

4.  Survey.  Have children categorize their responses by the source (e.g., Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, etc.).  Next have children make a graph of the responses.  See appendix for and example of the graph.

5.  Discuss the many different things that a memory can be.  Review some of the responses that the children received in their interviews.

6.  Introduce the dictionary definition of memory and discuss this definition in comparison to the other definitions that the children have gathered.

7.  Have each child write a list of their five favorite definitions.  (These definitions will be used in a future lesson).


Have each child compile their own list of five of their favorite definitions.  The teacher should read each childís list to confirm that the children completed the assignment.

Title of The Lesson:  Memory Boxes


*Given each childís list of favorite memory definitions each child will create their own memory box just as Wilfrid Gordon did.


The Book Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Each childís List of Favorite Memory Definitions


1.  Discuss how Wilfrid Gordon gathered many different things to represent the different things he was told a memory was.

2.  Discuss with the children how different people think of memory differently.  Point out to the children that just because it is different it doesnít mean that it is wrong.  Discuss that each person makes their own contribution.

3.  Discuss the individuality of different people with the children and how different things make us remember.  When I smell lilacs I think of playing on the front lawn when I was a child.

4.  Review the different things that Wilfrid Gordon used to represent the different things that a memory is supposed to be.

5.  Introduce the idea of making our own treasure boxes to the children.  Have the children use their own list of five favorite definitions of memory to make a memory box.  You may wish to enlist the help of the parents for this project.  Some children may need help drawing connections between, and comprehending the symbolism.  These memory boxes should be compact enough to be able to fit in a shoe box.  To make the idea more concrete the teacher may wish to make an example memory box and share it with the class on the day the assignment is given.

6.  Each child will share their list of favorite memory definitions and their memory boxes with the class.


Have each child share their memory box with the rest of the class.  While the child is sharing you can evaluate their ability to demonstrate understanding of the idea of collecting objects that trigger memory.

Title of The Lesson:  Elderly Friendships


*Given a guided discussion the students will be able to list some ideas about the elderly.

*Following a visit to a nursing home the children will be able to discuss the differences in their views before and after the visit.


Butcher Paper

Two Different Colors of Marker

A Contact With a Local Nursing Home


1.  Guided Discussion.  Talk to the children about what a nursing home is.  Ask questions to guide the discussion towards what they think of nursing homes and elderly people.  Below is a list of sample questions:
a.  How many of you have ever been to a nursing home?

b.  What do you think of nursing homes?

c.  Do you know anyone who lives in a nursing home?

2.  Visit a local nursing home.  Arrange for a tour of the nursing home which will provide the children with a lot of information.  Also allow time for the children to meet some of the residents if they are comfortable.  You will want to call the nursing home ahead of time and ask if there is an elderly person who would be able to act as a tour guide when the class came.  This will provide the children with the opportunity to become familiar with an elderly person.  Inform the nursing home of the goal of this field trip and see if they may have any suggestions.

3.  Guided Discussion.  Start a conversation about the visit to the nursing home.  Listed below are a few sample questions:

a.  What are nursing homes really like?

b.  What were the residents like?

Depending on which direction the conversation goes you may wish to discuss any fear of elderly people.  If the children express any fear you will want to dissuade any of these fears.  If discussion does not work you may wish to have some of the childrenís grandparents come in and talk to the class.  This discussion should be a time for the children to evaluate what they have learned.


Using guided discussion you will be able to read see what the children have learned, and discuss what they feel was the most striking differences in their opinions.

Return to Literature Index


            Contact a local nursing home and see if they would be interested in having the children adopt an elderly friend.  The children will visit this person with the class to read with their friend once a month (or a more convenient time frame).  You will want to discuss with the nursing home which elderly people will be best suited for this type of activity.