xOpening Doors To Social Studies
with Children's Literature
Title: The Desert Alphabet Book
Author: Jerry Pallotta
Illustrator: Mark Astrella
Publisher: Charlesbridge, 1994
Curriculum Developer: Myndee
Summary: This is a beautiful picture book
that uses each of the letters from the alphabet book to tell an
interesting fact about something from the desert. It includes plants,
animals, and landforms. It is written in a format that is easy to
understand which is both entertaining and informational. Most of the
facts that it talks about are things that are very unusual that most
people are unaware of. It tells about the ways that plants and
animals have adapted to extreme heat and a dry climate.
Social Studies Relevance: This book deals
mostly with geography. It could be used to further learning because
it tells about how things must adapt to survive in a region that
receives less than 10% rainfall per year. Students could begin to use
map skills, and identify similarities and differences from the
environment in which they live. This book could help students learn
about different ways of life in a different region of the world.
Grade Level Focus: 1-2
Relationship to Social Studies State
- Categorize items of information that are
similar from those that are different.
- Recall facts from stories or
- Understand that where they live
influences how they live.
- Demonstrate how the geographic features,
climate conditions, and natural resources influence how they
- Identify Map symbols that represent real
- Identify the meaning of symbols on
simple picture maps.
- Participate in group writings, Charts,
diaries, and letters.
- Locate and use social Studies materials
in the classroom libary and media center.
#1 U.S. Desert
#2 Desert Recall and
#3 Desert Plant
Return to Literature
Title of Lesson: U. S. Desert
Objective: *Given a map of the United
States Of America, students will be able to identify the locations of
the major deserts, and color them corresponding to a key.
Materials: Overhead of the USA, Overlay of
the desert areas, copy of USA map with the deserts outlined and a
key, overhead pen, colored pencils.
- Anticipation/prediction. Put up the
overhead of the US states. Ask students to predict which states
have a desert in them. Mark on the overhead where the students
guess there is a desert. Remind students that a desert is a place
that gets less than 10% rainfall each year. This means that during
some seasons it might not rain at all, and when it does it does
not get nearly as much water as other parts of the world.
- Put the desert overlay across the US
map. Compare where the deserts are with where the students
predicted. Point out which deserts are where.
- Map skills. Tell the students how
important a key is to help us read a map. Give each student their
own map. Tell the students to look at the key. Beside the name of
the desert there is a pattern. Color the pattern with a colored
pencil then find that same pattern on the map and color it the
same color. Do this for all of the deserts using different colors
for each one.
- Check for understanding by having
students repeat the directions to you, and have them point to
patterns that match.
Evaluation: Examine the maps and insure
that each desert in the key corresponds to the correct desert on the
United States of
Title of Lesson: Desert Recall and
Objective: After listening to the Story,
The Desert ABC Book, the students will be able to recall at least
four different things that belong in a desert and put them in the
Materials: Four sheets of paper with
categories written on them, tape, four different colored
- Explain to the students that today you
are going to read a story that tells about some of the different
things that are found in the desert. Share that the story they
will hear today talks about one unusual thing for each letter of
the alphabet. Ask them to listen to find out what can survive in a
desert and how.
- Read the story.
- Ask the children to raise their hands if
they learned about one new thing that lived in the desert.
Randomly call on children to tell the class what they learned
about and how it survives.
- Carousel Brainstorming. Divide the
students into four groups. Post one of the large sheets of paper
with the category written on it in each of the corners of the
room. The categories will be Plants, Animals, Insects/Reptiles,
and Nonliving Things.
- Tell the students what the categories
are. Explain that as a group they will have to think of as many
different things that belong in that category and can be found in
the desert as possible. Tell the students that they may not write
anything that another group has already written.
- Give each group a different colored
- Send each group to a different corner
and explain that when they hear the timer go off they must rotate
to the next corner to their right.
- Set the timer for three minutes but
watch the children to insure that it is not too much time or too
little. Adjust the time if necessary. Give each group enough time
to identify two things.
- After all of the groups have been to all
of the stations have them come and sit back down. Review what has
been written on each chart. Insure that everyone agrees that what
is there is found in the desert and is in the right
- See if anyone else has anything to add
to the lists. Point out what a variety of different things are
able to survive in the desert. Tell the students that some people
think that deserts are barren (empty) and dead but they have
learned that many things really live there.
Evaluation: Insure that each group has
contributed to the posters by making sure that their color of marker
was used to contribute ideas. Observe students to insure
participation. Randomly call on students to insure comprehension and
Title of Lesson: Desert Plant
- Students will list characteristics of
the desert plant they examine.
- Students will hypothesize how cacti
plants are able to survive without receiving water very
- Children will suggest how these plants
can benefit their environment.
Materials Needed: Small planted flower, 6
small potted cacti that each look different, knife, white pieces of
paper for each child, magnifying glasses or jewelers loops for each
- Guided discussion. Ask children what a
plant needs in order to stay alive. List the elements on the
board. Comment on how the book said that Saguaro trees and Living
Stone both survive in the desert where there is little rain -but
how could they live there without water, in intense
- Let children talk about the problem and
make predictions. Use the knife and cut one of the cacti in two
- Hands on. Let each student feel the
inside of the cactus. Point out that the plant is wet inside
because that is where it stores it's water. Let them see the big
root that runs down the center. Ask the students what good a plant
like this could do -what might some of it's uses be? How could
someone stranded in the desert use this plant? People can cut into
these plants to drink the water inside. People can eat the inside
of cacti plants for food to stay alive. They also use the big
Sagauro cacti as shields from the sun.
- Ask children if they know of any other
plants that store water. Place a small cactus and a small potted
flower in warm place in the room. Tell the students to leave them
both in that spot without water and in a week you can check them
to see how well storing water works.
- Give each group of four children a
cactus plant and a magnifying glass. Ask them to draw a picture of
it and write some words that describe it. Brainstorm some things
that they might look for such as skin texture, amount and
sharpness of spines, color, root visibility, flowers, smell etc.
Post these things to look for on the board.
- When children are done have each group
take turns sharing with the class what they found. Have one member
of the group share what they wrote then give the other students in
that group a chance to add something different that they came up
- Display cacti around the
Evaluation: Examine each child's paper to
insure that they completed the written work and described/illustrated
the cactus plant. Keep an anecdotal record of the children who
participate in the class discussion so that I can identify which
students do not participate and I can make an extra effort to pay
attention to them on an individual basis and insure that they are
learning the material.
Title of Lesson: Animal
Objective: In pairs, the students will find
information about a desert animal and its relationship to humans, and
share it with the class in the form of an oral report.
Materials: Paper, pencils, Classroom or
library access to books with information about desert
- Show students pictures of the Bactrian
and Dromedary camel. Ask them to identify the difference between
the two of them. Show them a picture of a camel that has been kept
in captivity and ask them to suggest reasons why the camel's hump
is slumped over. Good photos can be found in zoo brochures, or on
the Animal Fact cards put out by the American Wildlife
- Share interesting camel
- a. Dromedary camels have long hair that
almost reaches the ground in the wintertime, then they shed it in
- b. They have three eyelids that help
protect their eyes from sand and dust.
- c. They can completely close their
nostrils and seal their lips to protect them from sand coming
- d. Their humps store fat that it's body
uses when it cannot get water. The fat becomes the camel's energy
source, like food so it doesn't have to eat.
- e. They can walk several miles and go
over a week without ever needing a drink of water. This is useful
so that humans don't need to worry about bringing along a supply
of water to feed the camel on long journeys in dry
- f. Their hoofs are specially shaped to
help them walk over sand with ease.
- g. They can carry up to 300 pounds and
go to places where there are no roads. They do a lot of the work
that humans could not handle. They carry supplies to towns, and
even transport humans because they can travel through the desert
much easier than humans could.
- h. They only have one baby at a time and
they all look like they only have one hump when they are
- i. The reason why a camel in captivity
has a slumped hump is because it no longer needs to store fat
because it can have water whenever it wants it so the hump is no
good so it becomes depleted and falls over.
- Tell students that there are interesting
facts about all of the animals that were talked about in The
Desert ABC book. Ask them to find a partner and choose a desert
animal that they would like to research.
- Make a list of things that they should
try to find out. It should include things like how big the animal
gets, how it has adapted to a hot, dry climate, whether it is mean
or nice(dangerous),What it eats, and how it interacts with humans.
Is it hardly ever seen? Does it help us, or could it hurt
- Go to the library or use classroom
resources to find information about the animals. World Book
Encyclopedias and Ranger Rick Magazines work well.
- Have the children record the information
that they find.
- Oral reports. Share the reports when
each group has finished the project. Have the children all listen
to learn one new fact about each animal that is talked
Evaluation: Listen to the students reports
and insure that they have found information about an animal that
lives in a desert area. Observe as they prepare the report to insure
that both students are contributing. Collect their information sheets
to see the work that they have done.
Overhead copy of the United
Desert Overlay copy
Desert Map worksheet