Social Studies and Children's Literature


Book Title: Alejandro's Gift

Author: Richard E. Albert

Illustrator: Sylvia Long

Publisher and Date: Chronicle Books 1994

Curriculum Developer: Tina Rusk

Summary: Lonely in his house beside a road in the desert, Alejandro builds an oasis to attract the many animals around him. Alejandro learns about the animals need of feeling safe as well as their need for water. Alejandro not only gives a gift to the desert animals, but he also receives one.

Social Studies Relevance: This book can be used in teaching about different environmental issues. It may also help readers to view the world around them in a new way and be able to see what they do that affects the area. It will be very effective when teaching about deserts. (geography)

Grade Level Focus: 1st and 2nd

Relationship to Social Studies State Core:


Title of Lesson: Desert


Materials Needed: large piece of paper that the whole class can see; divided into three sections (K,W,L) or you can also use three separate papers labeled: What I Know, What I want to Know, and What I want to Learn. Map of world with desert labeled and a United States map. Copies of Things I Know About the Desert Book. (These books are just pages put together with a page on Land and Weather, one on Plant Life, and one on Animal Life. The pages are blank so students can write information that interest them. They also have a place to draw pictures of plants and animals.)

Procedures: 1- KWL Strategy. Have students brainstorm everything they think they know about the desert. Teacher writes everything down on the paper under the K or Know. After students finish with the K, teacher asks students what they want to learn about the desert. This information goes under the W or Want to Know. Do the L or Learn close to the last day of the desert unit for evaluation on what students have learned about the dessert. Will talk about some of the things students will want to learn about the desert. Other things will come up naturally during the unit. Encourage individual research if students have huge interest in anything that comes up. Students tend to want to find out more about the plant and animals of the desert than anything else.

2- After completing the K&W of the KWL Strategy introduce students to the idea that there are many deserts in the world and that deserts cover about 1/5 of the earth's land surface. However, there are four deserts in the western half of the United States that we will mainly talk about. Show students where the four deserts in the Western United States are located using a map of the United States for the four deserts of North America: The Chihuahuan, Great Basin, Mojave, and the Sonoran. Use a world map to show students other desert of the world such as: The Great Sandy Desert in northwest Australia, The Gobi Desert in northern China, The Sahara, The Syrian, and the Rub'al-Khali in Africa.

3- Ask students what is so special about these places that make them deserts. Deserts present many different features to consider. Usually a desert has less than 10 inches of rain per year (there are exceptions), deserts have extreme temperatures, winds (strong), the main characteristic of a desert is very high evaporation rate.

Evaluation: Observation of students contributions on what makes a desert. Students will be called on randomly to answer the following questions:

*What are the 4 deserts in North America? (The Chihuahuan, Great Basin, Mojave, and the Sonoran)

*Name two things that make a desert? (little rainfall <10 inches a year and wide range of temperature during night and day)

*What was something new that the students learned today?(variety of answers)

Title of Lesson: Alejandro's Gift (Story Map)


Materials Needed: paper, markers (colors), Alejandro's Gift

Procedure: 1- Explain to students that today I am going to read a story related to the desert. Read the story up to page 13. Alejandro is wondering why the animals aren't coming to the water hole. Have students brainstorm what he could have done wrong. Accept all answers. After the teacher discusses answers with students, finish the book. Tell students to listen for the correct answer. (The animals weren't coming to the water hole because they weren't feeling safe, because the water hole was out in the open.)

2- After the story is finished have students take a piece of paper to make a story map of Alejandro's Gift. Write the items students should include in their story map on the board. Students should include the following items in their story map: Alejandro's house, Alejandro's garden, barn, windmill, first water hole, second water hole, road, 2 desert animals, and 2 desert plants. Everything needs to be labeled (have teacher help label). Discuss with students why they put the things on their map where they did. Was there a relationship between Alejandro's house and the barn, the windmill and the first water hole?

Evaluation: Check the story maps to see if the students figured out the relationships of different events in the story. If students mapped the story differently, do they have evidence to support them. Have students explain their story map. (Accept reasonable justifications).

Title of Lesson: The Desert (Plants)


Materials Needed: Different pictures of different plants that make their home in the desert, different types of cactus, knife, and book Alejandro's Gift.

Anticipatory Set: Ask students if they know about any different plants in the desert- besides the cactus. Show different pictures of plants in the desert.

Instructional Input: Read the book Alejandro's Gift . Have students pay close attention to pictures of plants in the story. After the story, talk about why and how plants have adapted to the desert. Discuss different plants seen in the story and their uses. (See attached page with some of the plants and their uses). Talk about the cactus and show the students the inside by cutting open a cactus. What does the cactus have that has helped it to adapt to the desert? (thin leaves controls evaporation, stretching surface to store water, & big root system to collect water) Discuss with the students if Alejandro's gift helped or hurt his desert community. Alejandro is teaching the animals to be dependent on him. However, he helped them find water in the hot desert. Would the animals have adapted without Alejandro's help?

Check for Understanding: Put the name of different desert plants on the board and have the class think of different uses of the plants.(see attached page)

Evaluation: Examine the list of plants and see if students have contributed a use for each plant. Students should know six plants and their uses.

Title of Lesson: The Desert (Animals)


Materials Needed: Different pictures of different animals that make their home in the desert, different names of animals in the desert and how they have adapted. Chart of different animals in the desert with space to write about them.(List of Animals attached) Resource books. Paper and pencils

Procedures: Have students brainstorm the names of different animals that live in the desert. Have students look at the chart listing desert animals and have them try to identify how each animal has adapted to living in the desert. If there are animals students are unsure about, have students look them up in different books. Have students choose one animal that they would like to research. Give the students about 20 minutes to find out all the information they can about their animal. After the 20 minutes have each student share their findings with the class. After the students have given a short 1-2 minutes presentation on their animal. Have students help you finish the chart of animals by telling you about how they have adapted to living in the desert and what they eat. (They can also talk about unique characteristics of the animals.) As students give you the information write it next to the animal on the chart. Hang up the chart of the desert animals somewhere in the classroom while you continue the unit on the desert.

Evaluation: Examine the list of animals and make sure each student has contributed at least one thing to the list.



Plants of the Desert
  1. Saguaro Cactus- food, drink, home for desert dwellers
  2. Globe Mallow-
  3. Old-Man Sagebrush-
  4. Cliff Rose-
  5. Yellow Biscuit Root- flour
  6. Yucca- twine, rope, soap, food, mats, & sandals
  7. Utah Juniper- baby diapers, firewood
  8. Jojoba- food for many animals
  9. Jumping Cholla- home to some desert birds
  10. Fishhook Barrel Cactus-
  11. Organ pipe Cactus-
  12. Ocotillo-
  13. Prickly Pear- many desert animals get moisture by eating t




Animals of the Desert
  1. Roadrunner- speed
  2. Desert Cottontail Rabbit- ears to control body temperature
  3. Lizard- fast runner and fast climber
  4. Walking stick- camouflage
  5. Badger- long claws for digging
  6. Kangaroo Rat- makes water from dry foods, such as seeds
  7. Western Diamondback rattlesnake- poisonous
  8. Hawk- speed
  9. Elf Owl- live in saguaro to stay cool
  10. Gila Monster- only poisonous lizard
  11. Cactus Wren- largest wren in the United States
  12. Tarantula- fearsome looking
  13. King snake-
  14. Squirrel- uses its tail for shade
  15. Scorpion- paralyzing sting
  16. Bobcat- active at night
  17. Sonoran Shovel-nosed snake- can move rapidly through loose sand
  18. Antelope Jackrabbit- 7 to 8 inch long ears
  19. Peccary (Javelinas)- eat prickly pears for water
  20. Centipede- equipped with a poison gland
  21. Desert Tortoise- uses the shell for shade to keep cool
  22. Regal Horned Lizard-
  23. Ring tail-
  24. Wood rat-