1st Grade Social Studies Unit

By: Brooke Shelton & Haley Hobbs


Background Information


Children's Literature




Background Information

Diversity is a part of our every day lives. It can include differences in race, learning styles, family structure, religion, talents, interests, personality, etc. Students should be taught tofeel confident in their differences and be willing to accept others' differences. Every person adds to the diversity of our society in his/her own unique way. Most children are more willing to accept diversity than many adults, so we should take the opportunity to teach students in the elementary schools how to celebrate differences. Students should be taught to think of the diversity here in the United States as a salad bowl. In a salad bowl, each condiment is needed to add flavor to the whole salad. Without the variety of condiments, the salad wouldn't be as complete or flavorful. Each person should have the right to be proud of and maintain his/her individuality. It is the individuality of each person that adds to the beauty of diversity. The benefits of diversity come when we are willing to use our differences to help one another become better.

Despite the many efforts made to accept diversity, there is still prejudice and discrimination in the world. Prejudice is the prejudgement made about any person regarding his/her race, religion, SES, gender, ability level, ethnicity, etc. Discrimination occurs when people who are thought to be "different" are treated unfairly based on the prejudgements of others. Some examples of discrimination would include name calling and exclusion. Students should be aware of appropriate and inappropriate names to use when dealing with those who are different from them. Some appropriate names to use when dealing with cultural diversity include, Asian, Latino(a), Black, Caucasion, etc. Children should also be cautious of excluding those of different ability levels (physical and mental). Students should avoid names such as, stupid, retard, dumb, slow, cripple, etc. Teachers also need to emphasize sensitivity towards name calling and exclusion of religion, SES, and gender differences. No student should be excluded from any activity because of his/her status, ethnicity, or beliefs (unless parent request is made, which should always be honored).

One of the major differences that we notice in our society involves cultural diversity. The United States is becoming more and more diverse. Therefore, it is essential to teach young students how to exist in a society where they will come in contact with a variety of people. The variety of people bring with them their different traditions, foods, holidays, dress, beliefs, etc. Students need to understand the importance of allowing others to maintain their individual beliefs and traditions. The world is a better place because of the diversity that exists in it. Let's celebrate!



1. Differences should be accepted and celebrated.

2. It is important to be exposed to and learn about various cultures. People are diverse in a variety of ways.

3. Every person is unique and it takes all of us to make the world go round.


Children's Literature

1. DeRolf, Shane. The Crayon Box that Talked. Random House Inc., 1997 ISBN 0-679-88611-7.

In this story a little girl buys a box of crayons. None of the colors get along because they are all so different. The little girl decides to draw a picture using all of the crayons. Soon, the crayons realize that it takes all of them to make the picture beautiful. They learn to accept each other's differences and appreciate each other.


2. Williams, Sherley A. Girls Together. Harcourt Brace and Company, 1999. ISBN 0-15-230982-9.

This book is about a group of black girls who live in the projects. The language used in the book reflects a black person's dialect. It tells of the girls' experiences, what they enjoy doing, about their families, and where they live.


3. Pfister, Marcus. Rainbow Fish to the Rescue! North-South Books, 1995. ISBN 1-55858-487-0.

The bright colorful fish like to stay with their own crowd and don't want the plain fish to play with them. The rainbow fish feels bad and helps everyone include the plain fish in their group.


4. Motomord, Mitchell. Happy Birthday! Raintree Publishers, 1989. ISBN 0-8172-3510-8.

This book discusses how birthdays are celebrated in different parts of the world and even in different families. It helps students see how different cultures and families celebrate birthdays.


5. Cannon, Janell. Stellaluna. Harcout Brace and Company, 1993. ISBN 0-15-280217-7.

Stellaluna, a little bat, ends up in a bird's nest and tries to be exactly like the other birds. There's only one problem, Stellaluna isn't a bird. He finds his mom and learns to be himself again. Then, he teaches the birds about himself.


6. Carle, Eric. The Mixed-Up Chameleon. Scholastic, Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-590-421433-3.

The chameleon visits the zoo and wants to be like all the other animals. He attempts to take on a characteristic from one of every animal he sees, but it doesn't seem to work. He realizes that he's better off just being himself.


7. Anderson, Hans, Christian (retold by Adrian Mitchell). The Ugly Duckling. D. Kindersley, NY, 1984. ISBN 1-56458-557-3.

The little duckling feels ugly and gets made fun of for years until he turns into a beautiful swan.


8. Reid, Barbara. Effie. Harcourt Brace and Company, 1990. ISBN 0-15-301627-2.

When Effie the Ant's loud voice saves the day, the other insects learn to appreciate her unique gift.


10. Blos, John W. Old Henry. Marrow, NY, 1987. ISBN 0-688-664400-0.

Henry is a little different; he lets his yard get messy and doesn't talk too much. His neighbors don't like him and drive him away, but when he's gone they begin to miss him.


11. Friedman, Ina R. How My Parents Learned to Eat. Houghton Miffin Company. 1984. ISBN 0-395-35379-3.

This is a story of a little girl telling the story of when her parents first met. Her father, who's Caucasian, eats with forks. Her mother, who is Asian, eats with chopsticks. They learn to eat differently and now their family sometimes eats with forks and other times chopsticks.


12. Dooley, Norah. Everybody Cooks Rice. Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1989. ISBN 0-87614-412-1.

Carrie is a little girl who goes all over the neighborhood looking for her brother. It's supper time and in every house she stops by there is someone making dinner. She goes from house to house tasting foods from all over the world. All of the food she tastes contains rice. This is a great book to show foods from different cultures and how they all have something in common- just like diversity in people.


13. Stanek, Muriel. I Speak English for My Mom. Albert Whitman Company, 1989. ISBN 0-8075-3659-8.

A little Hispanic girl and her mother move to the Untied States. The mother doesn't speak English so the little girl must go with her mother everywhere to translate. This book is a great way to teach diversity in language.


14. Ross, Dave. A Book of Hugs. Scholastic Inc., 1980. ISBN 0-439-10989-2.

This is a cute book about how different animals hug. From puppy hugs that are soft and wet to sister hugs which are one-armed. A great book about diversity, showing how things are done differently based on different animals and relationships.


15. Lucado, Max. You Are Special. Crossway Books, 1997.

This book shows that we each have different talents, hobbies and looks, yet we're all special. A lesson is taught that we are all beautiful in our Maker's eyes and should not make fun of others' differences.


16. Walt Disney's. It's a Small World. Western Publishing Company, Inc.

A little orphan boy doesn't know what country he belongs to. He feels separated from the other children. Then he goes through the ride, "It's a Small World" at Disneyland. He realizes that it's the same song in all different languages and he likes something about each country. He realizes a piece of every country is in him.


17. Ho, Minfong. Hush! A Thai Lullaby. Orchard Books, 1996. ISBN 0-531-09500-2.

This book is very repetitive and great for first graders. It gives the Thai word for many different animals. It also shows that all cultures have mothers, babies and animals. We have many similarities we just say them differently.


18. Myers, Walter Dean. Harlem. Scholastic Inc., 1997. ISBN 0-590-54340-7.

A beautifully written book about the struggles of black people. They need to be heard, seen. In this book we go on a tour of Harlem and discuss people seen along the way. This book is great for diversity but may be too advanced for first grade.


19. Hazen, Barbara Shook. Tight Times. Puffin Books, 1979. ISBN 0-14-051442-7.

A little boy doesn't understand why his mother has to work, they have to eat so many beans, and he can't get a dog. His parents tell him times are tight right now. This is a great book for diversity in socio economic status.


20. Tapahonso, Luci and Schick, Eleanor. Navajo ABC. Illustrations by Eleanor Schick. Aladdin Paperbacks, 1995. ISBN 0-689-82685-0.

This book has a word for each letter of the alphabet. Some are written in English, some in the Navajo language. It's a great job of illustrating the Navajo culture.


22. Polacco, Patricia. Babushka's Mother Goose. Puffin Books, 1995. ISBN 0-698-11860-x.

Many different poems and stories told by a Russian grandmother. We could compare our nursery rhymes with those from around the world told by other cultures.


23. Steptoe, John. Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1987. ISBN 0-688-04045-4.

This is similar to "Cinderella" but in the African culture. Like the story above, we could discuss different tales and fables of different cultures. By doing this I think we could see that every culture no matter how different has very similar values.


24. Collard III, Sheed B. Animal Dad. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997. ISBN 0-395-83621-2.

This is a great book to show that even thought we all have our differences we are basically al the same. We need love and care and have families. I feel this is important to point out when discussing diversity. You could read the main big sentence in the book or the smaller paragraphs telling about the various animals. (This could easily be integrated into science).



1. Steck-Vaughn. Read All About It. I'm Special. Steck-Vaughn Company, 1995. ISBN 0-8114-3739-6.

This is a darling book stressing the fact that everyone is special in his or her own way. People look different, do different things and enjoy different activities. This makes everyone special. A very easy reader with colorful pictures. Could be read as an anticipatory set.


2. Steck-Vaughn. Read All About It . Let's Work Together. Steck-Vaughn Company, 1995. ISBN 0-8114-3797-3.

A great book that has diverse people doing diverse activities. All have to work together to get a job done or to make it better. It discusses what people are required to work together such as, firemen, teammates, etc. This book shows great cooperation skills.


3. Penner, Leslie. It's Me. Internet explorer LessonPlansPage.com. Http://www.lessonplanspage.com/ssMakesMeSpecial.htm. September 2000.

In this lesson Penner has a very nice introduction paragraph about what diversity is and that being unique is what makes us special. There is then an activity doing a "Picture in Print" in which each child creates a project of all of their characteristics that make them special and unique.


4. Poussaint, Alvin, M.D. and Linn, Susan, Ed.D. Raising Our Children Free of Prejudice. Internet explorer. Learning Network. http://familyeducation.com/article/0,1120,1-1530,00.html September 2000

This site is mainly fort the teachers for background knowledge. It stresses the importance of setting a good example and that children get prejudices from their parents and other adults (such as teachers).


5. Find students' parents who will be willing to come and talk about their culture, bringing artifacts, food, clothing, etc. if appropriate.


6. Invite "heroes" for the community who are from different cultures and have them explain their culture and how their diversities make them who they are.


7. Thomson, Barbara J. Words Can Hurt You: Beginning a Program of Anti-Bias Education. Addison-Wesley, 1993.


8. Sesame Street website. Http://www.sesameworkshop.org/sesamestreet/sitemap.


9. Various Authors. Around the World: Countries, Foods, Holidays. Netscape Navigator. Yahooligans. http://www.yahooligans.com/Around_the_World/. 2000.


10. http://teacherlink.ed.usu.edu/Tlresources/longterm/LessonPlans/Byrnes/intro.html

This site, designed by students from the education department at USU, provides information across cultures about different holidays.


11. http://ericir.syr.edu/Virtual/Lessons/Social_St/Sociology/SOC0001.html

Activity on diversity. Have students with red on be able to go and play games while the rest of the class works. How did the students in red feel? How did the rest of the class feel?


12. http://ericir.syr.edu/Virtual/Lessons/Social_St/Sociology/SOC0008.html

Family tree/totem pole activity to show family heritage.


13. http://www.pbs.org/teachersource/recommended/rec_links_social.shtm#3

Under the multicultural section there are several activities provided for students. There is a multicultural calendar that displays celebration and holidays from around the world.


14. http://www.tenet.edu/academia/multi.html

This link is a great source for finding a wide range of multicultural sites.


15. http://www.stolaf.edu/network/iecc

Have your students e-mail children from all over the world at this site. The site gives students and teachers the wonderful opportunity of exchanging project ideas and learning about education around the world.



1. Have a large salad bowl and paper for the students. Each student will choose a vegetable or condiment to be in the classroom salad. The students can draw their contribution to the salad and then put their name on it. After everyone has completed his/her salad piece then they can all be put in the salad bowl. Discuss how it takes all of the students to make the salad and they can all be together in the bowl, yet keep their own uniqueness. Be sure to make the connection to a multicultural society. Materials: large bowl, scissors, crayons, and paper. Time: 30 minutes.


2. Have the students stand in a circle with the desks cleared out of the way. The teacher stands in the circle and holds a ball of yarn. The teacher starts by saying one unique thing about him/herself. After the teacher has said his/her unique quality, the ball of yarn is thrown to one of the students in the circle while the teacher holds on to the end piece of the ball of yarn. This continues until every student has had the ball of yarn and thrown it around the circle. A Friendship Web has formed. Discuss how it takes all of the students' unique traits to make the web complete. Materials: ball of yarn or string. Time: 15-30 minutes (depending on class size).


3. Read Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco. Discuss the characters. How are they alike? How are they different? Why so they admire each other so much? It's because of their differences. That's what makes them who they are. Have each student make a "Picture in Print" by making a few prints of their fingers on white construction paper and make it into a drawing that reflects three of their characteristics. Share with the class. Materials: Mrs.Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco, crayons and markers, white construction paper (enough for each student), ink pads (enough for groups of four), baby wipes, a list of different feelings and characteristics (opt.). Time: 30 minutes.


4. Have the students make collages of themselves. They can use magazine pictures to represent their lives and interests. Make time to share the colleges and display them throughout the room. Have a variety of colored papers for the students to choose from. The display could be titled, "Our Colorful Class." Materials: scissors, magazines, and glue. Time: 20-30 minutes.


5. Have the students interview each other and find out as many unique things about the other student as possible. Ask questions about their families, traditions, etc. Have the students introduce their partners to the class by sharing the information learned in the interview. Materials: paper with possible questions. Time: 20 minutes.


6. Making graphs of similarities and differences is a great way to incorporate math and social studies. Throughout the morning ask that the students to write their favorite food on a piece of paper and submit it into the box. Then, after every child has submitted one, read them aloud. On a poster board with the students' help make a bar graph to show differences and similarities between students' food preferences. Discuss that we may like different things or the same things but we all like to eat! Materials: poster board, markers (for the teacher). Time: 25 minutes.


7. Give the students one color of marker or crayon and have them draw a picture. After the pictures are done, have them share the pictures. Discuss how the students liked using only one color. Then read the student The Crayon Box that Talked. Have the students discuss what they learned. Then divide the students into groups and have each student draw a part of the picture using their color of crayon. Tie this into how we are all different, but we need everyone to make life colorful. Materials: paper, crayons, and The Crayon Box that Talked. Time: 40 minutes.


8. Discuss how we can be diverse in our emotions and we need to be sensitive to everyone's emotions. Play a tape with a variety of music depicting different emotions. Have the students go stand around the room and show how the each song makes them feel by acting out the emotion. Materials: tape with a variety of songs. Time: 20 minutes.


9. Give the students a word search in a different language. Don't say anything to the students, just ask them to quietly do their own work and turn the paper in when they're finished. After awhile, discuss how frustrating the students felt and relate that to how people who speak different languages feel with English at times. Start a word-of-the-day program where the students can learn a new foreign word. Materials: worksheet with foreign words on it. Time: 15 minutes.


10. Have the students who are wearing blue and green (or any other colors) go sit in the back of the room at the beginning of class. Have games and treats for them. The other class members will continue to work just like every other day. As other classmates notice the students tell them that those wearing blue and green today are special and they get special privileges for the day. Discuss how this is how certain groups of people feel in the real world. They feel that because they are the dominant culture they should get more privileges than others should. Materials: treats and games. Time: however long it takes the students to say something about the students playing games.


11. Show video clips from movies of people celebrating birthdays or holidays. Discuss how the celebrations were similar and different. Have the students draw a picture of one of their favorite family celebrations and then share it with the class. Discuss the similarities and differences, too. Materials: video clips of celebrations, paper, and crayons. Time: 30 minutes.


12. We all sing, dance, and create things. People in Japan decorate with paper lanterns. Have the children color and make their own paper lanterns. Then discuss the Holidays in Japan, when they might use these lanterns to decorate and when we could use them to decorate. Materials: crayons, paper, pattern for lantern (found in "People and Places" Silver Burdett Ginn, 1997. P.60). Time: 35 minutes.


13. As a class, look on the Internet at http://www.yahooligans.com/Around_the_World/People/Families. This site shows family web pages from around the world. Discuss how the families on the web page are similar and different from each other and from the students' families. Have the students make their own family web page, or family poster to display in the classroom. Materials: computer with the Internet, paper, pictures, crayons, and scissors. Time: 30 minutes- a couple of days (depending on whether the students make web pages or posters).


14. Have a parent or member of the community come in and talk about their culture and way of life. If possible, have him/her bring in clothing, food, decorations, etc… that represent the culture he/she is from. Materials: whatever the guest speaker asks for. Time: 30-40 minutes.


15. Have the students bring a favorite recipe from home and make a class cookbook. Encourage the students to bring recipes used in family traditions. Materials: note to be sent home with students, paper to make the cookbook, and computer to type up recipes. Time: 15 minutes to discuss recipes (teacher can type up recipes at a different time).


16. Read Everybody Makes Rice or Everybody Makes Bread. Discuss how various cultures have many similarities but sometimes just do things a little bit different. For example, we all celebrate, love our families, learn, cook, and eat. Together with the class make some rice and at least three different foods from various cultures to put on top. Encourage students to try all the foods. Materials: Rice, water, pan, plastic dishes, three cultures of food (either made or brought by a parent), the book, Everybody Makes Rice or Everybody Makes Bread.

Culminating Activities

17. Have a celebration! Take a day to celebrate differences and similarities between different cultures. In the morning decorate the room with decorations from various cultures (paper lanterns, piñatas, etc.). Make food from three or four different cultures. In the afternoon invite the parents to come and help celebrate. Have a table full of food from various cultures. Also, have a table full of books showing diversity.


18. In the evening at the end of the diversity unit, invite all the parents to a "Celebration of Me" night. Have children bring their collage about them to display and have each student bring something from home that represents them. Each student can share a talent (something they've made, read from their writing, play a musical instrument, etc.). A possible extension: (1) Send a note home ahead of time requesting that each child's parent prepare a unique story about his/her child. (2) The children could come up with a play to perform for their parents showing something they've learned throughout the unit (i.e., how they accept and celebrate differences). Keep in mind the age group of the students and adapt the time spent on each activity accordingly.


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