A First Grade Social Studies Unit Created by Sarita Valenti & Sally France


Learning Goals

Background Information


Children's Literature


Learning Goals

Students will understand similarities and differences between people that live in the local city and people that live in Australia.

Students will understand the similarities and differences between the Australian environment and the local city environment.

Background Information

Official name: Commonwealth of Australia.

Form of government: Federal parliamentary state (formally a constitutional monarchy) with two legislative houses (Senate [76]; House of Representatives [148]).

Chief of state: British Monarch represented by Governor-General.

Head of government: Prime Minister.

Capital: Canberra.

Official language: English.

Official religion: none.

Monetary unit: 1 Australian dollar ($A) = 100 cents; valuation (Sept. 25, 1998) 1 U.S.$ = $A 1.70; 1 £ = $A 2.89.

Favorite song: Waltzing Matilda

Australian Land: Australia is the smallest, flattest, and driest inhabited continent in the world. It is the only country which is a whole continent. Six states and two territories make up the land of Australia. (These include: Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia, New South Wales, Victoria, Northern Territory, and Australian Capital Territory.) The most populated cities of Australia are Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, and Perth. Over 86% of the people live in these cities.

Australians refer to their land in three ways. "The Country" is the area immediately outside the city and usually includes the surrounding smaller towns and farms. Most of "the country" is a stretch of land about 200 kilometers deep around the eastern and southern seaboards of Australia. "The City" is considered the densely populated city and its surrounding suburbs. The largest cities in Australia are within driving distance of the coast, and many are right on the coast. "The Outback" is the sparsely populated, dry interior of Australia. The Australian outback is both harsh and beautiful. It is like no other place on earth.

When comparing local cities to Australia, teachers should emphasize the similarities between their land and Australian land, such as the presence of plant life, mountains or flat land, flowers, rivers, lakes, etc. Teachers should also note differences between their local city's land and Australian land in general.

Australian People: Australians come from all over the world, and are generally very accepting of other races and cultures. Nearly 94% of Australia's people are descendants of Europe. The Aboriginal people are native to Australia, as Indians are to America. The word "Aborigine" means from the beginning. This is a term given them by the Europeans. Aborigines call themselves, Koori. They settled Australia some 60,000 years ago. Their arrival is somewhat mysterious, but researchers believe they sailed or walked from Asia. Some of theAborigines still live in the outback, but many have been integrated into Australian city life. Europeans didn't arrive until 1770, just 230 years ago.

Australians speak English, but they have special words and phrases. They refer to this slang as "strine." Australian strine consists of some words borrowed from the Aboriginal language and early settlers. Some strine was made up directly by the Australians. These words and phrases usually have different meanings than Americans would recognize.

The Australian people enjoy leisure activities as Americans do. During the winter, they play football, which is similar to American rugby. In the summer, they play cricket, a sport played with a flat bat and round, covered ball. Teams compete to hit the ball as far as possible without coming in contact with any part of the body. Australian people love to race. They race almost anything, from horses and camels to earthworms and cockroaches. They also enjoy American pasttimes, such as watching T.V., swimming at the beach, and walking in the park. Aboriginal culture offers other leisure activities. They play the didjeridoo (a long, hollow, wooden musical instrument), throw boomerangs, and swing bullhorns.


Dahl, Michael (1997). Countries of the World: Australia. Minnesota: Capstone Press. Book gives fast facts, maps, flag, currency, recipes, the language, and useful addresses and internet sites.

Johnson, J. Mitchell (1992). Video distributed by International Video Network. Amazing Australia. Fort Worth, Texas: Travel World Video. Features Australia's land by exploring "the dramatic contrasts of nature in the depths of the Daintree Forest, the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, and the arid expanse of the vast Outback." Also shows glimpses of Australian life and people, such as " the mystical world of the native Aborigines."

Oliver, Chris (1993). Video distributed by Questar Video. Touring Australia. Chicago, IL: Film Australia. Captures life in Australian cities, and explores the beauty of Australian land.

Pepper, Susan (1987). Passport to Australia. New York, NY: Franklin Watts, Inc. Talks about and shows photographs of home life, food, pastimes, education, people, the arts, and more.

Sharp, Ilsa (1992). Culture Shock! A Guide to Customs and Etiquette in Australia. Portland, OR: Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company. Explains what a "typical Australian" is like, provides guidelines to leisure ethic, being a migrant, and gives a "cultural quiz" at the end of the book. This site explains Australian culture from a "kid's" perspective. There are Aussie slang words word search, sing-a-long with "Waltzing Matilda" (their national favorite song), Australian kid's poems, interactive coloring, and pen pal programs. In order to better understand and appreciate Aboriginal art, this site lets you explore the cultural Center in Australia. It shows many paintings, various types of Aboriginal art, sculptures, didgeridoos, and boomerangs. This site lets children discover more about Australia's culture, people, weather, government, geography, history, economy, transportation, currency, languages, schools, food, sports, news, and much much more. "Australia's Marvelous Marsupials." This site aides children in learning about marsupials through pictures and words. There are interactive games, slide shows, and factsabout each animal you click on.

Children's Literature

Anno, Mitsumasa (1986). All in a Day. New York: Plilomel Books. Eight children from eight different countries are shown at the same time each day over two days. The contrasts and similarities of the children and their activities are described.

Baker, Jeannie (1987). Where the Forest Meets the Sea. New York: Greenwillow Books. A boy travels to a special place, Australia, where no civilization exists. While on the trip, the boy wonders what will happen in the future to nature and the environment.

Bogart, Jo Ellen (1994). Gifts. New York: Scholastic Inc. Whenever Grandma goes on a trip, she brings back a present. The gift represents where Grandma went; sometimes it's something tangible and other times it's just a memory. One of the places Grandma visits is Australia.

Meeks, Arone Raymond (1991). Enona and the Black Crane: An Aboriginal Story. New York: Scholastic Inc. Enona is an Aborigine village person who lives in a rainforest. He enjoys climbing trees and watching birds.

Trica, Rod and Argent, Kerry (1982). One Wooly Wombat. Brooklyn: Miller Brook. The numbers one through fourteen are introduced by illustrating fourteen Australian animals and using rhyming sentences.

Viorist, Judith (1972). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Canada: McClelland & Steward Ltd. Alexander is having a very bad day. He thinks his problems will disappear if he lives in Australia. His mom teaches him that people have bad days in Australia too.


Title: Children Like Us

Teacher begins by discussing with the children daily activities and routines that they do and have. Teacher shows globe and teaches that there are children all over the world. Some use their days in a similar way, and others in a different way. Teacher introduces and reads All in a Day. During and following the story, teacher and children discuss similarities and differences, paying special attention to the Australian child in the book.

Materials: Globe, All in a Day

Time: 25-30 minutes


Title: Feelings Just Like Ours

Ask students what country we've been studying. Have one student come and point to it on the map. Ask if children live in Australia too. Discuss how all the students in the class have felt happy, sad, upset, silly, etc. Teach that children in Australia have these same feelings too. Introduce and read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Following the story, do a "first grade version" of sociodrama and have students act out how they and Australian children might look when they feel different emotions. How can we help people feeling these ways?

Materials: Map, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Time: 20 minutes


Title: Animals in Australia

If possible and time-efficient, plan a field trip or walk to a local farm. Upon return, discuss animals found at the farm and others in their city. Teach that there are animals in Australia too, some the same and some different. Introduce and read One Wooly Wombat and discuss similarities and differences of animals in Australia and animals in local city. (Can lead to science lessons on animals unique to Australia.) Students may draw one animal that both places have and one animal that only one of the two places has.

Materials: One Wooly Wombat, drawing materials

Time: 25 minutes (optional field trip 20-30 additional minutes)


Title: Gifts of the World

Introduce and read Gifts. Challenge students to listen closely for the places Grandma visits. As each place is mentioned in the story, find it on a globe and mark it with a sticker if possible. When teacher reads about Australia, have children pay close attention. At the end of the story, show the globe and the many places Grandma traveled. Teach how each place of the world has special gifts to give. Discuss in greater depth gifts of Australia, and then gifts that the local city might give.

Materials: Gifts, globe, stickers

Time: 25 minutes


Title: Instruments

Following "Gifts of the World" activity, remind or teach students what a didgeridoo is. Teach that a didgeridoo is an instrument unique to Australia, and specifically to Aboriginal people. Show pertinent pictures. Ask the children what instruments they play and others that would be played in the local city. Discover similar and different instruments. If possible, ask a guest to play a didgeridoo for the students.

Materials: pictures of didgeridoo, Australians, Aborigines, etc., guest to play didgeridoo (optional)

Time: 10 minutes (optional guest an additional 10 minutes)


Title: Aborigines

Using Enona and the Black Crane: An Aboriginal Story, teach about Aborigines. Relate local and national races and cultures to the races and cultures in Australia.

Materials: Map, pictures of Aborigines, Enona and the Black Crane: An Aboriginal Story, pictures of races/cultures in local city or in America, Amazing Australia video

Time: 20 minutes


Title: Accents

Teach students about accents and languages of the world using video clips and samples of different writing. Invite guest speaker to come and share a bit of Australian accent by reading an Australian story, such as Dial-a-Croc, or by presenting something she feels is neat about Australia. Relate accents and languages to own school and city.

Materials: video clips (such as Crocodile Dundee, Far and Away, My Fair Lady, etc.), samples of other language's writing, guest speaker and Australian story (such as Dial-a-Croc)

Time: 30 minutes


Title: The Way We Dress

Teach students that children and grown-ups in Australia get dressed just like we do. Many of them wear just the same clothes as many of us, and some wear different. Show clips of video.

Materials: Amazing Australia video that shows Australian daily life and Aboriginal life, cardboard cutouts of boy and girl and their clothing, one from Millville, the other from Australia

Time: 15 minutes


Title: Key Pals from Australia

Students e-mail children from Australia (preferably children of same age/grade), and ask questions about what they like to do for fun, what they eat, etc. Students take notes concerning Australian students' responses. Compare and contrast as a discussion the responses of the Australian students to local students.

Materials: Computer access, note-taking materials

Time: 20 minutes daily for e-mail (continue as long as appropriate); 20 minutes for discussion


Title: Australia on a Cookie

Make enough Australian cookies (anzac cookies) for each student to have one. (Or make cookies as a class and compare the differences between American cookies and Australian cookies.) Have students ice the cookies, then decorate them, showing the continent of Australia, the water surrounding it, the capital of Australia, and any other major features. Teacher checks the cookie and students enjoy!

Materials: Cookie ingredients (or cookies already made); white and blue icing; sprinkles/stars for capital and features; icing utensils (plastic knives, paper towels, plastic bags, etc.); map of Australia for all students to see

Time: 30 minutes (if cookies already made)

Culminating Activities

Have an Australian school day. Play Australian games for P.E., eat Australian food for lunch, didgeridoos for music, Australian words for L.A., etc.


Invite parents to an Australian program. Celebrate Australia through a didgeridoo performance, an Australian game, a short play on how we're alike and different, Australia artifacts on display, and Australian cookies for dessert.


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