After discovering where their ancestors and cultural traditions have come from, students will use resource books and the Internet to research a country from their heritage. After all of their research is complete, they will take an imaginary trip to that country, using what they have learned to write a travel log (PDF). Students will also create passports that help serve as a self-assessment tool.
- Gain geographical and cultural knowledge of a country of the world.
- Skim reference books and Internet articles to find important information about their country.
- Understand that cultural differences exist between the country they study and America.
- Gain real life experience as they plan their trip using actual airline and hotel information.
- 8.5 x 11 inch white paper
- Color printer paper
- Research Note Organizer (PDF)
- Travel Log (PDF)
- Passport (PDF)
- One small photo of each student for passport
- Lined paper and pencils
- Collection of resource books on countries of the world
- Paper cutter
- Long neck stapler
- Computer and color printer
- Lamination machine, if desired
Set Up and Prepare
- Before you begin Part One, prepare a note to send home with students explaining that the class will be taking part in a country study. Request that students select a country from their heritage that they would like to study, write it down, and have parents sign and return. Experience taught me to do this after one boy completed a beautiful project on Italy and his mother later told me their family was not the slightest bit Italian!
- Print and make enough copies of the Research Organizer (PDF) and Travel Log (PDF) printables for your students.
- Print and make enough copies of the Passport printable (PDF) for your students. Using a paper cutter, trim the edges around each passport.
- Using a favorite publishing program, find a graphic of a passport cover. Size it to approximately the same width and height as the Passport. Print enough color copies for each member of your class.
- Visit your school or public library and gather a large collection of expository material that your class can use to research countries of the world.
- Preview Internet sites you may want your students to use for research. Preview the Research Organizer printable (PDF) to ensure that the sites will provide the most comprehensive information. You may also want to find a site that will calculate time zone differences around the world and sites that will translate English to other languages. Bookmark a limited number of appropriate sites you want the class to use when doing research.
- Preview your favorite Internet travel sites. You will be helping the students find airfare to and a hotel in the capital city of the country they visit. You may use direct links to airlines or hotel chains but I find multi-service Internet companies provide one stop shopping.
- Procure one small ID-style photo for each student in your class. I use the extras that are sent with school photos. If you do not have these available, take a small headshot photo of each student to use.
- Prepare the booklets students will use to publish their Travel Log (PDF). Using landscape view on the computer, I line the paper across the page simply by holding down the underline key. Copy this paper back to back. You will need two pages for each student. Put one copy on top of a second and fold down the middle, book style. Use a long neck stapler to put one staple in the middle to hold the pages in place while the students publish. Students will create a cover and staple that on later in the lesson.
Part One: Researching the Country
Introduction: This lesson is a continuation of Lesson One. If you are not planning to do Lesson One, simply adjust the directions accordingly.
Step 1: Tell students they will have the opportunity to learn more about one country that plays a role in their family background. Discuss what criteria they should think of when choosing a country. Questions to bring up include: Is this a country that influences some of their family traditions? Will they be able to find up to date resources on this country? Is this a country currently in existence? Are any other people studying this country in the class? Weigh the pros and cons of choosing a "popular" country. The advantage would be having a partner or small group to work with, but the disadvantage is scarcer resources when they are spread out among many. Can they plan an imaginary trip to this country from the United States or do travel restrictions exist?
Step 2: Allow students to spend some time looking through resources on countries in order to help them narrow in on their research topic. This may be done in your classroom or your school's media center. At this point you may want to send home a note with students asking for parental approval of the country their child plans to study.
Step 1: When all students have picked a country, distribute copies of the Research Organizer (PDF) to each student. Review your expectations. For each section, discuss and help students decide the best resource to use for each area. Model for students how they can skim books, articles, and other reference information to look for important facts.
Step 2: Provide two to three class periods for your students to research and fill out their organizer. At least one of those class periods should be spent using the computer for research. Have students visit the sites you have bookmarked. Monitor students work to ensure they stay focused and on track with their research.
Step 3: While students are researching, work with small groups of 2-4 kids to help them find flight and hotel information for the capital or largest city in the country they are studying. Use a travel site you're familiar with for this. Type in the name of the capital city when asked for "destination." Follow the links to find flight information on a flight from your nearest major airport to the foreign capital. Non-stop flights work best for this. For those unfamiliar with booking travel online, you will only be viewing a schedule and you will not need to purchase anything. Print the flight itinerary using the "current page" command so you do not receive several pages of airline information. After you have found flight information, search for hotels in that same city. Explain to children what the stars mean and how may people pick their hotels based on amenities and star rankings. After each student has chosen a hotel, the print this information. In the younger grades, it would be appropriate for the teacher to "man" computer while students provide you with pertinent information. In the upper elementary grades, you will probably only need to supervise while students follow your directions to find the information they need.
Part Two: Travel Log
Step 1: After they've completed the research, tell students that they have worked so hard that they deserve a vacation! Provide one copy of the Travel Log (PDF) to each student. Explain how they will take the information they've learned to write about an imaginary trip to their country.
Step 2: Work as a whole group to complete the first page of the Travel Log (PDF), modeling how students will need to go to their completed Research Organizer to find the information they need for the blanks. Allow students approximately two class periods to complete the fill-in-the-blank travel log.
Step 3: Once students have finished their Travel Log (PDF), they're ready to publish it. Give each student a blank lined booklet you have prepared. See Set Up and Prepare above. Students should neatly transcribe what is in the fill-in-the-blank travel log to their own booklet. I always tell students to personalize the book by changing the wording, adding pictures to border the sides, etc.
Step 4: Complete the Travel Log (PDF) by asking students to create a cover and staple it on top of the booklet using the long neck stapler. I have students use the "greeting card" function on our school's publishing program to quickly create a half-page size document for their cover. My only requirements for the cover are that it includes the student's name, country name, and a picture related to their country.
Step 5: Allow students to share their Travel Logs (PDF) with the class when they're finished
Part Three: Creating a Passport to Learning
Step 1: Explain that when you travel to most foreign countries, passports are required. Provide details on their purpose, who looks at them, and when. Distribute the inside of the Passport (PDF) to students. The covers will be added later.
Step 2: Direct students to fill out the inside of the Passport (PDF) n their neatest handwriting. Students should use a glue stick to adhere their picture in the square. The last step is for students to glue the inside to the cover so that it looks more like a real passport. The last step I follow is to laminate the passports so that they don't come apart. Use students' answers to the question to help you gauge their feeling about the project and what they may have learned from a cultural standpoint.
Supporting All Learners
The process of completing the travel log and then publishing it may be quite challenging for some students in your class. I have adapted the travel log in the past by using the word processor to cut and paste it into two columns. Then I fold it in half and staple it into book form. After the student fills in the blanks, have them staple the cover on top.
The best extension of this country study lesson is to expand upon it by combining it with the elements of Lesson One and showcasing all the work from Lesson Three.
Postcard: Have your students write a postcard home from their country. They can write a short letter describing the day's activities and draw a picture of a famous landmark on the front. Finally, students can draw on the stamp that has the postage price in their country's currency.
Pack Your Bags: Have students bring in a small shoebox. Cover the lid and bottom in brown paper, and then decorate it to look like an old-fashioned steamer trunk. Inside, students can put artifacts related to the culture of their country. During a show and tell style period, students can share the contents of their trunk with the class, explaining the significance of each item.
If your school population is diverse, you have a valuable resource at your fingertips. Have parents from different countries come in to help students research. They may be able to give first hand accounts of the culture in a country or provide language translations for students. Parents can also be very helpful when you are using the Internet or creating the Travel Log covers. I always feel it is important to have as many mature eyes and ears as possible when students are using the Internet so the students stay focused.
- Take notes in a research organizer (PDF) while doing research.
- Use their notes to fill in the blanks in their travel log.
- Accurately fill in the blanks of their travel log.
- Publish their travel log in their handwriting.
- Create a cover for their travel log (PDF).
- Complete the reflections inside the passport (PDF).
- Glue the cover to the inside sheet.
Did your students have enough information about their country to fill out the research organizer adequately?
Did the students have enough time to research their country?
Were students able to publish their own travel log in a timely manner? Would parent volunteers be helpful for publishing the covers?
Did students answer all the questions in the passport thoroughly and thoughtfully?
What would you do differently next time to improve this lesson?
Teacher Observation: Were the students using the research time effectively? Did students working on the same countries work well together? Were students able to make the passports independently? Did the students understand the geographical terms used in the research organizer?
Written Outcome: Were students able to transfer information from the notes they took to the travel log? Did they understand what information was needed where? Did they edit and change sentences appropriately when needed? Did students write sentences with details in their passports?