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August 25, 2016 Traveling to School: A Global Back-to-School Mini-Unit By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

    How do children around the world travel to school? By camel, along a rickety rope bridge, by canoe, or on a bicycle? During the first few days of the year, my students explore school-bound journeys, both through our local neighborhood and in far-off lands. This accessible back-to-school topic emphasizes a shared childhood experience while also starting important discussions about multiculturalism and global awareness.

    I use these lessons to launch our yearlong study of communities and cultures around the world, but these activities also work well as a stand-alone back-to-school project. This can easily be adapted for primary through upper elementary students depending on which read-aloud books you select and whether you emphasize local or global examples. During the back-to-school madness, I wish you a peaceful trip to school.

     

    How Do WE Get to School: Starting Local

    Growing up, I attended a suburban elementary school where transportation options were limited to the school bus, car, or walking. My New York City students travel to school in far more varied ways, which makes for an interesting discussion. Either way, collecting class data about how the students travel to school is a low-stress math ice breaker.

    Tally Mark Rhyme Transportation Icon Worksheet

    For younger students, the emphasis can be on tallying. I use this tally mark rhyme, and my students like to sing Rachel Rambach’s "The Tally Mark Song" set to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)." When I taught first grade, each student colored and cut out the form of transportation she used to get to school, and we created a highly visual pictograph of the data. With my third graders, we create a bar graph to review the second grade math standard (CCSS.Math2.MD.D.10 - Draw a picture graph and a bar graph with single-unit scale.)

    How do we get to school bar graph

     

    How Do THEY Get to School: A Global Exploration

    Learning about how children all over the world travel to school is exciting for my third graders. They are amazed and sometimes concerned about the arduous journeys some children take to receive an education. My favorite part is the discussions that develop about why children trek through swamps, climb mountains, or spend hours walking to school. What motivates those children? This is also a great writing prompt for older students.

    Books and Articles About How Children Get to School Around the World

    Hate taking the bus to school? Try swimming!” (Smithsonian’s TweenTribune) This short, inspiring article describes how 60 school children swim across a 50-foot river every day and then walk three miles to attend a regional school. The article is available on three reading levels (Lexiles 810, 1000, and 1050) which allows for individual differentiation.

    This Is the Way We Go to School Cover

    This Is the Way We Go to School: A Book About Children Around World by Edith Baer

    This rhyming picture book is suitable for the youngest students to begin thinking about children around the world and their journeys to school. When sharing this book, I post a world map so we can locate where all of the children live as a gentle introduction to world geography. The Utah Education Network provides a geography lesson plan using the book. And, in addition to reading the book aloud, students can watch the book on this YouTube video.

    My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World by Margriet Ruurs 

    School In the Rain Forest Cover

    This fascinating photo book focuses on how children travel to and attend school in 12 different countries. Each short chapter focuses on one child in the country and includes background about the child’s family as well as the school they attend and their journey to get there. Like the excellent book My Librarian is a Camel by the same author, this book lends itself to jigsaw activities and group presentations.

     

    Image Collections and Video of Children Traveling to School Around the World

    25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World” (from Bored Panda) Probably the best collection of photos of dramatic and perilous journeys. Many of the scenes include more than one photo with brief captions.

    Children Going To School Around The World” (from Huffington Post) With an easy to project slide show format and descriptive captions that both date the photos and provide the name and age for one of the children in each photo, this is a strong option. What makes this collection really different is that it also shows each child at school once he arrives after his journey, providing even more fodder for discussion.

    Bikes and Boats: A Journey to School” (from World Vision Magazine) This collection of nine photos of kids in Asia traveling to school includes a short explanatory paragraph alongside each photo. 

    On the Way to School (2015) — A Documentary about Children Traveling to School

    This award-winning documentary focuses on four inspirational children who trek hours every day “toward knowledge.” In Kenya, Morocco, India, and Argentina, the four featured children speak of their professional dreams and their hope for a better life through education. If you don’t have time to share the documentary or excerpts (available online), the 90-second movie trailer is effective. 

     

     

    How COULD We Get to School? An Imaginary Journey

    How Will I Get to School This Year CoverJerry Pallotta’s imaginative picture book How Will I Get to School This Year adds a fun, creative component to this mini unit. In this imaginative story, the main character attempts to travel to school on the back of a pig, amidst jumping frogs, and flying in a swarm of mosquitoes. As an alternative to reading the book aloud yourself, you could show this YouTube read-aloud video.

    I use this read-aloud as a launching point for writing a quick class book about an imaginary and very silly journey to school. Each student contributes a page to our book. We begin by brainstorming possible ways to travel to school – e.g. tossed by a tornado, scuba diving, and sent in the mail.

    Traveling to School Class Book Brainstorm Chart 

    I provide this template for each child to write and illustrate her page in the book. In less than a half hour, we pop all of the pages into a report binder and our first class book is complete! We add the book to our class library, and it’s immediately a favorite.

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Wishing you a smooth, joyous back-to-school adventure!

     
     

    How do children around the world travel to school? By camel, along a rickety rope bridge, by canoe, or on a bicycle? During the first few days of the year, my students explore school-bound journeys, both through our local neighborhood and in far-off lands. This accessible back-to-school topic emphasizes a shared childhood experience while also starting important discussions about multiculturalism and global awareness.

    I use these lessons to launch our yearlong study of communities and cultures around the world, but these activities also work well as a stand-alone back-to-school project. This can easily be adapted for primary through upper elementary students depending on which read-aloud books you select and whether you emphasize local or global examples. During the back-to-school madness, I wish you a peaceful trip to school.

     

    How Do WE Get to School: Starting Local

    Growing up, I attended a suburban elementary school where transportation options were limited to the school bus, car, or walking. My New York City students travel to school in far more varied ways, which makes for an interesting discussion. Either way, collecting class data about how the students travel to school is a low-stress math ice breaker.

    Tally Mark Rhyme Transportation Icon Worksheet

    For younger students, the emphasis can be on tallying. I use this tally mark rhyme, and my students like to sing Rachel Rambach’s "The Tally Mark Song" set to the tune of "The Banana Boat Song (Day-O)." When I taught first grade, each student colored and cut out the form of transportation she used to get to school, and we created a highly visual pictograph of the data. With my third graders, we create a bar graph to review the second grade math standard (CCSS.Math2.MD.D.10 - Draw a picture graph and a bar graph with single-unit scale.)

    How do we get to school bar graph

     

    How Do THEY Get to School: A Global Exploration

    Learning about how children all over the world travel to school is exciting for my third graders. They are amazed and sometimes concerned about the arduous journeys some children take to receive an education. My favorite part is the discussions that develop about why children trek through swamps, climb mountains, or spend hours walking to school. What motivates those children? This is also a great writing prompt for older students.

    Books and Articles About How Children Get to School Around the World

    Hate taking the bus to school? Try swimming!” (Smithsonian’s TweenTribune) This short, inspiring article describes how 60 school children swim across a 50-foot river every day and then walk three miles to attend a regional school. The article is available on three reading levels (Lexiles 810, 1000, and 1050) which allows for individual differentiation.

    This Is the Way We Go to School Cover

    This Is the Way We Go to School: A Book About Children Around World by Edith Baer

    This rhyming picture book is suitable for the youngest students to begin thinking about children around the world and their journeys to school. When sharing this book, I post a world map so we can locate where all of the children live as a gentle introduction to world geography. The Utah Education Network provides a geography lesson plan using the book. And, in addition to reading the book aloud, students can watch the book on this YouTube video.

    My School in the Rain Forest: How Children Attend School Around the World by Margriet Ruurs 

    School In the Rain Forest Cover

    This fascinating photo book focuses on how children travel to and attend school in 12 different countries. Each short chapter focuses on one child in the country and includes background about the child’s family as well as the school they attend and their journey to get there. Like the excellent book My Librarian is a Camel by the same author, this book lends itself to jigsaw activities and group presentations.

     

    Image Collections and Video of Children Traveling to School Around the World

    25 Of The Most Dangerous And Unusual Journeys To School In The World” (from Bored Panda) Probably the best collection of photos of dramatic and perilous journeys. Many of the scenes include more than one photo with brief captions.

    Children Going To School Around The World” (from Huffington Post) With an easy to project slide show format and descriptive captions that both date the photos and provide the name and age for one of the children in each photo, this is a strong option. What makes this collection really different is that it also shows each child at school once he arrives after his journey, providing even more fodder for discussion.

    Bikes and Boats: A Journey to School” (from World Vision Magazine) This collection of nine photos of kids in Asia traveling to school includes a short explanatory paragraph alongside each photo. 

    On the Way to School (2015) — A Documentary about Children Traveling to School

    This award-winning documentary focuses on four inspirational children who trek hours every day “toward knowledge.” In Kenya, Morocco, India, and Argentina, the four featured children speak of their professional dreams and their hope for a better life through education. If you don’t have time to share the documentary or excerpts (available online), the 90-second movie trailer is effective. 

     

     

    How COULD We Get to School? An Imaginary Journey

    How Will I Get to School This Year CoverJerry Pallotta’s imaginative picture book How Will I Get to School This Year adds a fun, creative component to this mini unit. In this imaginative story, the main character attempts to travel to school on the back of a pig, amidst jumping frogs, and flying in a swarm of mosquitoes. As an alternative to reading the book aloud yourself, you could show this YouTube read-aloud video.

    I use this read-aloud as a launching point for writing a quick class book about an imaginary and very silly journey to school. Each student contributes a page to our book. We begin by brainstorming possible ways to travel to school – e.g. tossed by a tornado, scuba diving, and sent in the mail.

    Traveling to School Class Book Brainstorm Chart 

    I provide this template for each child to write and illustrate her page in the book. In less than a half hour, we pop all of the pages into a report binder and our first class book is complete! We add the book to our class library, and it’s immediately a favorite.

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Wishing you a smooth, joyous back-to-school adventure!

     
     

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