A Tale of Two Towns

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Social Studies, Geography

Grade 1- 3


Students compare their community and region with others. Students describe places, cultures, and communities in the United States and compare them with those in other regions and countries. Students locate information using people, books, audio/video, recordings, photos, simple maps, graphs, and tables. Students locate information about local, state, and national communities using a variety of traditional sources, electronic technologies, and direct observations.


In this lesson, the students will gain and apply knowledge of life in their own community and compare specific aspects of it to life in other communities. They will work in small groups to fill out a questionnaire about life in their community, and email it to e-pals in other communities. They will take digital pictures of important places in their town, and request their e-pals do the same if possible. The culminating activity will be an oral group presentation of the information received from their e-pals, and a comparison of this information to the information they gathered about their own town.
As part of a social studies curriculum, the students study their community and how the community helps us to meet our basic needs. The class also gathers information about other communities around the country to see how they compare with ours in terms of how basic needs are met. Print materials, such as textbooks, are outdated so quickly, and this method of getting information is guaranteed to stay current year after year. Also, the information in textbooks is presented from an adult's point of view. Communicating with peers gives them information from a child's point of view, and really engages the students. It encourages them to explore the connections and relationships between their town and the one the e-pals live in, and also the connection between them and their own community. Along with enjoying the study of the community, the addition of the peer communication via the Internet adds an extra dimension that really generates excitement and meaningful conversations.
Review basic map reading. If possible, go on a field trip around town, and work with parents and other adults in the community to find the answers to the questions on the All About Our Community questionnaire sheet. Students will then email the questionnaire to their selected e-pals to answer and return. On the town field trip , children can take digital photos of important places, and include them in the mailing to their e-pals. They can post them on the class web site, along with a narrative of each important place. This helps to foster feelings of connection to the project and the community. When the questionnaire is returned, the group of students who received it prepare a presentation for the class. When they are preparing the presentation, they will use the scoring rubric to guide them in their preparation. While students work on the presentation, encourage them to engage in conversations with their group about the information they have received, and the things they have learned about their own town. These conversations will help to build an improved and shared understanding of the topic. They will make connections between the things they have learned and how it affects their lives.
Set up e-pals for the students. Below are some suggested websites for connecting your students with students around the country.
Step-by-Step Teacher and Student Instructions
The first lessons should focus on the history of your community. Use any materials you have available to you including any special guests you can invite to share their knowledge with you. After the completion of the history piece of your community, introduce the concept of basic needs, and discuss how people in your town used to meet their needs, and how their needs are being met in the present day.
Take the field trip through the community to see important places. Take digital pictures.
The students now should be prepared to start filling in the questionnaire about the community they live in. This should be done with their small group, and some brainstorming of possible sources of information should be done with the whole group. The students might need to take the sheet home to consult with parents or other family members. Groups will be heterogeneous and teacher selected, consisting of 4-5 students.
The students should make initial contact with the group of e-pals they have selected (or the teacher has selected for them). They should send a copy of their completed sheet about their own community and a blank sheet to be filled out by the group of students in another town.
While they are waiting for the reply, the group should find the community on the map. They should also get started on the visual aid for the presentation. This will require a little research by the group. The visual aid will be a poster showing the city/town placement within the state, and include the information that the students gather. Suggested information for the poster, along with the map: highlights of the town, nickname/logo, pictures of things that are grown and or manufactured there, interesting historical facts, fun things for kids to do, population. If the e-pals send photos of their town, these will be included in the visual aid also.
When the group receives the reply, they will need to meet and prepare the oral presentation, and add any new information to the visual aid.
Each student in the group will fill out the rubric to be sure they have met all the requirements, then present the oral report to the class.
Fill out the rubric for each of the group members as they do their oral presentations. They will also be evaluated on the accuracy of the information included in the questionnaire they fill out regarding their community. The students will be encouraged to discuss the differences between the two communities and give some reasons why they think there are differences. Both large and small group discussions to reflect on the differences will be facilitated as the information is received from the e-pals. Take anecdotal notes as groups work together.
The students could continue to communicate with their e-pals to discuss other aspects of life in their community. The community questionnaire along with the digital pictures taken from the field trip could be attached to the class web page. More information could be included with the pictures. The community study/comparison could be extended to include towns outside of the United States. Parents could be asked to supply the email addresses of family members in other states instead of using the suggested web sites.


  • Microsoft Internet Explorer, Netscape Communicator, or another Web browser with e-mail capabilities
  • copies of Oral Presentation Rubric (see link to activity sheets below)
  • copies of All About Our Community (see link to activity sheets below)
  • copies of Sample Introductory letter (see link to activity sheets below)
  • factual information about your community (If possible, find printed texts that include some history of the town.)
  • Digital camera
  • Maps of the United States

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