The Seven Continents

Students read informational texts about the seven continents, and what makes each of them unique, while working to understand text features and develop skills in writing about informational texts.



Unit 1

1st Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students learn about the seven continents and what makes each continent unique. A large part of the 1st grade English Language Arts curriculum is focused on communities and understanding communities around the world. In order to understand the differences between communities around the world, students need to understand what the world is, identify the different continents, and explain some of the differences between continents. Students will use the facts learned in this unit to deeply connect with the characters and information they learn in later units.

This unit will serve as the foundational unit for creating a strong Read Aloud, discussion, and writing culture in the informational block. Students will learn to identify facts from informational texts and use those facts to describe places and ideas. Students will also learn how to use text features to locate and understand information in a text. By the end of the unit, students should be able to name different text features and explain how the text features help a reader better understand an informational text.

In writing, students will write daily in response to the text. The focus for this unit is on building student stamina and routines in regard to writing about reading. After learning about each continent, students will participate in a variety of independent and shared writing activities in order to develop skills in informational writing while simultaneously solidifying understanding of new material.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

  • Book: Explore North America by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG720L

  • Book: Explore South America by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG700L

  • Book: Explore Africa by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG650L

  • Book: Explore Antartica by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG700L

  • Book: Explore Australia and Oceania by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG640L

  • Book: Explore Europe by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG690L

  • Book: Explore Asia by Bobbie Kalman (Crabtree Publishing Company, 2007)   —  IG610L

Supporting Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • What makes each continent similar? Unique?

Writing Focus Areas

Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Writing and speaking in complete, simple sentences
  • Using specific details to describe something, particularly proper nouns

In this unit, students begin their exploration of complete sentences. Over the course of the unit, students will learn to distinguish between complete and incomplete sentences. After learning the difference, students will be challenged to use complete simple sentences orally and in writing. Students will also learn how to add details to simple sentences, particularly using proper nouns to tell about specific places on each continent.

Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Name a topic. 
  • Supply facts about the topic. 

Throughout the unit students will write short informational pieces to teach others about each continent. 

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • State an opinion. 
  • Include two to three reasons to support the opinion. 

At the end of the unit, students will write their first opinion piece about which continent they would most like to visit and why. 

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions.
  • Ask and answer questions about key details in a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media.
  • Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation. 

In this unit, students learn how to use discussion and oral discourse to show their understanding of texts. Since this is the first unit of the year, the goal is to begin to establish clear routines and procedures that allow students to share their thinking and ideas. The focus areas and discourse in this unit align with Tier 1 of the three tiers of academic discourse and row 1 and 3 of the Academic Discourse Rubric (K-2). See the Teacher Tool on Tiers of Academic Discourse to help support students with the focus areas for this unit.



architecture climate continent culture desert forest grassland island lake landform mountain natural resource ocean river rural sea tundra urban

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 1, view our 1st Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • Identify major oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, and Arctic
  • Identify and describe two to three familiar features of the seven continents: Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, and Australia
  • Define these geographical terms and features:  island, mountain, rivers, lakes, country, border, government, island, climate, landform, volcanoes, coast, rivers, lakes, forest, grasslands, prairies, deserts, city, village, resources, ocean, continent

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Notes for Teachers

The texts in this unit were selected because of the text features and broad overview of the continents. Reading books with the same structure and author allows students to build a deep understanding of the author's craft and why they use certain structures. We believe the content of this unit is important, but we also acknowledge that there are some problematic representations of the people living on each continent in some of the texts. Instead of removing the texts we have added notes throughout the unit to help lead students in critically analyzing the text. See notes in each lesson about how to address these stereotypes with your students. You may choose to omit certain sections of text, or you may choose to call out the text intentionally with your students. Here are some suggestions for how to do this:

Using the Creating Questions to Engage Critically with Texts guide from Learning for Justice, develop a set of questions to ask with each continent text. For example:

  • What group of people is portrayed in this text? How are they portrayed?
  • What kind of language does the author use to describe the people who live here? 
  • What do you think the author is trying to tell you about a group of people or about an individual?
  • Do you agree or disagree with what the author is representing? Why or why not?

Include supplemental texts about the continent that include more details about the people who live there. Ask students to compare the details they read in each text.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards


Unit 2

Amazing Animals