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 Summary

As part of the upgrade to Fishtank Plus, this unit was revised in October 2020. See which texts and materials have changed as part of the revision in this guide to our 1st Grade text adjustments.

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

Assessment

This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • What makes each continent similar? Unique?

Writing Focus Areas

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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. 

Vocabulary

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Text-based

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

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

Content Knowledge and Connections

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  • 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

Notes for Teachers

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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

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Assessment

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Writing

    L.1.1

    L.1.2

    W.1.1

    W.1.5

Write an opinion piece to share which continent you would like to visit.

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.1.1

L.1.1.b

L.1.1.j

L.1.2

L.1.2.b

L.1.4

L.1.6

RI.1.1

RI.1.2

RI.1.3

RI.1.4

RI.1.5

RI.1.9

SL.1.1

SL.1.2

SL.1.5

SL.1.6

W.1.1

W.1.2

W.1.5

W.1.8

Supporting Standards

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RI.1.10