Lesson Plan

The People and the Land (What is a Community?)

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Grade Level:
Fifth Grade-Sixth Grade
45 - 60 minutes
Group Size:
8 or fewer
National/State Standards:
National Standards for ...
Social Studies:
Standards I, II, IV, V, VII

Elements 2, 3

Topic 1


In "People and the Land (What is a Community?)," students will learn what differentiates a group of people from a community.

Our "People and the Land" unit is broken into five lesson plans, taking 30 - 180 minutes to complete, and targeted at varying grade levels. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit - each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources. This is lesson 2 of the unit.


Guiding Question: What defines a community?

Critical Content: Learn what differentiates a community from just a group of people.

Student Objectives: Students will ...

  • synthesize a concept (community)
  • identify and discuss similarities and differences



Our "The People and the Land" unit is broken into five lesson plans, each taking 45 - 120 minutes to complete, and targeted mainly at fifth and sixth grade students. A class needn't complete every lesson in the unit, though some lessons do refer to one another and are better done in sequence. However, each lesson comes with its own set of objectives and resources.

The final lesson, "The People and the Land (Team Research)" can be done independently, as a research project, or as a final assessment after having done some, or all, of the other lessons in the unit.

Check out the other lessons:

Lesson 1: On the Move
Lesson 2: What is Community?
Lesson 3: Coming Together
Lesson 4: Changing Times
Lesson 5: Team Research


1. Have students break into small groups and list as many different examples of communities as they can. (Examples: classroom, school, neighborhood, church, city, state, dog lovers, police officers, etc.) Each group can create a list or poster of their examples. Have each group present their ideas to the class.

2. Have each group analyze their list to come up with similarities and differences among their examples of communities. Share your information with the class either through a presentation or a visual representation (poster, short play, etc.)

3. What attributes describe the term community?

4. Have each group come up with their own definition of community and share with the class. Then have each group look up the origin of the word community and/or it's definition. You may want to use this exercise as a vehicle to do a web search.


1. Before you begin: create a list of examples and non-examples for the concept of communities. List out 15-20 items on a piece of paper, leaving room between each item. Copy list (one list for each pair of students.) Cut out items or have students cut out items to sort.

2. Have students draw an item from the set created above and discuss whether or not it is indeed a community. They must provide their reasoning for their answer. Divide the list into to two groups - items that are communities and items that are not communities. Based on the list of examples, guide them through a discussion on what it is that makes a community.

3. Have students break into small groups to create activities that focus on the concept of community, which they can share with younger students.


Discussion Questions:

1. What "items" are needed to have a community? Do only people make up communities? Can you give examples of communities that are made up of something other than or in addition to people? (Ex. ecological community.)

2. Name communities of which you are a part.

3. How do these communities (including your family) influence your life and who you are?

4. What type of role do you play in each of these communities? Are the roles similar or different in the various communities?

5. How do you think being a member of a community affect how you think about the area you live in?

6. Why do you think we are focusing on community in our unit on Denali?



1. Have students make Venn Diagrams of the various communities of which they are a part. A Venn Diagram visually describes the overlapping similarities and differences by using circles. If there is a community that is part of another community, the circles representing each community will overlap. If a community is separate from another community, their representative circles will not touch.

Example: The city of Anchorage community, an Anchorage school community, and classroom community within that school will overlap because they are related. Fairbanks community is different from the Anchorage community and our school community and our classroom community so they would not overlap. However, if we added an Alaska community, all of these other circles would overlap with the Alaska community because they are all a part of the Alaska community.

2. Have students create the "perfect" community that meets everyone's needs. List the needs and how these needs are met. Does such a community exist? Can it exist? Why or Why not?