Understanding Global Poverty:
A 5th Grade or ELL/ESL Unit
NCSS Thematic Strand (9): Global Connections
(e) provide for the study of global connections and interdependence
As our world becomes increasingly more global, students have
a responsibility to see how economic development and human rights
intersect. According to the NCSS,
“The realities of global interdependence require
understanding the increasingly important and diverse global
connections among world societies.”
Understanding Global Poverty is a unit that uses poetry
to segue into a discussion of the causes of extreme poverty
worldwide. Students will be guided in their understanding by
the teaching model of reflective thinking. Each of the three
lessons that follow will build on itself as a part of the reflective
Lesson One will be identifying the problem:
Poverty exists. Why? Should poverty be eradicated? Why?
Lesson Two will involve speculating possible
causes and testing the validity of those causes by researching
current events where global poverty is addressed. This step
will lead students to make assertions about why poverty exists
and to decide if it is “fair” for it to exist.
Lesson Three will require students to come
up with positive solutions that would move us closer to ending
Model of Teaching: Reflective Thinking
In this unit students will learn that poverty is not just an
issue that faces our community. In fact, poverty is a global
issue that connects the human race. The focus in the unit is
to raise the students’ consciousness about global poverty
and how decisions that citizens of one country make can affect
the lives of people in a country across the globe.
Lesson 1: What is poverty?
(I) Introductory Activities
Unit Introduction: Read “Poor” by Myra
Cohn Livingston from the poetry collection Knock
on a Star (Kennedy 1999).
Content Objectives: Students will be asked to listen
to the poem being read aloud. They will then receive a copy
of the poem to read with the teacher. They will be asked, “What
do you know about poverty or the condition of being poor? Why
did the author write this poem? Does poverty affect the person
who is poor or does it affect the whole community? Why?”
Process Objectives: Students will recall what they
know about poverty, and they will be asked to consider the affects
of poverty at a local level.
- Have students read the poem. Break the students up into
pairs. Ask each student to discuss the poem with their talking
partner. Have them answer the following questions: What is
the poet saying about poverty? Do you agree? Why or why not?
- Bring the students back to the rug (or big meeting area)
and have each one share what their partner said. Make a list
of the ideas on the dry erase board. Ask for a volunteer to
say what he/she notices about the list. He/she should be able
to see that “loneliness, emptiness (emotional and physical),
etc” are common themes. Ask the students to talk about
the presence of poverty in their community or in their country.
- Have students illustrate the poem. Make sure to include
a grading rubric that incorporates the poem’s theme
into the illustration. Set a time limit and leave time to
share. Post the illustrations with a copy of the poem on the
Global Connections: Think about possible causes of
poverty and research current events for evidence of extreme
poverty in the world.
Content Objectives: Children will expand their knowledge
of poverty to include global implications.
Process Objectives: Students will recall the poem
“Poor,” and they will share their illustrations.
This will lead to a discussion about where poverty exists and
why. Students will think about the causes and then conduct a
guided research exercise to “test” their theories.
- Begin by remembering what the class discussed the day before
about poverty. Read the poem aloud together and look at their
- Ask the students to journal for 10 minutes about where in
the world they think poverty exists and why it exists.
- Lead the students to a computer lab to conduct an internet
search using yahooligans.com. Give them a sheet that requires
them to identify three places in the world where poverty exists
and reasons why it exists there.
Link to NCSS Strand and Unifying Theme
Through the process of investigation, children will discover
on their own where poverty exists and why. They will then be
able to answer this question: How do the actions of economic
superpowers affect the condition of global poverty in the world?
Content Objectives: Students will identify ways in which countries
can work together to address the issue of global poverty.
Process Objectives: Students will share their research and
talk about the causes of poverty. They will begin to see ways
in which people and governments could work together to address
the needs of people and economic progress.
- Have the students take post-it flags and mark the places
where they found articles on global poverty.
- Ask the students what they notice
on the map. Do they see patterns? What strikes them as they
look at the map?
- Have students share their research. Ask them to discuss
the causes of poverty?
- Divide the students into groups of four and give each group
a large sheet of paper. Ask them to come up with solutions
to the issue of global poverty. Have them think about the
causes and how governments could work together to solve these
- Bring them back together and share the solutions.
Lesson 4 will turn the students’ ideas
to pro-active response. Students will identify one way in which
they can combat poverty. They will be empowered to make a difference
on the condition of poverty by executing their idea.
In assessing the students’ progress in this lesson, I
want to learn as much about the students as possible and provide
them with multiple entry points for learning (Goodwin 1997).
The focus of these lessons is on reflection and leading children
to believe that they have control of their learning and discovery
Each activity is designed to allow children to build on previous
knowledge and apply it to a new activity. To this end, as an
assessment tool, I will chart the responses of the children
to see if they are internalizing what they learned from one
activity to the next. I will also use the children’s journals
and their illustrations as a way to gauge whether or not they
applied written and/or pictorial comprehension to their ideas.
As always, if you have ideas to share please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of luck! Tobey