social studies

Africa: A Mini-Unit in Review




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Right now, I am collaborating and co-teaching with two of my third grade colleagues to introduce our next unit on countries by opening with an introduction to each of the seven continents. Each of us has two continents to present and the first one I was tasked with was Africa!

Follow along below to see how this mini-unit unraveled for my students and me! It involved lots of singing, some eating, and even some crafting!

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On the first day of this mini-unit on Africa, the students viewed the music video “Tour the World” by Renald Francoeur. This video is wonderous (truly, truly wonderous)! Francoeur sings every single country in the world and laces in some great facts about faraway places. The best part is that the song is catchy as anything that Taylor Swift sings and my students quickly learned the chorus to the song. Now, they request to listen to it everyday whenever we have independent work time and during snack. It’s so good I added it to my most current Spotify playlist…take a peek below!

“Tour the World” Music Video

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Following the “Tour the World” video, on the first day of this mini-unit, we also did a “Voices Around the Room” activity. This activity brought quotes and proverbs into the classroom that highlighted the learning activity. We used the product below to get this activity going and, wow, did it generate great discussion! These quotes activated background knowledge, got students excited about what they were about to learn, and helped paint a picture of the different cultures around our world.

Each student in my classroom got a quote to share. I gave them two minutes to read their quote several times and practice reading it aloud. I also pointed out to them that the continent being spoken about in the quote was written in the corner of the card they received so they could share that information with their classmates when it was their turn.

Doing this activity was a great way to open up thinking about our upcoming unit. I loved the organic discussion that came about through these cards! See the link below to find this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers!

“Voices Around the Room: Continents, Countries, and Cultures” Resource

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On the second day of our mini-unit, (after we watched the “Tour the World” video, of course…) students viewed this presentation on Africa. I was so excited to deepen our discussion through this quick presentation and introduce some new vocabulary to students. We reviewed some basics about Africa, like its landforms and architecture. My third graders were enthusiastic about the new facts they learned and very drawn into the presentation through the real photographs of a Kenyan tribe on each slide.

This presentation really helped frame the activities my students engaged in during this mini-unit! See the link below to find this resource on Teachers Pay Teachers!

“A Journey to Africa: A Presentation” Resource

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Following the “Journey to Africa” presentation, I read the book “The Water Princess” by Susan Verde to my students. I found out about this book through a sweet girl from my home state of NH, Olivia of TheLivBits. First, my students viewed the following video of Liv with Susan Verde, Georgie Badiel, and Peter H. Reynolds. Georgie, a model, inspired the story of “The Water Princess,” so it was highly engaging for my students to see her in the video and hear her speak.

“The Water Princess: Water is Life” TheLivBits Video

After watching TheLivBit video and discussing it with my students, we dove into the story of “The Water Princess.” This book is moving, lyrical, beautifully written, and inspiring. My students were intrigued about the water crisis and this book really stuck with them, they talk about it all the time now! They were especially interested in the real photographs in the back of the book of women and children from Burkina Faso carrying water and the information presented about the water crisis in many African countries.

This book is a must-have! Click the link below to be directed to its Amazon page!

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“The Water Princess” by Susan Verde

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Have you ever heard of Malva Pudding? I hadn’t either, but now I am all about Malva Pudding! It’s an easy-to-make South African dessert. Now, I say “easy-to-make” after I had an epic fail moment my first time baking it. I mean epic fail…and that is because I misread a temperature in Celsius as a temperature in Fahrenheit. My first round of Malva Pudding came out like this (which I did NOT serve to students):

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Inedible soup-like mixture that smelled insanely good.


My second round of Malva pudding came out much, much better and I was able to serve this baked good to my students! They told me it tasted like “really buttery pancakes!”

It smelled amazing, it tasted amazing, and I can’t wait to bring it to a family party now!

The purpose of this baked good was to bring a new food to my students so they could try an African dish. Many students even asked if I would send the recipe home so they could make it with their parents. Sharing is caring, and I know if students make this delicious dessert at home, conversation about Africa will open up! You can find the recipe I used below (with the temperatures in Fahrenheit)! Trust me, you’re going to want to make this and share it!

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Malva Pudding Recipe

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I first saw this craft project on Pinterest…of course! I decided to bring it into my classroom to wrap-up this mini-unit. It’s super simple…all you need are some sturdy paper plates and markers!

First, I showed my students two videos, which are linked below. The first video was “Maasai Life Through a Child’s Eyes.” This video was awesome and it even touched on children carrying water home from a well near their school. The second video was “Kipawa – Maasai Jewelry” which showed my students the necklaces we would base our craft projects on. Several of my students got ideas from this video that they carried over to their necklaces.

“Maasai Life Through a Child’s Eyes” 

“Kipawa – Maasai Jewelry” 

After these videos, I walked my students through the process of creating the Maasai Necklaces, which you can view here. I reminded students to have some sort of pattern in their necklaces and to use bright colors, like the Maasai beads. Then, I gave them about a half of an hour to work.

Some students made two necklaces and others finished just one. All of my students, boys and girls alike, loved this project. My students wore their necklaces all day and then asked me to hang them on the bulletin board in the hallway for others to view. Here are some of their creations:

While students were making these necklaces, I played the Pandora “African Tribal Spirits Radio.” One word: hit!

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The next continent I am focusing on for a mini-unit is Asia. Do you have any suggestions for resources I should use to teach the next mini-unit?

Let me know in the comments below!

2 thoughts on “Africa: A Mini-Unit in Review”

  1. Love this post and I will definitely bring your ideas to my classroom! Some ideas for Asia-making chalk mandalas (representing India) on black paper-or outside on pavement if the weather cooperates and origami from Japan! I’ll look at my resources and let you know of other ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

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