Lesson Plan

Examining First vs Third World #withmathican

Why are some countries developed and others developing?
Lisa B.
Classroom teacher
Hershey Middle School
Hershey, United States
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My Subjects Social Studies

Students will be able to ...

  • identify the characteristics of both developed and developing countries in a table and by creating a T chart. 
  • problem solve by identifying important evidence to support why a specific country is categorized as either developed or developing from the atlas and non-fiction text-dependent analysis.  
  • create an infographic that highlights the major characteristics of a first world or a third world country. 
  • fearlessly share their thinking with the class, to learn from each other on the challenging countries, and to develop a growth mindset.
Social Studies
Grades 5 – 9
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Active Hook

Activity: Investigating

Population Education is a company that provides interactive lessons that focus on population issues. This active hook is based on their lesson called the Unfair Race.

Each student participating has a list of statistics on a card. The teacher will read a statement and based on the statement, students either move forward, move backwards, or stay the same. The race is unfair (thus the activity name) and some students finish way ahead of other students.

At the end you debrief with the students. What was each country in the race? Where did they fall in the race? What does the place in the race represent? (standard of living). What did they learn? How did they feel during the race?

2 Observation

Explain that a cartogram “a map on which statistical information is shown in diagrammatic form.” Show Mapping Worlds changes the sizes and shapes of the countries to represent the quantity of the information.

View Business > Global Brands > McDonald’s as an example. In the margin the countries are ranked. But you can also hover over a country to see it’s ranking and the total number and percentage.

Working with a partner, students should explore categories that relate to the development of the country: rural populations, illiteracy, children not in school, malaria, TB, under-5 mortality, arable land, water, metals and minerals, GDP, technology, transport, War & Conflict, and Tourists.

Afterwards, ask them to write a brief reflection about their observations, possibly as a post on Google Classroom or another course management system.

If you are limited with technology resources, the maps can be projected for the class and you can verbally have the students state their observations.

3 Partner Discovery

Google Drive
Free, Paid

Students will work with a partner to fill in Google Sheets for different countries. Some of them will be developed some of them will be developing. Possible countries include the United States, Mexico, Canada, Haiti, Argentina, Spain, India, Libya, and a few left up to student choice. The countries selected can be customized to the area of the world the students are studying that year.

They will search the atlas for information relating to life expectancy, literacy rates, land use, natural resources, average population density, and climate zone. 

The second part to this activity is creating a T chart on paper with the major characteristics of a developed country and a developing country. Have a discussion as a class before having the partners go back to their table of information.
The students will go back after filling in the chart and determine if the country is developed or developing. Encourage the dialogue between partners as they try to figure out if a place would fit into the developed or the developing category. Not all countries are a clear fit. If they disagree or can not decide on developed vs developing, they should shade that country in their chart so we can discuss it as a class later. The should use evidence from the table to support their opinions.
The final column will be for quotes from the text to support their opinion, which is the next step. 
After the partners have done their best to fill in the chart, have the entire class join back together for a full class discussion with a special focus on countries that students had trouble placing or countries that students disagreed about. Some guiding questions here could be: "Was there any country that you and your partner disagreed on? What did you think and why? What did your partner think and why?" "Was there any country that was particularly difficult to place? Why?" "Was there any country that you identified as first world that has some attributes of a third world country? Why did you ultimately decide to identify it as first world?" "Was there any country that you identified as third world that has some attributes of a first world country? Why did you ultimately decide to identify it as third world?"  

4 Text Dependent Analysis

Students will be provided with a link to a Newsela text set that provides articles about the standard of living of the countries in the table. They should choose two different articles to read, one that focused on a developed country and one that focuses on a developing country. They must provide text based evidence to support why one country is first world (developed) and another country is third world (developing). Emphasize that they are selecting two countries to focus on so they can find quality evidence and probably more than a single quote.

Review with students the ELA/Social Studies standards and expectations for quoting, citing, and explaining the text they select.  

Provide the students with the opportunity to share. Ideally, different countries will be covered, and evidence will be heard for each location.  

5 Creation

Students will use Canva, Google Drawings, PicCollage or another infographic creation tool to create an infographic to show the basic difference between the developed (first world) and the developing world (third world). They should incorporate Creative Commons images, like from Pixabay, to provide visual evidence of the characteristics they mention.

Students can have a choice to do either First World, or Third World, or a comparison of the two. 

Develop a simple rubric with student imput on what they think should be graded. The importance with the lesson was the entire process. This is just the final product. 


6 Wrap Up

Students can play Third World Farmer from Games for Change to see the daily and ongoing struggles faced by someone in the Third World.

This takes the learning that they have done on paper and makes the struggle real through the simulation.