Social Studies Lesson Plan: Community Helpers, Grades K-1
This lesson serves as an introduction to a community helpers unit. The CCSS-featured nonfiction text Fire! Fire! which portrays firefighters responding to and fighting fires in a city, country town, forest, and on the waterfront provides a natural segue into further study of communities and helpers, citizenship, volunteering, and jobs. Included are elements of complex informational text, vocabulary, close reading, image labels and interpretation, text-dependent questions, companion texts, and cross-curricular activities. These elements relay foundational social studies content; weave in fire safety, science, civics, economics, and more; and meet many K–1 ELA CCSS.
Featured K–1 ELA Common Core State Standards
- RI.K.2/RI.1.2: Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text (with prompting and support).
- W.K.8/W.1.8: With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
- SL.K.1/SL.1.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade K/1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.
- L.K.4/L.1.4: Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade K/1 reading and content (choosing flexibly from an array of strategies).
Lesson Content Objectives
- Identify community helpers that are involved in responding to and fighting fires
- Describe different types of communities and how firefighters and other helpers respond differently in each
- Explain why we need community helpers, and why being a firefighter is a difficult job
- Make inferences related to the images to find out more information about fires and firefighters
Duration: 1–2 days
Materials: Copies of Fire! Fire! by Gail Gibbons; KWL worksheet/ chart paper; markers; copies of companion text Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest (optional)
Vocabulary: (may be used to create word clouds)
Fire-related/descriptive words: flame, stove, smoke alarm, scream, burning, poisonous gases, heat, smoke, explosion, danger, blaze, fire hydrants, rubble, old electrical wire, ignited, spread, dies down, lightning, plume, damaged, burn, sizzles, cracks
Firefighter/action/equipment words: fire-dispatch center, dispatcher, firehouse, firefighters, action, brass poles, fire engines, fire-fighting gear, positions, trucks, sirens, lights, flash, scene, fire chief, hoses, water, company, officer, search, ladder tower, rescued, aerial ladder, sprayed, roof, battling, fire hydrants, pumps, control, water pressure, discharge hoses, streams, equipment, report, duty, practice, train, teach, fire prevention, emergency call, volunteer firefighters, tanker truck, help, stream, sucked, pumped, saved, clean up, radios, propeller planes, smoke jumpers, jumpsuits, parachute, supplies, dig, fire stop, bulldozer, doused, chemicals, smother, filed, fireboats, water nozzles, jets, patrol, alert, needed
Image labels: smoke alarm, alarm room, ladder-tower truck, aerial-ladder truck, breathing apparatus, searchlight, standpipe, wrecking bar, ax, sledgehammer, pike pole, first-aid kit, ambulance, hydrant wrench, fire hydrant, pumper truck, discharge hose, soft-suction hose, fire chief, chief’s car, tanker truck, portable water tank, hard-suction hose, strainer, fire tower, lookout’s cabin, forest-ranger station, backpack water pump, shovel, chainsaw, fireboat, water nozzle, police boat
- Share the title, cover, and author/illustrator of Fire! Fire! with students. Ask: “What do you see on the cover? From this title and these images, what do you think this book is about? Is it fiction or nonfiction?”
- Create a KWL chart and have students share what they know and want to know about fires and firefighters. Explain that firefighters are community helpers, and briefly explain what a community is and why we need helpers. Ask what other helpers are in a community (police officers, paramedics, school bus drivers, teachers, librarians, etc.). Tell students to listen for other helpers who are involved in responding to fires, and that you will revisit the chart after reading.
- Read the book aloud. Pause as needed to explain or repeat certain words or phrases. Ask again: “Is this book fiction or nonfiction? How do you know?” Point out the labels in the images.
- While reading, or after you are finished, have students help generate categories of vocabulary words (see lists above): fire-related/ descriptive words; firefighter/action/equipment words; community words; image labels; etc. Discuss how the words are connected.
- Revisit the KWL chart and correct information in the K column as needed. Ask: “What other community helpers are mentioned and/or shown in this book? (Guide students to find the evidence: dispatchers; paramedics--pictured on p. 10 with ambulance; volunteers; forest ranger; pilots—pictured on pp. 28-30; police officer--pictured on police boat on p. 33) Tell students that people who call the emergency number when there is a fire are also important helpers, as well as people who guide others to follow an escape route to safety. Add new things learned to the W and L columns.
- Tell students they are going to reread the text to answer some important questions. Give each child or group a copy of the book. Answer the following text-dependent questions together by way of modeling/thinking aloud and/or guided group discussion/writing/dictation. Model for students how to closely read for evidence and how to cite evidence from the text in answering questions.
- What is the main topic of this book? (There are many different types and locations of fires and firefighters, but these community helpers are ready to fight fires as soon as they are needed. – p. 35) What are some details that help you know the main topic? (Explain that information throughout the book—such as the settings, equipment, types of fires—leads up to this main topic, which is stated like a conclusion at the end, but sometimes the main topic/idea of a book is stated at the beginning.)
- Read these sentences on page 2: “A phone call alerts the fire-dispatch center. Instantly, a dispatcher calls the firehouse nearest the fire.” What does the word alerts mean? Use this word in a sentence.
- How do the images and labels provide information about fires and firefighters? Describe some of these images. Which labels did you find most helpful, and why? Which would you like to add?
- What are the four different communities in this book where fires occur? (city, country town, forest, waterfront) Describe each type of community and how the setting affects how the firefighters respond and use different equipment in each. Choose two communities and tell how they are alike and how they are different. (You may use a Venn diagram to compare/contrast.)
- Do you think it is easy or difficult to be a firefighter? Explain your answer. (Guide children to infer that this is a very difficult job by finding evidence together: living at the fire house; being on call day and night to respond immediately; having to act quickly; lifting and moving heavy equipment; wearing heavy suits; taking risks; battling fires in different places; cleaning up; filing reports; practicing and training; teaching others; etc.)
- What type of community would you like to live in, and why? How would you be a helper in your community?
Differentiation: You may omit the KWL chart and discussion of other types of helpers and focus solely on the text, briefly explaining what a community is and why helpers are needed. Children may answer some questions by drawing pictures with labels. You may assign various extension activities to different groups of students by ability.
Featured Extensions (optional)
Fire Safety: Read the information at the end of the book about preventing fires and steps to follow if there is a fire. Review the escape route for the classroom and school, and have a practice fire drill. Encourage children to talk with their parents or guardians about having a plan at home, as well as smoke alarms and fire extinguishers.
Reading: As a companion text, read Firefighters A to Z by Chris L. Demarest. Have students add to the lists of fire-related/descriptive words and firefighter/action/equipment words. Compare and contrast the two texts and their images, perhaps by using a Venn diagram.
Real-Life Connection: Have a firefighter, dispatcher, paramedic, and/or police officer come talk to the class about his or her job. Take a field trip to a fire house to see the equipment and where these helpers live while on duty.