Global School Project
The University of South Florida
Social Studies Education Program
Title: The Elements of Culture
Author: Rodeline Belizaire
Abstract: This lesson will introduce students to the basic elements of culture. Students
will participate in a “Chalk Talk” to explore their own understanding of culture. A read-
aloud of “100% American” and a map activity will help students to further understand the concept of cultural diffusion.
Intended Grade Level: 9
Infusion/Subject Area(s): Cultural Geography, Human Geography
Class Period (s): Two 50-minute periods
National Curriculum Standards:
National Geography Standards
Standard 6: How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of
places and regions.
Standard 10: The characteristics, distributions, and complexity of Earth's cultural
National Council for the Social Studies
People, Places, and Environments
1. Define culture and explain its Impact.
2. Explain how cultures change, spread, and impact societies.
Learning Activities Sequence:
A. Preview/Set induction: Project slide1 of the enclosed Power Point. Play the
video, World faces. This can be found on You Tube at
B. Write the word “culture” on the board.
C. Invites students to participate in a “Chalk-Talk” by going to go to the board to
create a word web around the word “culture”. Students will come up to the
board one at a time and add one characteristic of culture. They can expand
on a characteristic or write down a new one. Give students about ten minutes
to do this, it is important to give time to get their juices flowing. D. The culture web should include: food, religion, music, family, education,
government, festivals, etc.
E. Use the word web to conduct a general class discussion about the definition
and characteristics of culture.
F. Using slides 1-5 of the enclosed power point, lead a brief discussion on the
role culture plays in forming our behaviors and belief systems.
Closure: using slide 6 of the enclosed power point, have students answer the following
1. Despite the different in cultures found in our class, what are some things that we
all have in common?
2. What elements of American Culture unite us? What elements divide us? 3. Explain how specific elements of your culture has shaped the way you see
yourself and the world around you?
A. Using slide 7 of the enclosed power point, have students answer the following
preview question: “100% American” what images, thoughts, or feeling come
to mind when you read, see, or hear this phrase?
B. Conduct a read aloud using “The 100% American”. Have students jot down
the interesting things they hear from the reading.
C. Use the student generated lists to debrief the read aloud.
D. Ask students to identify the geographic theme covered in “The 100%
E. Explain to that the piece is an example of cultural exchange/ diffusion, in
today’s world it almost impossible to find a culture is uniquely one.
F. Project slide 8 of the enclosed power point. Read “The 100% American”
again, this time ask students to make a mental picture each item on the list
when they hear it.
a. Gaul - historic name used for the people of modern day France,
Luxembourg, and Belgium by the ancient Romans
b. India – Subcontinent – South Asia
c. Asiatic steppes - Eurasian temperate grassland
d. Near East - ancient –Middle East
e. Asia Minor - Middle East
f. Antilles - the Caribbean
g. Persia - Modern day Iran
h. Semites - Jewish sect
i. Hebrew - Jew
j. Indo-European - European
k. Deity - a god
l. Abyssinia - east African ( Ethiopian)
m. Guttenberg Press - invented by the German, Johannes Guttenberg. Closing: place students in pairs with a blank world map and a copy of “100% American”.
Have students use their geography/history textbooks to annotate the above places and each invention used by “Our solid American citizen” on the map to create a visual
depiction of “100 American”.
Materials and resources:
Elements of Culture Power Point
Suggested Teacher resources:
What is Culture? http://anthro.palomar.edu/tutorials/cultural.htm
Our solid American citizen awakens in a bed built on a pattern which originated in the Near East but which was modified in Northern Europe before it was transmitted to America. He throws back covers made from cotton, domesticated in India, or linen, domesticated in the Near East, or wool from sheep, also domesticated in the Near East. He slips into his moccasins, invented by the Indians of the Eastern woodlands, and goes to the bathroom, whose fixtures are a mixture of European and American inventions, both of recent date. He takes off his pajamas, a garment invented in India, and washes with soap invented by the ancient Gauls. He then shaves, a masochistic rite which seems to have been derived from either Sumer or ancient Egypt.
Returning to the bedroom, he removes his clothes from a chair of southern European type and proceeds to dress. He puts on garments whose form originally derived from the skin clothing of the nomads of the Asiatic steppes, puts on shoes made from skins tanned by a process invented in ancient Egypt and cut to a pattern derived from the classical civilizations of the Mediterranean, and ties around his neck a strip of bright-colored cloth which is a vestigial survival of the shoulder shawls worn by the seventeenth century Croatians. Before going out for breakfast he glances through the window, made of glass invented in Egypt, and if it is raining puts on overshoes made of rubber discovered by the Central American Indians and takes an umbrella, invented in southeastern Asia. Upon his head he puts a hat made of felt, a material invented in the Asiatic steppes.
On his way to breakfast he stops to buy a paper, paying for it with coins, an ancient Lydian invention. At the restaurant a whole new series of borrowed elements confronts him. His plate is made of a form of pottery invented in China. His knife is of steel, an alloy first made in southern India, his fork a medieval Italian invention, and his spoon a derivative of a Roman original. He begins with an orange, from the eastern Mediterranean, a cantaloupe from Persia, or perhaps a piece of African watermelon. With this he has coffee, an Abyssinian plant, with cream and sugar. Both the domestication of cows and the idea of milking them originated in the Near East, while sugar was first made in India. After his fruit and first coffee he goes on to waffles, cakes made by a Scandinavian technique from wheat domesticated in Asia Minor. Over these he pours maple syrup, invented by the Indians of Eastern woodlands. As a side dish he may have the egg of a species of bird domesticated in Indo-China, or thin strips of the
flesh of an animal domesticated in Eastern Asia which have been salted and smoked by a process developed in Northern Europe.
When our friend has finished eating, he settles back to smoke, an American Indian habit, consuming a plant domesticated in Brazil in either a pipe, derived from the Indians of Virginia, or a cigarette, derived from Mexico. If he is hardly enough he may even attempt a cigar, transmitted to us from the Antilles by way of Spain. While smoking, he reads the news of the day, imprinted in characters invented by the Semites upon a material invented in China by a process invented in Germany. As he absorbs the account of foreign troubles he will, if he is a good conservative citizen, thank a Hebrew deity in an Indo-European language that he is 100 percent American.
From The Study of Man, by Ralph Linton (New York: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1936), pp.326-327.