“We have kids from Nicaragua, Guam, and Africa in my class…”
“We made masks from China, Peru, and Africa…”
“He is been to England, Africa, and Italy”
I have a pet peeve: Africa is not a country. It makes my skin crawl when I hear people referring to Africa as a country, instead of an immensely diverse continent. Did you know Africa has well over 2000 languages and innumerable ethnic groups, in its 54 countries!? Parents and teachers can dispel stereotypes by teaching a variety of stories from different countries in the continent.
One great book that counters stereotypes, “Africa is Not a Country,” gets to the heart of modern Africa: rural and urban families, living contemporary and traditional lives, and children in their homes, with their families, going to school, and playing with their friends. In this activity- which touches on 25 countries in Africa- kids will be locating and coloring countries on the map as they hear them mentioned in the story.
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Africa is Not a Country Lesson Plan:
First, get a copy of the award-winning book “Africa is Not a Country” by Margy Burns Knight and Anne Sibley O’Brien. You will also need markers or crayons, and you should print off a blank political map of Africa. You could print off a map that already has the countries labeled, or you could have older students use the globe to transfer the names to their map (this is what we did).
Read along in the book, and every page you will come across a different country with one or two customs related to kids:
Arim and Efrem have breakfast in Eritrea (sweet, hot tea and bread and butter and marmalade) before their dad goes to their office downtown; Mantoh sells fresh milk from a gourd she carries on her head and has pap– cereal made from corn- for breakfast. From the snowy Drakensberg Mountains of Lesotho, traveling by moutain-savvy ponies to school, to the crowded sidewalks of Cairo, the children go to school. We learn about salt mining in Mali, sweet potato farming in Cape Verde, and fishermen in Senegal.
In the above picture, Ondel and Mbo watch cartoons on the couch after a hot soccer practice in the DRC, while Tadj and Josephine play siega (a type of mancala game) in Sudan. My kids noticed the kids sitting around the fire pit in Somalia, and the tent in Mauritania’s Sahara desert, and that the kids in Algeria sat on the ground around the dinner table.
As you listen to the book, you will begin to see that each page or two mentions a country. I paused as we got to the country name, and the kids took turns finding them on the globe, and then locating them on their own maps. Everyone was in charge of copying the proper name of the country onto their maps and coloring in their countries.
Not only do the kids begin to recognize the names, and learn of customs individual kids, but I think the mini-stories help us identify with children who live in the diverse countries of Africa- reinforcing the idea that Africa in not country, in fact it is a hugely diverse continent. This beginner-level geography lesson is wonderful for kids who love to read books, and makes the book much more interactive that just passively listening.
A very random thing happened *literally* the day after we did this book. My daughter’s class got a new student who just moved here from Egypt. The teacher pulled out the world map and asked the class: “Who can show me where Egypt is?” Vivi was able to go to the front of the class and point out Egypt, and then asked the little boy if he was from Cairo (which he coincidentally was) and instantly our lesson materialized. She came home and found the page and wondered if he walked to school like the girls did in the book. These are mini-steps towards understanding a little more about the world for our kids, and I was so proud of her!:)
Note: I’ve tagged the countries that are listed in the book.
Scooping it up says
Yes Ma’am! Great post!
Mud Hut Mama says
That book is going on our wish list – also a pet peeve of mine. I love how Vivi was able to point out Egypt and ask her new classmate about his country – but I’m not surprised!
Thanks Jody!:) It is SUCH a pet peeve of mine… I am emailing everyone right now about the Cinderella Project:)!!!!!
Lynn Hollaway says
ii i SPENT 2-8 MONTHS IN AFRICA EVERY OTHER YEAR BECAUSE MY DAUGHTER LIVES AND HAS A TRAINING CENTER IN JINJA, UGANDA, AFRICA, THAT TRAINS WOMEN WITH SKILLS THAT WILL PROVIDE THEM A WAY TO MAKE MONEY TO SUPPORT THEIR CHILDREN. i BELIEVE THE CHILDREN OF AFRICA WOULD BENIFET FROM YOUR BOOKS BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO CONCEPT OF A VILLAGE AN HOUR AWAY LET ALONE OTHER COUNTRIES. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK.
What Do We Do All Day? says
Thanks for linking up to After School, I’ve featured your post on today’s link-up. http://www.whatdowedoallday.com/2012/09/after-school-link-up.html
Thank you!:) I love all of the ideas that everyone posted!
What Do We Do All Day? says
…. and thanks for linking it up to the Children’s Bookshelf, too!
Yasna Conejeros Rojas says
Thanks! It’s easy, and a great learning tool for beginning geography (even I learned something!)…
Bethany @ No Twiddle Twaddle says
Okay, we really need to check out this book. I think my kids would love it. Thank you for linking up to The Children’s Bookshelf!
Yes! My library had it- you could also try an interlibrary loan (my favorite invention!).
I love this! It is so true, people often speak of Africa as a country. What a great resource to help kids appreciate the continent’s diversity!
Yes, it is my pet peeve. It’s ok to refer to it as a continent if you are also referring to Asia as a continent, or Europe, but it drives me crazy when people can be so specific about certain places, and then group all the enormous diversity of Africa into one lump. But this book is such a great introduction!
Renee C. says
That’s one of my pet peeves too! In fact, my 6 year-old son referred to Africa as a country. Ok, he’s only 6 and I wasn’t peeved at him, but it does happen frequently. There is incredible cultural diversity within the CONTINENT of Africa yet so many people lump the African people together as one homogenous group. What a fabulous book! I love how they have all the flags. 🙂
Yes! It happens more frequently than it should. The book is excellent- it highlights some differences between the countries, but also differences between rural and city:).
I’m so glad this is a peeve of yours, Becky. Being from Nigeria, it’s a peeve of mine too! Awesome that there’s a book that talks specifically about this stereotype. You’ve probably come across Ifeoma Onyefulu’s books – some of them are sadly out of print, or available only in paperback; but we do have some here at the library, if you haven’t already seen them. These are great books because they highlight diversity in culture and tradition, and most especially show children being children, doing ordinary things that children all over the world do – the exoticism is taken out of these; and culture is put into context of life.
“they highlight diversity in culture and tradition, and most especially show children being children, doing ordinary things that children all over the world do – the exoticism is taken out of these; and culture is put into context of life.” Exactly!! Exactly. Kids around the world come home to their parents after school, and talk about their day, play with their siblings, do chores… :). I like when books teach us about a different perspective or way of doing things, but also show us how we really are all alike as well.
I need to check out some of her books! I thought that most were out of print or unavailable!
Yes!! Of course, that’s why the public library is so awesome – because we’re bound to have some of those out of print books! She has been coming out with a new book every year or so for the last few years. The newest one we have is called Omer’s favorite place. Enjoy!
Thank you so much! I will request it!:)
Loved the political map idea. A colleague just loaned me the book. I will begin by going back and having the children color in all of the countries that were settings in the African folk literature we read.
Here’s an interesting fact. Most of my students are of African descent, but did not realize they are because they are only aware of their Caribbean heritage. It made a great starting point for our study of Africa.
That is fascinating! I am just working on a post about genealogy, and how knowing our own cultural heritage helps us to learn about our place in the world:).
My son spent 3 days studying Australia in his Kindergarten Enrichment class and one day on Africa (though Egypt was studied earlier, as if it is separate from Africa.) Major pet peeve. Thank you!
Yes! Ugh!!!! If they only had a day to dedicate, maybe pick one particular culture and focus on them? Otherwise it’s just “Look, safari animals!”
Kelly H. says
Thanks for this! I’ll need to add this to my list. If you need some more ideas for books about different countries in Africa, here’s a list I set up. Thanks again. I’ll add the book to my list. 🙂
I hear you. I grew up in South Africa but have lived in the Uk for ages and I hate it when people talk about Africa as a country. What a lovely looking book adding the book to my list.
Lauren Kent says
Thank you so much! This ia probably the first time that I have seen a preschool theme on South Africa that actually represents my country is an informed South-Africa-is-actually-a-coutry-and-just-a-south-part-of-africa. And the Africa is a country thing. Oh my. Just thank you!
Thank you for this article. I’ll check if I can order it from France.
French people also say thing like “Africa this amazing country” (in a tv show while all a season in East Africa) or “with my class, we’ll do a trip around the world through the year with China/Japan (!!!!), USA, Australia, India and Africa”.
So this month with my daughter we are only studying Senegal and it’s pretty difficult to have good resources as most of them are about “Africa” or “west Africa”
YES! Agh. Even world leaders make this mistake- I always catch people and gently correct them!