What is Community?

In this lesson students will identify people and places that make their own neighborhoods special. Extension activities explore science elements raised in the story.
Grade Level


In this lesson, students will:

  • Use skills and strategies of the reading process
  • Practice listening and speaking skills
  • Answer questions with purpose
  • Apply what they learn to their own lives through artwork
Essential Questions
  • What is community?
  • How and why is our community special?
  • Are we more than the labels that are sometimes applied to us, such as “teacher” or “student”?
  • What strategies can we use to understand difficult vocabulary or writing?
  • How can our ideas be presented so others will understand them well?
  • at least one copy of “The Gift” for whole-class reading
  • crayons or colored pencils
  • paper


neighborhood | nābər hoŏd| (noun) an area where people live near one another

community |kə myoōnitē| (noun) a group of people living together in one place; all the people living in a particular area or place

tiller |ˈtilər| (noun) a machine for breaking up soil; a plow or cultivator

chemical | kemikəl| (noun) a substance used in or produced by a chemical process

litmus paper |ˈlitməs ˈpāpər| (noun) a small strip of treated paper used in chemistry, which turns red in an acid and blue in a base

acid | asid| (noun) a chemical substance that dissolves in water, has a sour taste and turns litmus paper red

base |bās| (noun) a chemical compound that reacts with acid to form salt and turns litmus paper blue



  1. Close your eyes and think for one minute about your street or neighborhood. What are some things you like about it? Share one of those things with the class or in a small group.
  2. We’re going to read a book called “The Gift” about a boy who goes in search of hidden presents in his neighborhood. (Note: For preK and K classrooms,“The Gift” should be read first as a whole class to familiarize students with the storyline and its higher-level vocabulary; after the initial reading, allow students to read the book on their own as well. Students in grades 1 and 2 can read the book individually or in small groups to start, depending on needs.)
  3. If you run across a difficult word, look at the pictures for clues about the word’s meaning. If the pictures don’t help, read ahead a page or two, or go back a page or two, and then re-read the part with the difficult word. Sometimes, knowing more about the story can clarify the meaning of unknown words.
  4. What were the gifts in Max’s neighborhood? What does Max learn about the meaning of “community”?
  5. Remember some of the things we said we liked about our own streets or neighborhoods. After reading “The Gift,” would you change or add things to your answers? Why?
  6. Now it’s time for you to make a map (or picture) of your neighborhood and its gifts, just like Max did in the book.
  7. Now, let’s hang all of our pictures up in a “The Gifts of Our Community” display. Volunteer to share some of the things that make your neighborhood special.
  8. Looking at our collection, how are our neighborhoods the same? How are they different? How does this diversity help make each of our neighborhoods special? How does it make the larger community we share special?

(Refer back to the class’s “The Gifts of Our Community” display as you continue to explore the theme of “neighborhood and community.”)


Extension Activity

“The Gift” introduces several science themes appropriate for early grades exploration—with adult supervision, if course: 

  • Ms. Price teaches Max, Chloe, Lei and Chen about acids and bases. Replicate the lesson using ProTeacher’s Do Science activity.
  • Learn more about ways schools are using gardens to build community in A Bountiful Harvest.
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