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Urban Planning, City Design #1: Tuning In to City Planning

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students “tune in” to their new unit by sampling the content of some of the collection’s picture books.  Using at least three picture books, the children will see how many elements of cities and neighborhoods they can spot in their favorite stories.  They will then use their information to create a class cityscape.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To find elements of neighborhoods or cities in some of the library’s picture book collections.  (AASL 1.1.6: “Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g. textual, visual media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning.”)

Suggested Time:

35-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Each child will identify at least 10 places or structures commonly found in cities or neighborhoods.  Children will use then use the information to make a quick sketch of one place often found in a city.  When these are displayed together, the class will have a “tuning-in” cityscape!

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Explain that, at the beginning of this new unit on city planning, we will sample a small bit of the library’s collection to see what we can find out about cities.  There is a lot of information “hidden” in rhymes, pictures, and symbols in some of our picture books.

Pass out blank paper and pencils.  Ask the children to listen and watch for places commonly found in cities.  In some of the stories these are not explicitly named, so they will have to be listening and watching carefully!   Instruct them to take notes on only one side of the paper.  The back side of the paper has a special purpose, and they will find out about that at the end of the information gathering.

2. Main:

Choose three story books to read and discuss together.  Try to use short texts so that you can expose the children to several different authors, illustrators, and styles.  As you work through the stories, ask the kids to jot a few notes, perhaps in a graphic organizer or mind map, about what they see or hear that is commonly found in a city or neighborhood.

They should come up with things like:

Gardens Offices Airport
Restaurants Homes Train Station / Stop
Schools Shops / Markets Bus Station / Stop
Barber/Beauty Shops Parks / Playgrounds Bridges / Roads / Tunnels
Malls Stadiums Lakes / Mountains, etc.
Swimming Pools Museums Police / Fire Station

Each child should independently collect at least ten ideas about what is commonly found in cities and neighborhoods.  If the students do not have ten ideas each, encourage them to talk with a partner and trade ideas so that their lists are complete.

Ask the children to turn their paper over, and in five minutes quickly sketch one of their ideas.  Don’t give them much time – this is just a “get it down on paper” activity.  Be sure to ask the children to place the bottom of any buildings at the bottom of the paper and to fill the entire space.  Hopefully this will be enough so that the cityscape elements will visually fit next to each other.

3. Conclusion:

Ask the children to tidy up and come back together.  Next, ask them to line up and hold their papers so that the pictures face outward.  The pictures should form a class cityscape that they can display and show their teacher.

  1. Paper and pencils.
  2. Colored pencils / crayons / markers.
  3. Selection of picture books that represent cities and neighborhoods.

Although I have written this lesson to do as a class, you could also set up stations and have children work independently in small groups.

The goal of this lesson is to get the children to think broadly about what is found in cities and neighborhoods.  Some of the recommended texts do this more than others.  Please use books you have in your collection.

If you have a longer period, you can extend the lesson by having the children use magazine clippings or found materials to create individual cityscapes.  Sarah McMenemy’s work in her “Panorama Pops” series is very inspiring.  She is an illustrator who is well known for her renderings of buildings and architecture.

Recommended books for this lesson:

Please choose a sample of picture books from your collection that either talk about or show cities and neighborhoods.  There are many to choose from, but over the years I have used:

  1. Home by Jeannie Baker.
  2. Only One Neighborhood by Marc Karshman and Barbara Garrison.
  3. All Through My Town by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Leo Timmers.
  4. Round Trip by Ann Jonas.
  5. Wow! City! By Robert Neubecker
  6. Busytown or any of the books in the “Busytown” series by Richard Scarry.
  7. London, Paris, New York, or any of the “Panorama Pops” city books by Sarah McMenemy.
Key Terms:

Cities, Neighborhoods, Parks, Shops, Roads, Hospitals, Schools, Urban Planning, City Planning, Urban Renewal