What's Public? What's Private?

K, 1, 2

The students learn the difference between public and private, and categorize a list of places as public or private. They determine what is their responsibility to care for public (common) areas and share their new understanding by making posters about taking care of "common" or public areas in the school.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Thirty-Forty Minute Class Period
  • The learner will
  • differentiate between public and private property.
  • list "commons" areas in the school.
  • describe how to take care of "commons" in the school.
  • Recording of This Land Is Your Land (see Bibliographic References)
  • The book This Land Is Your Land (see Bibliographic References)
  • Chart paper or chalkboard for a T-Chart and a school "commons" list
  • Large construction paper in various colors
  • Crayons, markers, colored pencils
  • Public/Private Log (Attachment One)
  • Letter to Send Home (Attachment Two)
Home Connection 

Send Public/Private Log (see Attachment One) and Letter to Send Home (see Attachment Two) home with students. Explain what the note says and what they will have to do. Their paper must be signed by a parent or other significant adult and returned in three days. Check for understanding of the word log. If necessary, explain that it is a way of keeping track of something. It is a way to keep a record.

  • Guthrie, Woody and Arlo Guthrie. This Land Is Your Land. Rounder Kids C8050. Rounder Records Corp., 1997.
  • Guthrie, Woody and Kathy Jakobsen. This Land Is Your Land. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Play the song "This Land Is Your Land" and sing along, using the book as a guide if you like.


  2. Refer to the pages in the book This Land Is Your Land where the "No Trespassing" and the "Public Park" signs are shown. Ask students what the word public means. (A place where everyone can go.) Look at the picture to describe what the public park has to offer for everyone (swimming, hiking, camping picnicking, boating, etc.). Explain that public areas are sometimes called commons, a place we all have, where we can all go. Who is responsible for taking care of these places? (We are.)

  3. To make sure students understand the difference between private and public areas, ask:

    • Why is there a No Trespassing sign in the picture? (Someone lives there.)
    • What is the difference between public and private? (Private belongs to someone; Public belongs to everyone.)
    • Would it be good if every place were public? What about your home? Discuss why there is a need for both public and private land.
  4. Make a T-Chart with Public/Private at the top. Ask children to name places in the community. Then have the group decide if it fits under public or private (possible places include: church, playground, school, friend's home, the beach in front of someone's home).

  5. Ask students to think about the school. It isn't private, but there are some areas where you generally don't go unless invited or asked to go. Ask students to give examples of these areas, (principal's office, another teacher's classroom). There are some areas where everyone goes. These areas are called commons. List some of the commons in the school: lunchroom/cafeteria, playground, gym, hallways, auditorium, lavatories, etc.

  6. Review the meaning of volunteer (a person who does something without getting paid) and philanthropy (giving of your time, talent, or treasure). Explain that volunteers help make the world a better place for us all.

  7. When students think of commons areas in the school, what do they believe they could do to make them better or encourage other students to make them a better place for everyone? Go through the list and have students give suggestions.

  8. Distribute paper and colored pencils, markers or crayons. Have students select one of these things they would like to make a poster about. Explain the task: Make a poster with a drawing and a saying that tells others how we can all take care of our commons. Their posters will be posted in the commons area they wrote about. It will help create awareness of the areas we all use and serve as a reminder of the importance of caring for our commons. Give examples: cafeteria - throw away your own trash, hallways--walk quietly.


Assessment will be made on the teacher's observation of learner participation and completion of the assignment.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners will design posters to share with other learners in the school regarding the care of the commons areas in the school.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.8 Recognize the difference between private property and common resources.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Identify the "commons" in the school and neighborhood.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.