Rice and Spice

LESSON 1: Introduction to rice cultures: How significant is rice in the cultures of Southeast Asia?

This lesson plan introduces students to the history of rice cultures that includes discussion of early domestication of rice and adaptation of cultivation methods to the varied topography of Southeast Asia. In examining rice production systems, students will also learn about social organization, agrarian cultures and economies, gendered division of labor, and material cultures (e.g., architecture) of different Southeast Asian communities.

Subject History / Social Studies
Topic Introduction to Rice Cultures: How significant is rice in the cultures of Southeast Asia?
Key idea Rice is central to Southeast Asian food cultures, social relations, village organization, and belief systems.
Key concepts Domestication of rice
Division of labour
Staple food
Adaptation to topography
Level Lower secondary
No. of periods / lessons 1 period, or 2 periods if the recommended video is screened (1 period is approximately 50 minutes)
Facilities needed A/V equipment and Internet access to play the video clips (or hard copy with similar content)
Sources and handouts for distribution
Prerequisite knowledge No prerequisite knowledge is required.

Learning objectives
By the end of the lesson, the students will be able to:

  1. State the conditions for growing rice.
  2. Describe the ecosystems of rice and grain.
  1. Engage in the study of a variety of sources
    (charts, greetings, sayings, excerpts from
    books and songs, films) to draw inferences
    about the significance of rice in Southeast
    Asian cultures and the nature of rice
    cultivation in the region.
  2. Explain how sources provide evidence of the
    significance of rice in Southeast Asia and the
    nature of rice cultivation in the region.
  1. Recognize how rice is entrenched in
    Southeast Asian culture through exposure
    to the greetings, sayings and proverbs that
    are associated with rice.
  2. Demonstrate the centrality of rice in
    Southeast Asian cultures from statements and proverbs associated with rice.
  3. Realize how our cultures are connected by the importance of rice.
  4. Appreciate the labour, social cooperation,
    ingenuity and innovation demonstrated in
    rice cultivation. Provide examples from the
    sources as evidence that rice cultivation is
    complex and requires social cooperation to
    free up the labour necessary to maintain the infrastructures of rice production


Download the lesson plan for details on the talks and activities suggested below.

1. Teacher greeting

Children become aware about the many greetings related to rice in the region.

2. Teacher talk

Using Source 2, the teacher explains how we can also observe how important rice is in Southeast Asian culture by the sayings and proverbs associated with rice.

3. Pair work

In pair, students read various sayings linked to rice and try to infer what they  mean.

4. Video: One Day in the Life of a Rice Farmer

Students get exposed to a day in the life of a rice farmer in M’lang (the South of the Philippines) and reflect on the process of rice production.

A film by Alexander Baumgartner (35 minutes):

Note: Watching this video is optional, if the lesson can be conducted over 2 periods. Alternatively, students can watch it as part of preparation.

5. Cloze (gap-fill) activity

Students learn vocabulary on the rice cultivation cycle.

6. Teacher talk

This lecture explain the conditions suitable for rice cultivation. It highlights that the process of rice planting is very laborious and needs the cooperation and coordination of a community.

7. Discussion

Students study sources and conclude how laborious the process of rice cultivation is and how it requires the collaboration and ingenuity of a whole community.

Students read a short article from a writer and debate in class if they agree or not with her statement.

Suggested home extension activities

  • Students find more saying related to rice by interviewing their family members.
  • Students find more information about rice by interviewing family members, neighbors or by undertaking online research.