Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Comte Tell Me What You Know

The Foundations of Sociology

Chelsee Wilson | Published: July 13th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Sociology
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3
  • Duration More 180


Understanding the contributions of sociological theorists can provide insight into the field of sociology. This lesson explores the contributions of eight key figures and enables students to dive deep into research to learn more. This lesson should be taught after students have a working knowledge of foundational sociological theorists.

Essential Question(s)

Why do we research? What impact does research have on a field of study?



Students discuss what they know about sociological theorists.


Students select a key sociological figure and start a KWHL chart.


Students complete their KWHL chart as they research their key sociological theorist.


Students create a Bento Box project over a key sociological theorist.


Students participate in a Gallery Walk before making revisions.


  • Lesson Slides

  • Name Strips (attached, cut out 1 strip per student)

  • KWHL Graphic Organizer Chart (attached, 1 per student)

  • Bento Box example (attached)

  • Internet

  • Google Slides, Canva, Piktochart

  • Sticky Notes

  • Pens/pencils

  • Graphic Organizer-Students

  • Graphic Organizer-Teachers (optional)


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson.

Using the Tell Me Everything strategy, begin the class by displaying slide 2 and ask students “Who are the key foundational theorists in sociology?” Ask students to share out their answers and write them down as they share out.

As the list develops, display slide 3.

Ask students if they notice any trends in the list. For example, students may know only one or two names, the list may include only men, or the list may not include anyone of color.

Show students slides 4 and 5.

Ask students if they recognize any of the figures. Allow time for students to share out if they do see a figure they recognize. Share with students that the figures are key sociological figures, and they are the individuals on the list below.

  • Auguste Comte

  • Emile Durkheim

  • Harriet Martineau

  • Herbert Spencer

  • Max Weber

  • C. Wright Mills

  • Karl Marx

  • W.E.B. Dubois

Change to slide 6 and introduce the title. Then move to the lesson's essential questions on slide 7: 

  • Why do we research?

  • What impact does research have on a field of study? 

Ask students to, over the course of this lesson, think about these questions in relation to sociology and the roles and motivations of various theorists who contributed to the study of sociology. 

Show slide 8. Introduce the lesson objectives. Address these expectations with students to prepare them for their learning.


20 Minute(s)

Display slide 9. Ask students to draw their sociological figures at random by selecting a slip of paper from a container. They will use the theorist they select to complete a KWHL activity.

Display slide 10. Explain to students the KWHL Graphic Organizer strategy.

Once students have selected their sociological theorist, pass out copies of the KWHL Graphic Organizer Chart handout and have students write the name of the theorist at the top of the chart.

Next, ask students to fill in the "K" column with everything they already know about their sociological theorist. Allow 3–5 minutes of writing time.

Display slide 11. Ask students to fill in the "W" column with everything they want to know about their sociological theorist. Give students an additional 3–5 minutes for this part of the activity.

Display slide 12. Ask students to fill in the "H" column with ideas about how they might find the information they listed in their "W" column. Tell students that this will serve as an action plan as they research their sociological theorist.


60 Minute(s)

Using their KWHL Charts (specifically the "W" and "H" columns) as a reference, assign students to consult their textbooks and/or appropriate online resources to find the information they identified in the "W" column.

Display slide 13. As students research, ask them to take appropriate notes about their findings and write down where they found the information. In their notes, students might include the following information relating to their sociological theorists:

  • Notable accomplishments

  • Education or background

  • Sociological interests

  • What impact did they have on the field of sociology?

  • Interesting facts


30 Minute(s)

Display slide 15. Explain to students that they will be using their research over their sociological figure to create a Bento Box project. Students will “translate” their research into images related to their figures. For example, the student researching Karl Marx may note that he is a key figure in critical theory. Because of that connection, the student may select an image of a raised fist to represent the challenge of power structures that are so often embedded in critical theory.

Assign students to create one image made up of 5-7 different image components, similar to the composition of Japanese bento box-style meals served in a compartmentalized box.

Additionally, have each student write a very brief summary of their selected theorist on their project. For reference, a sample Bento Box project is located in the attachments and on slide 16.

Once students have completed their projects, ask them to briefly share out their understanding of each of the assigned theorists. This share out will help students have an understanding of what they should be looking for when they participate in the Gallery Walk later on.


35 Minute(s)

Ask students to post their projects on the wall to prepare for a modified Gallery Walk activity where they will view their classmates’ projects. Give students some sticky notes and have them grab a pen or pencil. This modified Gallery Walk will need to take place in a few rounds, so students can stand by their Bento Box project and succinctly explain their reasoning to their peers.

Display slide 17. As they move around the room to view the projects, encourage students to use sticky notes to provide feedback or praise for other students' projects.

Once students have completed their gallery walks and presentations, give them time to review the feedback and make any changes that they see fit.

Display slide 18. Have students return to their KWHL Charts and fill out the "L" column with what they have learned about their assigned sociological theorist(s).

Have students turn in their KWHL charts, research notes, and Bento Box project. Consider providing feedback about their research techniques and providing suggestions that can aid them in their next research project.