SUBJECT: American History/ Geography
TOPIC: Native Americans
GRADE LEVEL: Upper Elementary
CREATORS: Laurence Hemingway, Jennifer Miller, Christina Ogle, Justine Urso, Karen Wisniewski


Native American Thematic Unit

Unit Goals


Current Student Skills


Skills to Teach with this Unit



Michigan Social Studies Framework Strands and Benchmarks
Historical Perspective Students use knowledge of the past to construct meaningful understanding of our diverse cultural heritage and to inform their civic judgments.
Geographic Perspective Students will use knowledge of spatial patterns on earth to understand processes that shape human environments and to make decisions about society.
Inquiry Students will use methods of social science investigation to answer questions about society. 
1.2 Comprehending the past. 
2.1  Diversity of people, places, and cultures. 
2.2 Human/Environment interaction. 
2.4 Regions, patterns, and processes.
5.1 Information processing.

Unit Plan Road Map

Week One

Introduction to Indian Unit
Click here for lesson plan.
Book: Native Americans by Miller
Activities: KWL Strategy 

Southwest Indians
Click here for lesson plan.
Book: When Clay Sings by Baylor
Activities: Students weave construction paper placemats to be used at the party
Introduce the Navaho Beauty Song.

Southwest Indians
Book: Turquoise Boy by Cohlene
Activities: Make a map on Navaho life including a key showing drawings of types of homes they lived in and the food they ate.
Students make a tree diagram outlining the corn cycle.
Sing the Navaho Beauty Song. 

Plains Indians
Click here for lesson plan.
Book: The Legend of the Bluebonnet by de Paola
Activities: Students illustrate the rain cycle on worksheet.
Students dance the Plains' Indians Rain Dance. 

Plains Indians
Book: The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses by Gable
Activities: Categorize Plains' animals and discuss the 5 main Plains' animal groups.
Make an Indian poster about what has been learned about Plains' Indians.
Make a tepee model from straws, clay, and construction paper. 

Week Two

Southeast Indians
Book: Dancing Drum by Cohlene
Activities: Make a buckskin vest out of a paper bag .
In cooperative groups. Role play the Indian stories that have been previously read.

Northeast Algonquin Indians
Book: The Rough-Face Girl by Martin
Activities: Make an Indian necklace from colored macaroni.
As a whole class make a comparison map, on the board, showing similarities between Cinderella and the Rough-Face Girl. 

Northeast Algonquin Indians
Book: The Star Maiden by Esbensen
Activities: Make moccasins from construction paper to match the students foot size and use them to measure classroom items.
Cut out flower from worksheet and label the various parts. 

Fieldtrip to Cranbrook
Click here for write-up.

Northwest Indians
Book: How Raven Brought Light to People by Dixon
Activities: Make a chain of ideas about how life would be different without the sun.
Use black and white construction paper to draw a day sky and night sky and write something that can be done during the day but not at night. 

Week Three

Inuit (Eskimo)

[Cultural Note: Inuit is the modern day term for what many people call Eskimo. However, Eskimo is a derogatory term for the Inuit of Labrador and some other regions. It is equivalent to the "n" word that many people in the past used for African Americans.
Thanks to Sharon Edmund from Labrador, in north eastern Canada, who coordinates a teacher training program for the Inuit.]

Click here for lesson plan.
Book: Song of Sedna by San Souci
Activities: Review Arctic climate and brainstorm with students about other ways in which Inuits might get food or clothing.
Make a class chart comparing and contrasting Inuit life with our life in the United States.
Use personal journal writing time to write about what may have happened after the end of the story. 

Native Americans
Book: Brother Eagle, Sister Sky by Jeffers
Activities: Write a letter to Chief Seattle about today's environment..
Make Indian pudding for the class party. 

Click here for lesson plan.
Video: The Native Americans by Turner Broadcasting
Activities: Wear previous made vests, head dresses, and macaroni necklaces.
Watch video and write reactions in personal journal.
Make beans and tortillas.
Brainstorm what has been learned.



The Five Senses

Included in the conclusion activity; students will be making and eating beans and tortillas

Every lesson in the thematic unit will incorporate the sense of sight, students will be looking at pictures from each of the literature books, they will be discussing the sight of day and night sky, and will be watching a video on Native Americans.

Students will be singing Indian chants, as well as hearing several Indian stories throughout the entire Native American unit.

Students will be constructing many hands-activities including weaving Indian placemats, making a buckskin vest and an Indian necklace, students will also be making moccasins and a teepee out of clay and straws.

Will be included in two lessons' making Indian pudding and beans and tortillas.


The Seven Intelligences

Week Two, Wednesday
Make moccasins from construction paper to match the students' foot size and use them to measure classroom items.

Week Two, Monday
In cooperative groups role play Indian stories.

Week Three, Monday
Use personal journal writing time to write about what may have happened after the end of Song of Sedna.

Week Two, Tuesday
As a whole class, make a comparison map, discussing the similarities between Cinderella and the Rough-Faced Girl.

Week One, Wednesday
Make a map on Navaho life including a key showing drawings of types of homes they lived in and the food they ate.

Week One, Thursday
Students dance the Plains" Indians Rain Dance.

Muscial/Rhythmic Intelligence
Week One, Wednesday
Students sing the Navaho Beauty Song.


Bulletin Board

The bulletin board will have a map of North America, which will cover our geographic concept. There will be feathers placed on the map with the different names of the tribes. The feathers will be placed in the areas of where the tribes lived. As the lesson goes on the class will place different crafts and pictures the students have made, and facts that the students have found out about the different tribes on the board. There will be a table under the bulletin board with artifacts and other crafts that the class has made. The table will also contain reference materials that the students will be able to use.


Unit Rubric

Grading for the Indian unit is based on the number of activities successfully completed.
Activities Completed Grade
11-13  A
9-10  B
8-9  C
6-7  D
Less than 6  E
1. Map on Navaho Life
2.  Corn Cycle
3. Weaving
4. Rain Cycle Worksheet
5. Teepee Model
6. Buckskin Vest
7. Necklace Macaroni
8. Moccasin Measuring
9. Flower Parts
10. Day and Night Sky
11. Chart Inuit Life
12. Letter Chief Seattle
13. Video - Reflective Journal



Lesson Plan Day 1: Introduction


Students will understand who Native Americans are, so that after listening to the book Native Americans they will be able to draw a picture which illustrates facts that they learned about Native Americans and will be able to write a short paragraph detailing their picture.



Students should know who Native Americans are, understand their culture, leadership, and understand the structure of various tribes of Native Americans. It is important for students to learn about other cultures.





Students will be told that today we will be starting a new unit on Native Americans. They will be learning about different tribes of Indians and studying the various aspects of the different tribes and people.



  1. Call students to the carpet area. Begin by telling the students that we will be beginning a new unit on Native Americans, and explain that we will be doing some very fun and exciting things while learning about the Native Americans. Show your enthusiasm to the students!
  2. Ask the students what they know about Native Americans placing their responses on butcher paper in the shape of a Native American item. If students are having problems, guide them to more responses by asking questions about Indians. All responses are to be accepted, explaining that we may have to correct some things later.
  3. Ask students what they want to know about Native Americans. Record their responses on another sheet of butcher paper in the shape of a Native American item. Items can be added throughout the unit.
  4. While students are listening, read the book Native Americans. Stop often to discuss pictures and answer questions.
  5. Discuss with students what they learned about Native Americans, writing their responses on a third sheet of butcher paper. Again items will be added to the paper throughout the unit.
  6. Introduce assignment. Explain that each student will receive a piece of drawing paper. On the paper they are to draw a picture which illustrates something new that they learned about Indians. They are then to write a short paragraph explaining their picture. Ask if there are any questions about the assignment.
  7. Instruct students to return to their seats.



To complete the lesson, students will share their illustrations and paragraphs with their classmates.



Students will share their new knowledge of Native Americans orally as a class and will draw a picture which illustrates new facts that they learned about Indians and write a short paragraph describing their picture.



After completion of the lesson, students will be told that they will be continuing their unit on Native Americans tomorrow. They will now prepare for today's next lesson. 


Lesson Plan Day 2: Navaho Indians



It is important that students understand how weaving was an important part of the Navaho Indian's life. It is also important that they also understand that the Navahos performed many different songs that they used to help them complete their tasks.





To learn to weave like the Navaho Indians did and to learn to sing a song they sued while they worked on their weaving.



Today we will begin the lesson by learning a song that the Navaho Indians used while they worked on their weaving.


  1. The teacher will remind the students of the book Turquoise Boy they read at the beginning of the unit.
  2. Talk about how the Navaho Indians used songs when they did their work.
  3. The teacher will bring out a song that has been introduced early in the unit.
  4. The class will review the song.
  5. The teacher will then talk to the class about what weaving is and how the Navaho Indians used it.
  6. After the class has had a talk about weaving, the teacher will explain to the students how they will be doing their own weaving with construction paper.
  7. The teacher will show the class a sample of what the weaving will look like.
  8. The teacher will pass out the art supplies they will need.
  9. Before the teacher shows the class the steps of their weaving project, he or she will explain that they will be singing the chant while they work on their projects.
  10. The students will first fold one sheet of paper in half and cut slots into it.
  11. Next, take the other sheet of paper and cut it into strips across the width.
  12. Take the strips and weave them in and out of the slots.
  13. Glue the edges down so the strips will not fall out.
  14. The students will use the placemats they have woven on the last day of the unit for the part.
  15. The teacher will laminate the students' placemats before the party.



We will finish up the lesson by sharing what we have woven with the rest of the class.



Students should be able to sing a chant as a group while they work on an art project of weaving. 


Lesson Plan Day 4: The Rain Cycle


Students will recreate the rain cycle and show understanding by completing a worksheet.



Students will have a clear and concise understanding of a drought and the effects a drought can have on living things.





The lesson will begin by the class listening to the reading of The Legend of the Blue Bonnet by Tommie De Pola.





After questions have been answered students will draw a picture of the drought suffered in the story and then draw a picture of the drought ending and write 2 sentences about each picture.



The Wrap-up assignment will show if students understand effects of having rain and not having rain. 


Lesson Plan Day 11: Inuit



Students need to understand the vast differences between various cultures and the expanse geography of the world.





Point to the Arctic on the globe and ask students if they think people could possible live there. Discuss why or why not.



  1. Read aloud to the students Song of Sedna.
  2. Discuss with the students how the Inuit depend on the sea for food and clothing.
  3. Discuss the climate of the Arctic and brainstorm with students about other ways in which Inuit might get food or clothing.
  4. Dicsuss if this story is real or make believe and explain what a folk tale is.
  5. Make a chart on the board comparing and contrasting Inuit life with our life in the United States.
  6. Journal Activity (see wrap-up)



Ask students to write a sentence in their journal indicating what they thin happened after the end of the story and draw a picture to go with it.



Ask students where they think other types of Indians may have lived in the past. Locate their answers on the world map. When someone chooses America, explain that Native Americans are another type of Indian that we will be learned about next.



Students will be evaluated based on their participation in the class discussions and their journal activity. 


Lesson Plan Day 13: Conclusion



The Native American diet was dependent upon their environment. The Southwest Indians lived in a dry, hot climate that affected their diet. They ate dry foods such as tortillas and beans. It is necessary that students get a "taste" of some of the different foods in the Southwest Indian diet. Students must also be aware that all of their food was from scratch.





What have we learned about Native Americans that we didn't know before this theme?



  1. Have students put on their vests and headdresses that were made in a previous lesson. Begin by having students answer the question, "What have we learned about Native Americans that we didn't know before this theme?" Record the students' responses either on the overhead or on a piece of butcher paper to display in class when completed.
  2. After this activity, remind students of the Southwest Indian tribes that were discussed earlier in the theme. Explain how beans and corn tortillas are a huge component in their diet. Students will be given a bowl with heated chili beans in it. Show students how to tear off a portion of the tortilla and make a spoon from it. Then, each student will be given a corn tortilla to use as a spoon.
  3. As students eat the beans and tortillas, the reactions of the taste can be discussed.
  4. As students are finishing up their beans and tortillas, direct the students' attention to the VCR. Explain that the video they are about to watch discusses various Native American tribes in the U.S. Turn on video.
  5. After the video, have a brief discussion about the video and explain to the class that they are to write a reflective journal entry that includes at least three facts that were from the video.



When journal entries have been completed, have students orally respond to the question of what they liked most about the Native American theme.



Students will be able to enjoy the diet of the Southwest Indians by eating beans and tortillas. Students will orally give three facts they learned about the Native Americans. Students will be able to write a reflective journal after viewing a video about various Native American tribes. 


Field Trip to Cranbrook Institute of Science

General Information

Cranbrook Institute of Science will take reservations for group appointments by mail, fax or walk-in only. You may call the Institute of Science or a brochure on their group programs and reservation form. Reservations are not taken on the phone.

Front Desk (248) 645-3209
Group Information (248) 645-3210

Admissions Department
Cranbrook Institute of Science
1221 N. Woodward Ave.
P.O. Box 801
Bloomfield Hills, MI 48303-801

Education Programs for this Unit
Waginogan: Students will see Native American exhibits and touch hand-on replicas in a setting which means "The Gathering Place." Students will also sit beside an Indian home and learn about the early people who lived in Michigan. The program will enlarge that historical perspective to contemporary times and discuss Native Americans in and around the Great Lakes areas and their roles in contemporary American and Canadian life.

Outdoor Wigwam Living: Students will take a walk into a secluded area and experience activities which may have been typical of Woodland Indian life. They will also go inside two authentically-constructed bark wigwams and imagine what life might have been like when wigwams were the primary shelters in our area.



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