Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Home

Spaces and Places of the Native Americans

Yolanda U.Trapp

Contents of Curriculum Unit 05.03.07:

To Guide Entry

Rationale or Purpose

As a teacher, I am always looking to continue learning by and through writing curriculum that is specific to my students. I seek to motivate teachers interested in implementing my unit to be creative with the lessons, thus encouraging and fostering sensitivity and originality.

The main purpose of the complete unit is to motivate students to learn and understand those people who lived in North America, long before Christopher Columbus came to the New World. Students will discover the rich culture and ancient history of the Native Americans through text, illustrations, and small group work in reading, writing and drawing.

In this unit, children will be learning some basic knowledge about the Native American tribes, ranging from the Semiole of Florida to the Chilkat of Alaska. They will learn about the different kinds and uses of Indian shelters. They will learn to understand architecture as an artistic mode that expresses both interior and exterior space. They will also begin to recognize its relationship to the environment, cultural influences, and needs of the different tribes.

Students will investigate tepees, pueblos, and other traditional dwellings and explore life style and skills. A helpful Native American resource book for this unit is From Abenaki to Zuni, A Dictionary of North American Tribes, by Evelyn Wolfson, 1988. This dictionary gives tribal names, their meaning, location, type of dwelling, clothing, means of transportation and food.

It also addresses a brief history of the first Americans. However for better understanding the unit will focus two regions : Eastern Woodlands and California. Lesson Plans include District New Haven Content Standards and are designed for Grades 5 and 6.

to top


To explain the purpose of my unit, I need to introduce some aspects about my students and me. I am a special education teacher who works with a multiage group of students. I teach an average of twelve students ranging in grades two to five. It seems to be the most demanding position in the profession, but also the most rewarding. There is a vast variability in students' needs. More advanced students learn together in mixed-age groups and less developed students are given the time they need to master skills at their own pace. At other times, children are put into groups of different levels of ability so as to learn from each other. The activities and experiences I offer to the students are based on developmental appropriateness, giving emphasis to the particular needs and interests of each child. The aim is to establish regular habits. I start the day with social skills that include supervising them during breakfast and cleaning up afterwards. We also go through the calendar, weather, attendance, homework, and news. The next forty minutes are spent reading to the students. At first, the time to read might be short but as they learn to read, with daily practice, children can sit for up to twenty minutes each day. When the activity demands that I read first, the activity is extended later with discussions, a variety of responses, monitoring, etc. The next forty minutes are used for language arts, integrating science, and some days, social studies. We also use time developing math skills using centers and through individualized approaches. Close to the end of the time of instruction, and according to their behavior I give each child the opportunity to choose his/her own activity. These activities include floor puzzles, legos, and computer.

to top


The complete unit is part of a four-week program to introduce students to the culture and the history of the first Native Americans. Emphasis will be given to the variety of shelters of each region.

to top

Unit Outline

This project is a culminating activity for a four- week unit on Native American societies around 1492. Prior to initiating any activity, students will need to incorporate (at least briefly) North American history, geography, history, their cultures and values. With this unit teachers can develop the students' reading, listening, speaking, and writing skills through the use of my lesson plans. Activities can be added or modified according to the students' needs or levels.

to top

Unit's Objectives

The most important objectives of the unit are:

1. Familiarize students with thousands of different tribes that used to live in North America long before the European came to "discover" America.
2. Bring to life the Native American tribes who have inhabited North America. The unit briefly branches out into four different regions: Desert Indians, Plains Indians, Coastal Indians, and Woodland Indians.
3. Background information will be given for each of the four regions. Students need to know about the people; what they looked like; what they ate, how they lived; the types of shelters they built, variety of shelters, what materials were available, and what kind of tribal traditions the inhabitants needed to protect themselves from predators, heat, cold, rain, and other people.

I will need to supply the necessary reference materials, directions, encouragement and guidance in order to provide a proper curriculum unit to students and teachers. The student, on the other hand, should be expected to provide the initiative and self motivation as well as a basic knowledge of writing. His/her final product will be demonstrative of his/her academic and creative abilities.

With this accomplished, we can then proceed to start with historical information. Students need to have a complete picture as a background for the further understanding of the first people who lived in North America.

to top


According to Jeri Cipriano 2003,"the first Native Americans lived in many different regions.The way they lived depended on the land around them. " (1)

The ancestors of the Native Americans whom we called Indians arrived in North America from Asia perhaps as early as fifty thousand years ago. Most likely, these people crossed through a land bridge made of ice. Groups of hunters, following the animals could have walked across it. We know also that all the groups of people who came were not alike. They did not know that they were really discovering another continent. Like the men on the moon, they walked where man had never been before.

We do not know the names of the earliest Americans.However, each group had a name of its own, and they spoke different languages. "The societies that developed over so many centuries were as different from one another as the habitat of the forest-dwelling Eastern Woodland tribes were from those of the hunter-gatherers of the South Western desert and plains." (2)

Recently, scholars have discovered evidence that challenges the widespread belief that Native Americans traveled to North America over the Bering Land Bridge. There is evidence found by archeologists in Brazil dated 32,000 years ago. They found rock shelters and human tools. These findings contradict the theory of the bridge they crossed around Alaska. Perhaps, the people of North America arrived here from the south, rather than the north. Anthony Saenz wrote." Many of the native cultures have more in common with Mediterranean people than people from Siberia. There is evidence of Phoenicians, Druids, and Africans who visited here, nearly 2,000 years ago."(3)

When Christopher Columbus came to the "New World" there were around three thousand tribal groups. They did not have a writing system, only picture symbols. Stories were told from fall until spring at celebrations and family gatherings. The Indians of the Northwest carved totem poles, and each had an oral story to go along with it. Children learnt really important lessons for there was no emphasis upon written language. The poles were property of the tribe, and were taken along when the family moved. This was also the case with their shelters. Families moved with the seasons in search of food, and shelters had a very practical flavor. "They respond to the climate around them and make the most of natural material at hand." (4)

The Big mistake

We already know that the first settlers of this continent have been named traditionally as American Indians because Christopher Columbus's mistaken idea that he found a water route to Asia. He thought it was one of the islands known as the Indies. So he mistakenly called the Native Americans "Indians." He and all the Europeans who followed him continued to name them Indians or "Red Men" demonstrating their ignorance in regards to the inhabitants they found in the "New World."

Recently people have come to think that the term "Indians" is inaccurate, and has been changed to "Native Americans" or "First Americans."

Because America is so vast, the Native Americans evolved in very diverse directions. "By the time Christopher Columbus arrived at this continent, there were more than 3,000 of so tribal groups. It is estimated that more than 2,000 languages were spoken, but only about 200 have been identified." (5) But there were many separate people that spoke their own languages, had their own customs, clothing, dwellings, and way of survival by hunting, farming or fishing. Native Americans of the Southwest were different from those of the Northwest. When we examine the tribes of the Northwest where Woodland people settled, all the area reflect a mixture of cultural influences responding to the environment and climate around them. Their setting reflects the differences.

The Pacific Northwest or Coastal Indians

The coastal people lived or on the mountains or close to the sea.

"Some tribes include the Tlingit, Chinook, and Kwakiutl. Athabaskan hunters of the far North, Hupa Indians of northern California, Chilkat from the Alaskan coast, lived in the Pacific Northwest. This is now Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Northern California." (6)

The cultures were shaped by the seacoast, fishing and hunting were important to the survival. The dense forests of the north gave them opportunity to hunt and the use of tall trees to build wooden lodges as shelters. These lodges were big and did not have windows. They only had a hole in the roof and were very different from the shelter of the coastal tribes of California. But a succession of architectural ideas evolved long before the European arrival.

Outside of some lodges, they carved totem poles made from a tall tree. The carved figures consisted of animals, such as bear and raven figures painted with red and black colors. This art was a form of telling the important events in a family's history, so that they could pass them down to their next generation. To construct a house required techniques transmitted from the old to the young. Materials such as trees, bark, reed and cedar were used. The homes of the northwestern tribes were big enough to hold several families.

" A typical Pacific coastal village (southwest) consisted of up to thirty or more rectangular houses set out in one or two rows in a sheltered cove, far enough back from the edge of the sea. They were built of skillfully cut wooden planks and tied together with stout cords. " (7) Some people lived far from the ocean, but their way of life was still connected.

The early Native Americans of California came from several tribes and spread out in many zones. The climate was mild there, and lived from hunting small animals, birds, and fishing. Plants were also important and the main food was the seed of oak trees. The women and children collected, let dry and after, used then to make flour. Shelters were made or built on a frame of poles of debarked willow or sycamore, forming a circle base and horizontal stringers were lashed in tiers onto the frame. Other tribes covered their shelters with earth, where the weather was sometimes harsh.

Tribes of the Great Plains

Here are some of tribes found through my research: Crow, Sioux, Blackfeet, Comanche, Mandan, and Pawnee. They used to live west from the Mississippi Valley to the Rocky Mountains and South from Canada to Southern Texas. This is and was a vast geographic territory where millions of acres of grass grew. Most of the tribes were nomadic. Before the Indians were introduced to the horse, they hunted the buffalo pushing them toward the edge of a cliff where they would fall and were easy to kill. The buffalo was a very important resource for the tribes.The buffalo provided necessary material that the Indians used for building shelters named "tepees", and for making clothes. The bones were used to prepare tools. The young people became warriors as they found the way to prepare weapons. The buffalo provided food for daily life.

The Sioux tribe is well known even at the present time. They occupied a vast territory including South Dakota and part of North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. There are still reservations in some of these locations. They were named "Masters of the Plains."

Depending on the tribe, "tepees" were built on three or four base poles. To prevent them from the wind, the tepees were opened to the East. The top of the tepee had an opening hole to allow smoke to escape.

Desert or Southwest Tribes

The Southwest includes what is now Arizona, New Mexico, parts of Colorado, Utah, and California (South).

The people of the Southwest had their own lifestyle and customs. They were herders and hunters at the same time. They planted also small gardens and cultivated different foods depending completely on the rain. Society was much more complicated. Clan families lived closely together and "followed rigid codes of behavior." (8)

Some of the most important tribes described by scientists are the Anasazi, Zuni, Pueblo, Hohokam, Mogollon, and Hopi. " They are all identified as having descended from the Cochise population, some 10,000 years ago." (9)

Zuni and Pueblo are tribes to be mentioned because of the way they built their homes and developed fine art of pottery. Hopi tribes also made beautiful jewelry, baskets and clay bowls.

In the Arizona desert there is still a Hopi village. These villages were named "Pueblo," that means town in Spanish. The women built these houses out of stone and clay, like apartments, two to five floors high and needed to climb ladders for access and to protect them from enemies.

Anasazi tribes built cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. A good resource book is The Ancient Cliff Dwellers of Mesa Verde by Caroline Arnold, with photographs by Richard Hewett (New York, Clarion Books,1992).

Anasazi tribes abandoned their Mesa homes and lived in adobe houses in natural limestone caves. No one knows why. Speculations are that they believed in some spirit disaster and had to move to another sacred place. Their shelters demonstrated the skills of their architects, with finely shaped windows and doors.

The Anasazi left behind pottery, baskets, blankets made of turkey feathers, and jewelry made of silver and turquoise, giving us a lot of information about America's past.

The United States preserves the prehistorical building as a National Park in Mesa Verde, Colorado.

The Eastern Woodlands (or Forest Indians)

The Woodland region stretched from eastern Canada to the western shores of the Great Lakes. This landscape of woodlands, mountains, seacoast, and lakeshore, with prairie on its western rim was the homeland of tribes to three mayor families: The Iroquoian, the Algonquian, and the Siouan All these tribes used the natural resources provided by the fertile region irrigated by a number of ponds and rivers.

"The Iroquois lived in what is now New York State." (10) The forests were so thick the sunlight barely filtered through the ceiling of leaves. The many tribes who settled in eastern Woodlands had also easy access to the Atlantic shore. Most of the inland people depended as much on agriculture for their food as on any fishing or hunting.

The Iroquois were a united nation, consisting of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora tribes extended from New York State through Pennsylvania to Northern Ohio and into Canada. Its center was the area of the Eastern Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River.

Though the tribes tended to be warlike, they preserved their confederation for two centuries up until the American Revolution.

The Iroquois lived in villages in the forest. The tribes into them were divided, they had their own language. To communicate with one another they used hand signs and pictures. Their villages were along the shores of rivers, streams, or lakes. Walls of split logs surrounded every village. The people lived in wooden dwellings called longhouses made for families they were related through blood or marriage. Single families lived in "wigwams" made by bending young trees into round shapes. The roof was made of bark and dry grass or thatch.

The canoe was one of the most important means of transportation and were beautifully designed and made in different sizes, from a one-man model to others large enough to transport six men.

The Iroquois were excellent farmers not only hunters. Corn was their staple food but they also cultivated "squash" an Indian name we still use; pumpkins, beans and other crops.

The Algonquin were another group of farmers and woodsmen in Eastern North America. One of their customs was to give thanks to their great spirits each year to harvest time. This custom still reflects today in American Life.

Other Algonquian communities were the Narragansett who lived in Rhode Island and Connecticut. They were the most powerful tribe in the northeastern New England in 1637. Conflicts did occur among these tribes, in between the Wampanoag, (who used to live in what is today Massachusetts and Rhode Island) and the Narragansett reflecting their concern for preserving their identity and freedom after the Europeans started to push them out, trying to expand their new possession: the land.

I also would like to mention some tribes who used to speak Algonquian and lived between the Hudson and St. Lawrence. They and others lived in present day Maine, a cold region exposed to the Labrador winds. This region was not appropriate for farming. The tribes used to live from hunting, and moved from places to places according to the season. They were brave warriors and formed a confederation of tribes: Micmac, Abenaki, Mahican, Penobscot, and others.

The moose was a favorite hunting game. Because of the deep snow in winter, these tribes used snowshoes to follow the moose. Most of the native people of this region built temporary housing made of bark, and birch trees.

Although Native Americans groups had many differences, they shared some traits. They believed that land could be use but not owned. They shared the belief in spirits as the supreme creators, and that they had to live in harmony with all living things.

In all these tribal societies, the elders, or grandparents held the place of honor and respect in the community. These precious elders fulfilled the capacity of nursemaid for their married children. They were the constant, and stabilizing companions for the very young. Such an influence was colored with respect, demanding that children learned the correct items of address and the proper modes of behavior for those lineal as well as collateral relatives who were members of the "Tiyospaye" (11) (a family group who hunt buffalo and belong to one of the Lakota tribes.) This love for one another continued throughout life and was constantly reinforced by acts of generosity and affection. They were valued for passing on their knowledge.

Subarctic and Arctic Region

According to Gilbert Legay ,(1995)" two linguistic families shared the Subarctic region. To the east were the Algonkians and to the west and north, the Athapaskan, Chipewyan, Yellowknife, Kaska, Koyukin, Tahahua and others."(12) All these tribes had something in common, they were hunters and fishermen.

Archaeologists are almost certain that these were the ancestors of the Native Americans, and they believe that they crossed a bridge of ice and that they were from different Asian groups.

These people became known as the Aleuts, and their islands are called Aleutians. The rest of the group seems to have spread along the Arctic Coast. They became the Inuits or Eskimos. This Arctic people hunted bison with cleverly made small tools and fished with harpoons. They were making and using kayaks, twenty five hundred years ago. Among their other inventions were hobnails and boots. The boots were made of skin, the hobnails of bone or ivory; also sun googles to protect their eyes. Even today, people who live in the Arctic use similar clothing because of the bitter cold.

These first Americans could talk and teach and plan ahead. They knew how to make and use fire 10,000 years ago. They did not leave written history but there were found a lot of evidence of what they knew and did. One of these evidences were the cleverly fashioned spearpoints used as weapons like "guide -post on the way"." " These weapons have been found in 49 states of the United States."" This is the trademark of the first American hunters."(13)

The Inuits were named in the language of an Indian group in the North American Arctic. It means: "people", but other group named them "Eskimo", an Indian word that means: "eaters of raw meat."(14) When the Europeans arrived they heard the word and believed it was the right one. So, they were known with an Indian name ever since.

The Inuits made their home on the tundra in northern Canada. They lived in homes made of sod. But to survive during the harsh winter they built igloos, or houses made from blocks of snow. In summer they used tents made from animal skins. To hunt along the Alaskan and Labrador coasts, the Inuits used "kayaks", long, narrow, small, canoe-shaped skin boats. In general they were hospitable and happy people, in spite of the hard living conditions.

Comparison of Two Native American Regions: The Eastern Woodlands and California

By introducing these two specific regions, students may learn that marked similarities exist between the Native American cultures and ways of life A study such as this may open to discussion and understanding of the people or early Native Americans who used to live in different regions.They shared certain general ideas about life. They both believed that the land belonged to all. They took from the land only what they needed. Some ecologists like Helen Caldicott,MD.,(physician) have been trying to teach us the same today.

Both regions wanted to live in peace with the earth, and shared spiritual beliefs. They thought that every natural object had a spirit, and that there were both good and bad spirits. The tribes of the different regions started to live in villages or around them. They followed specific rules and had a very strong sense of community. Shelters were built depending of tribal traditions.

For a better historical appreciation students may use the website or spend one or two class periods with the school librarian researching basic sources of the two regions and using a chart to compare their ways of life given emphasis to the basic building system.

The Eastern Woodlands

Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands used the natural resources provided by the surrounded forests. This is an area where the Finger Lakes region is set in the wooded and fertile hills. The first inhabitants of the region were the Iroquois. They used to live in what is now New York State. They formed a nation of five tribes: The Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca.

The Iroquois lived in large bark-covered houses called "Longhouses" where related families could live together. They also built wigwams by bending young trees into round shapes. These wigwams were built for single families.

" Women played an important role in the community. " They held great power in Iroquois society. Women decided who would be the representative chief of the Nation. "Some leaders were chosen from among the male descendants of the mothers of the first chiefs."(15) The women did most of the cultivating, planting, and harvesting of the crops. Corn or maize was a large part of their daily food.

The Iroquois were farmers, hunters, and warriors. After the European came, they allied with the English against the French, and participated in most of the European wars. After they were defeated during the Revolutionary war, many of their villages were destroyed.


I chose California as a region to be compared and related to the Eastern Woodlands.

The Indian population was large and enjoyed optimum living conditions. Despite the diversity of languages they shared a great similarity of customs and way of life. Fishing and hunting were important to survive. In the summer they fished from the sea;" trapping whales, dolphins, seas, and otters." "They traveled in simple wood boats called pirogues." " This tribe and others lived in Southern California. " (16) We found the Tipa´, Luiseno and Chumash. Further north we found the Miwok, the Mohawe who lived downstream the Colorado River, the Miwok, the Pomo, The Yurok, the Hupa, and others.

In California the young boy of 12 or 13 often had to pass tests of courage before the tribe would see him as a grown up. An older man became the boy's life-long advisor; he shared age-old secrets with the boy and instructed him in the history and lore of the tribe. The girls were treated differently. When they changed from childhood to adolescence "they took note of her coming of age with feasting, dancing, singing, and games." "Friends or relatives came to celebrate and give the young girl many gifts." " An older woman became her advisor and told her about her new duties (as a woman) and the special secrets of the universe." (17)

California had the greatest variety of shelters of any region in North America, and some of the earliest known, as well. How the shelters were built depended on the weather, what materials were available, and tribal traditions. Chumash built grass houses with a frame of poles of debarked willow or sycamore. " They also put a "doorbell" made from shells, hanging outside the door." (18)

Many California villages had lean-tos, flat-topped brush shelters that provided shade during the hot summer months. Some tribes moved to the cooler hills during the summer and used theses simple structures as temporary houses.

California Tribal Languages

The first European who came to California were amazed at how many languages were spoken, among there ˝ nearly 100 languages and 300 dialects.

Here are some words spoken among various tribes that had been brought together by Franciscan priests in about 1759. Students may learn them and compare it with other words they may find in a Dictionary I mentioned as a resource book for the unit.

Woot˝Chah = sky

Koh-mah = moon

Too˝ ah = sun

Hay-see-koh-mah = (big) star

Loo˝hoh˝lo = rain

Tchah-kay-hay = springtime

Too˝toh˝sah = wind

How-nah = morning

May-may-ahch = morning

Toh-yoh = arrow

Koh-hoh-lay = evening

Some Native American Tribes and where They Lived, Around 1650.

( Anne Zeman and Kate Kelly. Scholastic Inc. 1997. (19)

Native Americans of the North and Northeast





























Native Americans of the Southeast



















Native Americans of the Plains











Nez Perce








Cado Mandan


Native Americans of the Southwest
















Native Americans of the Northwest
















* These tribes lived in the area that is now Alaska.

"ABC of Native Dwelling ." by Elizabeth Crosby ,Stull.Multicultural Discovery Activities .New York 1995. (20)

A very interesting ABC of Native American dwellings to be used for activities .

A. adobe houses

B. brush shelters

C. council

D. dome ˝ shape roof

E. earth lodges

F. framed houses

G. grass ˝ covered hut

H. hogan

I. island hut

J. just form men (sweat lodge)

K. kiva (underground ceremony chamber)

L. longhouse

M. mat-covered hut

N. night dwelling (when on a hunt)

O. oral-shaped house

P. pitched-roof dwelling

Q. quiet large multi-family dwelling

R. rain house

S. square house

T. tipi (or tepee)

U. underground lodge

V. villages with rows of house facing out to sea

W. witus (dome-shaped wigwams)

X. x-shaped wigwams

Y. yellow grass, woven and clay-covered hut

Z. Zebra hide or buffalo hide covered hut

to top

Unit Overview

Having learned something about the first Native Americans, students will now have an opportunity to apply their understanding of the origin and formation of spaces and places of the early Americans.

to top

Strategies I Will Provide for the Unit

1. Use of the overhead or blackboard to help students take accurate notes of the initial periods in America.

2. Using directed small group activities, given students specifics tasks to determine:

a. What is the characteristic of the environment (weather, resources, and animals).

b. What sort of things the inhabitants needed to protect themselves from predators, heat, cold, rain, and other people.

c. The architecture of the different shelters we are studying. What do they look like? How and with what are they built?

d. How did they decorate the shelters? And who did it?

3. Students will need to prepare a report that include shelters satisfied human needs, list of materials that were used in constructing the shelter, and the problems they faced when staying in some places.

The report will be prepared as if this project were to go before a tribal leader for approval, providing details of the shelters and their impact on the environment.

4. The course will consist of reading, essays-writing and individual or group project work supported by the curriculum and district standards. Student performance will be assessed through course-workgroup project and group dissertation.

5. Topics for written reports may be assigned and a time limit set. Theses topics are related to each of the 4 regions of the Native American people and will expose the students to more depth in some areas and allow practice in writing skills. An introduction to the different shelters the Native American built and the name of them will follow the assignments of report topics. It will also be related to the strength of native family bonds and the belief in the supernatural.

6. Woodlands, Indians, Coastal Indians, Desert Indians and Plains Indians will be read and discussed in class in 4 parts distributed over four- weeks and extension if needed. After each region has been read through once, students can be assigned characters and design some shelters.

7. Audio-visual material should be included in the unit as much as possible. There are many sources to be investigated, like pictures, slides, films, film-strips and records. Museums should also be explored when they have related exhibits. All these activities should increase the interest and motivation of the students as other possibilities mentioned next.

8. A film of Native Americans will be shown and discussed. Since the students have completed their outside reading and the sources given during classes or library, they should be able to discuss the movie.

9. At the end of the unit student should be able to discuss the theme of the unit and answer general questions about the material that has been presented discussing similarities and differences among the 4 regions, and drawing conclusions as to the view of each culture, (including systems of life) toward the others

10. Parallels can be drawn in a chart comparing early Native American Cultures in four different regions of North America. How were they alike? How were they different?

This is an orientation in the form of a "big picture" snapshot of the unit steps or events.

My central goal is a flexible sort of instruction. I will teach the whole class when that makes sense ˝ and small groups when it is more suitable. I will support students in attaching their own interest to the curricular goals. I will provide multiple ways of learning what needs to be learned. I will help students come to understand which approaches work best for them under particular circumstances. We will share responsibilities; every student will consistently have work that respects him or her as an individual. This means each student is responsible for working as much as he or she can towards goals that are personally challenging.

to top

Lesson Plans

Lesson Preparations

Prior to this lesson which uses learning stations, the teacher writes the instructions for each station on chart paper to post around the room, and decides on four experts who will help the students work successfully at the stations. Teacher needs to make sure that these four students know exactly what should happen at each station, and put one of them in each group of students. The selected students need to already read at grade level so they are able to help the others.

Lesson Plan I


This unit views reading as a thinking process. It fosters in students the strategies and the skills necessary to achieve literacy and intellectual independence.

Subject Areas: Language skills, ESL, Social Studies, Geography

Grade: 5 and 6

Time Frame: This is a one week lesson including library research time.

Goal: To engage in shared verbal and written reflections about two regions where Native American lived.

Place: California and Eastern Woodland.

Recommended Texts and Books: Cipriano.Jeri. Native Americans. Benchmark Ed. Comp. N. York 2003

Legay, Gilbert .Atlas of Indians of North America. Barron's Educ. Series N. York 1993

Materials: Maps, worksheets


1. The teacher will divide students into small groups assigning each to read an exertion from the books mentioned, and to report to the classes on the following day. In their brief reports students should describe the different regions where Native Americans lived.

2. The teacher will present audio-visual materials. Transparencies for the overhead projector can be made from maps, and drawings from Native Americans of the period before the European came. Of particular interest will be the somewhat fantastic drawings portraying the inhabitants of the New World and the Indians drawing of the Europeans. This material is available in video-tapes as a resource.

3. To conclude the lesson the teacher will raise questions for general discussions about the differences of the climate, the food, the shelters, of each region.

4. Assessment:

The teacher evaluates oral and written responses. Students may self evaluate with discussions.

Lesson Plan II

Grades 5 and 6

Content Standard 3: Connections ˝

Connect with other Disciplines and Acquire Information

1. Geography and:

a. Science: Compare and contrast environments (e.g. Arctic ˝ Great Plains.)

b. History and Agriculture: Trace the origin of foods from Europe and from the New World.

c. Social Studies.

1. Reinforce map skills

2. Places of interest in Arizona, New Mexico.

3. Mapping a route or itinerary (use Internet)

4. Distribution of languages in the world and in the United States, historical reasons.

d. Math:

1. Time zones in the United States.

2. Equator, longitude and latitude, global variations in seasons.

2. Health, Math, and Social Studies.

Native American food. Use of survey on food preferences, including graphing and analysis.

3. Social Studies:

Cultural and spiritual celebrations of Native Americans. E.g. Sun-dance

4. Music:

a. Identify musical instruments of Native Americans


a. Vocabulary quiz

b. Ranking on quality of map

c. Evaluation of taped oral pronunciation of words

d. Class participation and discussion

Lesson Plan III

Grades: 5 and 6

Content Standard 4: Comparisons

Develop insight into the nature of language and culture

Subject Areas: Language Arts, Social Studies

Time Frame: One week, one hour daily and extended activities for the week.

Goal: To introduce different tribes of Native Americas and their culture.

Student Will:

1. Compare and contrast foods from home culture and target culture.

2. Recognize differences between the Native Americans family and the American family.

3. Compare Native American names with American surnames.

4. Compare Native American celebrations with European celebrations. (e.g., sun-dance, Christmas).

5. Compare a tribe of the desert with a city in the actual United States.

6. Family Life

a. Family members, importance of family

b. Extended family.

c. Family celebrations: birthdays.


a. Content ˝ Area development; demonstrates the ability to analyze, thinks critically.

b. Literacy Development: Child notes details; makes inferences; draws conclusions; defines character; setting and plot; understands the main idea; selects and reads books independently.

c. Oral ˝ Language Development: Child shows age appropriate development in first (and second) language, retells stories increases vocabulary.

to top


This unit offers a journal to anyone who desires to recapture life of the Native Americans.

to top


Special thanks is given to my seminar leader Dolores Hayden for her positive support in helping to ensure my curriculum to higher levels of achievement and for providing directions and suggestions for the content of this unit.

Special thanks to Reynaldo Perez for his technical support, to Pedro MendÝa-Landa for his valuable suggestions, to our coordinator, Ralph Russo ,and finally to the Yale New Haven Teachers Institute who gives us opportunity to grow.

to top


This unit is dedicated to my beloved daughters Valeria and Patricia and to Ronaldo Ramirez who always inspires me.


to top


1- Jeri Cipriano. Native Americans. ( Benchmark Educ. Comp. N. York. 2003.) p.2

2- Peter F.Copeland. Indian Tribes of North America.( Dover Publications, Inc. New York.)(Introduction) no pages. 1990.

3- Anthony Saenz.Forward for Indian Tribes of North America ,by Josepha Sherman. (Todri Production. N. York.1996.) p.5.

4- Peter Nabokov,Robert Easton. Native American Architecture.( Oxford University Press. N. York 1989.) p.16

5- Gilbert Legay. Atlas of Indian of North America.( Barron's Educ. Series, Inc. 1995.) p.5.

6- Jeri Cipriano. Native Americans (Benchmark Edu. Comp. N. York. 2003.) p.2

7- Josepha Sherman. Indian Tribes of North America. (Todri Product Limited. N.York. 1996.) p.12

8- Jeri Cipriano. Native Americans.( Benchmark Educ. Comp. N. York 2000.) p.12

9- Gilbert Legay. Atlas of Indians of North America.( Barron's Educ. Series, Inc. 1995.) p.54

10- Jeri Cipriano. Native Americans. (Benchmark Educ. Comp. N. York. 2003.) p.18

11- Nita Beautiful Bald Eagle.Buffalo and Lakota are Kin/Canku ota.(An online Newspaper articles about Nita's lectures.April 17,2004.)No N║ of pages.

12- Gilbert Legay. Atlas of Indians of North America. (Barron's Educ. Inc. 1995.) p.85

13- Kenneth Bailey, Elizabeth Brook, John J. Farrell. The American Adventure. (Field Educ. Public. U.S. 1972.) p.18

14- Kennet Bailey,Elizabeth Brook, John J. Farrell.The American Adventure. (Field Educ. Public. U.S. 1972.) p.19.

15- Gilbert Legay. Atlas of Indians of North America. ( Barron's Educ. Series Inc.1995.) p.23

16- Gilbert Legay. Atlas of Indians of Nort America.(Barron's Educ. Series Inc.1995.) pp.62-63.

17- Dana Newmann. Coastal Indians.( The Center for Applied Research in Educ. N. York 1996.) pp.120,121

18- Dana Newmann.Coastal Indians.( The Center for Applied Research in Education. N. York, 1996.) p.38.

19- Anne Zeman,Kelly Kate.American History.(Scholastic Inc.New York NY.1997.) p.4

20- Elizabeth Crosby,Stull.Multicultural Discovery Activities for the Elementary Grades.(The Center for Applied Research in Education. New York 1995.) p.342

to top


Bailey, Kenneth. Brook Elizabeth, Farrell J. John. The American Adventure. Field Educ. Publications. U.S. 1972.

Cipriano, Jeri. Native Americans. Benchmark Educ. Comp. N. York. 2003.

Copeland, F. Peter. Indian Tribes of North America. Dover Publications, Inc. New York.(Introduction) 1990.

Crosby Stull, Elizabeth. Multicultural Discovery Activities for the Elementary Grades. The Center for Applied Research in Educ. New York 1995.

Legay, Gilbert. Atlas of Indians of North America. Barron's Educ. Series. Inc. 1995.

Murdoch, David. North American Indian. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, Inc. New York, N.Y. 10014. 1995.

Nabokov, Peter. Easton Robert. Native American Architecture. Oxford University Press. N. York 1989.

Rochman, Hazel. Against Borders. ALA Books/Booklist Publications, American Library Association. Chicago and London 1993.

Sherman, Josepha. Indian Tribes of North America Todri Product Limited. N. York. 1996.

Shoenauer, Norbert. 6,000 Years Of Housing. W.W. Norton and Company, Inc. New York. 1992.

Vogt, Sharon. Multicultural Math. Frank Schaffer Publications, Inc. Torrance, CA. 90505. 1995

Zeman, Anne and Kelly, Kate. American History. Scholastic Inc. New York. NY. 10012. 1997.

to top

Bibliography for Teachers and Students

If you enjoyed reading the unit, I suggest these books for teachers and students about Native American People.

Cipriano, Jeri. Native Americans. Benchmark Education Comp. New York. 2003. ( The author explains in a very interesting secuence, where Native American Lived.) Grade 5-6.

Courlander, Harold. People of the Short Blue Corn: Tales and Legends of the Hopi Indians. Illust. By Enrico Arno. New York, Hartcourt, Brace, Joranovich, Inc., 1970. (Their Lives are guided by kachinas, that means spirit beings who enter the bodies of selected men.) For Grades 5-6.

Crow Dog, Mary and Erdoes, Richard. Lakota Woman. Grove Weidenfeld. 1990. (The author belongs to the Sioux, and struggled for the American Indians Movement.) Recommended for Grades 5-6-7.

De Paola, Tomie. The Legend Of The Bluebonnet. Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. New York, 1983. (A retelling of the Comanche Indian legend of how a little girl's sacrifice brought the flower called bluebonnet to Texas) (Indians of North America, Texas.)

De Coteau, Orie Sandra. Did Your Hear Wind Sing Your Name? Illust. By Christopher Canyon. MONDO Publishing, United States of America, 1997. (Elements of nature are reflected in the Oneida people. Beautiful illustrations. Inspiring words.) for Grades 5-6.

Goble, Paul. The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. Macmillan Publishing Comp. N. York, 1978. (An exquisite legend of the Plains Indians, about a girl who loved horses. (The Caldecott Medal Winner. Grades 4-5.

Hausman, Gerald. Turtle Island Alphabet: A lexicon of Native American Symbols and Culture. St. Martin's Booklist Publications Chicago,1993. (Hausman uses the alphabet arrangement to talk about Native American.) Grades 5-6-7.

Hayden, Dolores. The Power of Place. Library of Congress in Publ. Data, 1995. (This book guides us to a unique and revealing view of urban landscapes.) Grades 7-8.

Murdoch, David. North American Indian. Dorling Kindersley in association with The American Museum of Natural History. New York, 1995. (An original and exciting guide about rich cultures of the Native Americans.) Grade 5-6.

Pollock, Penny. The Turkey Girl. Illust. By Ed Young. A Zuni Cinderella Story. Little, Brown and Company, N. York, 1996. (A Native American Version of the Cinderella Story.) Grades 5-6.

Torpie, Kate. Out National Treasures. MONDO Publishing, New York, 2002. (Contents historic sites, National monuments and parks of the United States.) Grade 5-6.


Ghost Dance. New Day Films. 1990. (Poetic narration, and original music performed by Native Americans.) Grades 6.

Also see:

"Children's Books By and About Native Americans."

Joan Berman "Native American Children's literature in the Classroom: An Annotated Bibliography"

This has a section on photo essays of Native Americans.

to top


(images are available in print form)

to top

Contents of 2005 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

© 2016 by the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute
Terms of Use Contact YNHTI