great beginnings the native american experience tamara gray courtney norgren and daniel kilpatrick
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Great Beginnings The Native American Experience Tamara Gray, Courtney Norgren and Daniel Kilpatrick. Summary.

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This unit was created for Second grade students to teach them about the Native American culture by exploring the different types of shelter, clothing, food, music, and art within the different geographic regions. Students will study the climate, terrain, vegetation and land forms six different regions: Pacific Northwest, Great Basin, Northwestern Woodlands, Southwest, Great Plains, and Southwestern Woodlands. Instruction will be conducted through various independent, group, and hands-on activities. This unit ensures that all types of learning styles are explored. In addition, the various independent activities are easily modified to accommodate learners with differing abilities.

We will be integrating Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, and the arts throughout the unit by focusing on the second grade Sunshine State Standards.

major concepts
Major Concepts
  • Math
  • Linear Measurement
  • Measures of Volume
  • Unit Conversions
  • Patterns
  • Repeated Addition
  • Social Studies
  • Cardinal & Intermediate Directions
  • Limited Environmental Resources
  • Native American Cultures & Practices
  • Meeting Basic Needs for Survival
  • Language Arts
  • Pre-Writing, Editing, Presenting
  • Authors Theme & Development
  • Reading Authentic Literature
  • Elements of Myths & Legends
  • Science
  • Land Formations
  • Soil Samples
  • Basic Needs for Survival
  • Seasonal Weather Patterns
learning goals
Learning Goals
  • Students will discover how humans dependence on the environment for survival impacted the development of Native American cultures.
  • Students will recognize that Native Americans were the first inhabitants in North America and that they lived off of the land.
  • Students will compare the cultures of Native American tribes from various geographic regions of the United States and realize how the different living environments impacted the types of shelter, clothing, food, music, and art that tribes had.
  • Students will identify the basic needs for human survival and how different environments can meet these needs throughout the changing seasons.
  • Students will realize that the Native Americans were moral people who had great respect for all living things and exemplified this through the telling of moral legends.
  • Students will understand that the Native Americans were strong observers of nature who sought to explain events which they could not understand through the telling of origin myths.
student learning outcomes social studies
Student Learning OutcomesSocial Studies
  • Given a segmented map of the united states, a compass rose, and a list of regions; students will independently identify & label all six geographic regions of the united states with 100% accuracy. (NE Woodlands, SE Woodlands, Great Plains, South West, Great Basin, NW Pacific) – Knowledge: (SS.2.G.1.1)
  • After discussing the climate of each geographic region, students will give examples of plants and animals that the Native Americans were likely to use as a food source and predict how these might change throughout the different seasons. – Comprehension: (SS.2.E.1.1)
  • As the teacher presents information on the interactive whiteboard, students will chart details about Native American tribe’s clothing, housing, food sources, and forms of transportation in each of the six geographic sections of the United States with 84% accuracy or 20/24. – Application: (SS.2.A.2.2)
  • Given photographs of six different typical Native American dwellings, students will first recognize specific natural materials which make up each kind of shelter. Then based on this information the students will work cooperatively in small groups to classify each dwelling as belonging to the inhabitants of one of the six geographic regions of the United States. – Analysis: (SS.2.A.2.2) & (SS.2.E.1.1)
  • Given pictures and appropriate materials, small cooperative work groups will design & construct an accurate model of a Native American shelter from one of the six geographic regions of the United States. (Hogan, Teepee, Cedar Plank House, Pueblo, Chickee, Longhouse, or Wickiup) within reasonable approximations. – Synthesis: (SS.2.A.2.2)
student learning outcomes language arts
Student Learning OutcomesLanguage Arts
  • After reading and discussing several Native American myths and legends as a class, the student will list common characteristics of Native American myths and legends, with the assistance of his cooperative learning group with 80% accuracy or 4/5 correct characteristics. Characteristics Include: Set in the past; moral to be learned; narrative format; explains creation or origin; speaking parts for spirits or animals. (reasonable approximations will be accepted) – Knowledge: (LA. & LA.
  • After reading and discussing several Native American myths and legends as a class, the student will use their class notes (chart) to independently classify eight pieces of Native American Literature as Origin Mythology or a Moral Legend based on their knowledge of how they are alike and different, with 87% accuracy or 7/8 correct classifications. – Comprehension: (LA.
  • After reading and discussing each (8) Native American myth or legend as a class, the student will chart the characteristics (5) present in each piece of Native American Literature, with the support of his cooperative learning group with 88% accuracy (35/40 characteristics correctly charted). – Application: (LA.
  • The student will use the content of his own myth or legend and a poster rubric to illustrate his story in the form of a poster with 90% accuracy. – Analysis: (LA.
  • After reading and discussing several Native American myths and legends as a class, the student will independently compose his own original legend or myth which incorporates the 5 key characteristics of Native American Origin Mythology and Moral Legends with 80% accuracy. (4/5 characteristics present) – Synthesis: (LA.
  • The student, with the assistance of a teacher created rubric, will evaluate the legend of a peer, based on the inclusion of 5 known characteristics with 100% accuracy. – Evaluation: (LA.
student learning outcomes mathematics
Student Learning OutcomesMathematics
  •  Given colored pasta and string, students will plan and write about pattern used to create pasta necklace. Students will apply pattern ideas from their paper to create a patterned pasta necklace with a 90% accuracy rate. (MA.2.A.4.3)
  • Given a numeric pattern chart and a drum, students will compose a tribal rhythm to be played on the powwow drum for 1 minute. (MA.2.A.4.3)
  • Given measuring tools, ingredients, recipes, and cooking supplies, students will cook Native American Food for Culminating Feast- Students will measure out ingredients using cooking instructions and conversation sheet to produce a Native American food. (MA.2.G.5.1)
  • Given a conversion sheet, students will convert and measure (cups, pints, quarts, and gallons) on worksheet with 90% accuracy. (MA.2.G.5.4)
  • Given a ruler and straws, students will measure straws to create a tee-pee with 100% accuracy. (MA.1.A.1.3)
  • Given multicolored paper strips, students will plan out a non-numerical pattern and create woven mat with a 90% accuracy rate. (MA.2.A.4.3)
  • Given a ruler, string, scissors and verbal directions, the student will be able to independently measure and cut strings to various specified lengths, to use in creating a dream catcher with 80% accuracy. (MA.1.A.1.3)
  • Given a metric ruler, 8 straws, scissors and written directions, the student will be able to independently measure and cut straws to various specified lengths, to use in creating a pan pipe with 80% accuracy. (MA.1.A.1.3)
  • Given a guided practice worksheet and pencil, students will solve word problems through repeated addition with 80% accuracy. (MA.2.A.6.1)
  • Given class data represented on a bar graph on the Smartboard, students will analyze and draw upon patterns within the data. (MA.2.A.4.3 
  • Given measuring tools, water, and Gallon Man conversion sheet, students will convert different units of measurement with 80% accuracy. (MA.2.G.5.4)
  • Given measuring tools, water, Gallon Man, guided, and independent practice, students will convert different units of measure with 90% accuracy. (MA.2 .G.5.4)
student learning outcomes science
Student Learning OutcomesScience
  • When presented with soil samples characteristic of those found in various geographical regions inhabited by Native American tribes, the student will classify the soil types based on color, texture (size of particles), the ability to retain water, and the ability to support growth of plants. Given a visual guide to reference, the student will accomplish this with 100% accuracy. - Comprehension: (SC.2.E.6.3)
  • After learning about the means (e.g. folklore) by which Native Americans explained natural phenomena, the student, as a member of a small group, will choose a natural phenomenon (e.g. rain, wind, rainbows, tornadoes, lightning, thunder, drought) to research. The student will work with group members to develop an explanation for this phenomenon and present this explanation to classmates. Based on direct observation and teacher-created checklist, the student will contribute to the development of this explanation during 80% of group activities. - Synthesis: (SC.2.N.1.1)
  • After learning about festivals and ceremonies held by Native Americans from different geographical regions and the folklore used by these tribes to describe cyclical patterns in nature (e.g. sunset/sunrise, seasons), the student will describe these patterns with 100% accuracy.-Knowledge: (SC.2.E.7.1)
  • While learning about Native American's reliance on and respect for nature and its inhabitants, students will, with 80% accuracy, compare the needs of Native Americans (humans) and the plants and animals in their environments. -Analysis: (SC.2.L.17.1)
  • Students will, with 80% accuracy, identify different Native American tribe's shelters and describe how these shelters were adaptations to the climates and geographical regions in which they lived. -Comprehension: (SC.2.L.17.2)
  • Students will, with 80% accuracy, identify the means by which different Native American tribes fed themselves (e.g. hunting, fishing, agriculture) and describe how these means were developed as adaptations to different environments. - Comprehension: (SC.2.L.17.2)
sunshine state standards social studies
Sunshine State StandardsSocial Studies
  • SS.2.A.2.1 -Recognize that Native Americans were the first inhabitants in North America.
  • SS.2.A.2.Pa.a -Recognize a characteristic of early Native Americans.
  • SS.2.A.2.2 -Compare the cultures of Native American tribes from various geographic regions of the United States
  • SS.2.A.2.In.b -Identify practices of Native American tribes, such as clothing, housing, and food.
  • SS.2.E.1.1- Recognize that people make choices because of limited resources.
  • SS.2.G.1.1 -Use different types of maps (political, physical, and thematic) to identify map elements. (Examples: coordinate grids, title, compass rose, cardinal and intermediate directions, key/legend with symbols and scale)
sunshine state standards language arts
Sunshine State StandardsLanguage Arts

LA. The student will use new vocabulary that is introduced and taught directly.

LA. The student will listen to, read, and discuss familiar and conceptually challenging text.

LA. The student will identify cause-and-effect relationships in text.

LA. The student will identify the basic characteristics of a variety of literary forms (e.g., fables, stories, fiction, poetry, folktales, legends) and how they are alike and different.

LA. The student will prewrite by generating ideas from multiple sources (e.g., text, brainstorming, webbing, drawing, writer's notebook, group discussion, other activities)

LA. The student will draft writing by organizing details into a logical sequence that has a clear beginning, middle and end and an awareness of audience.

LA. The student will revise by creating interest by incorporating descriptive words and supporting details, such as sensory language.

LA. The student will revise by evaluating the composition, with the assistance of teacher, peer, checklist, or rubric.

LA. student will produce, illustrate, and share a variety of compositions.

sunshine state standards mathematics
Sunshine State StandardsMathematics
  • MA.2.G.5.4-Measure weight/mass and capacity/volume of objects. Include the use of the appropriate unit of measure and their abbreviations including cups, pints, quarts, gallons, ounces (oz), pounds (lbs), grams (g), kilograms (kg), milliliters (mL) and liters (L).
  • MA.2.A.4.-Generalize numeric and non-numeric patterns using words and tables.
  • MA.2.G.5.1-Use geometric models to demonstrate the relationships between wholes and their parts as a foundation to fractions.
  • MA.1.A.1.3-Benchmark Description: Create and use increasingly sophisticated strategies, and use properties such as Commutative, Associative and Additive Identity, to add whole numbers.
  • MA.2.A.6.1-Solve problems that involve repeated addition
sunshine state standards science
Sunshine State StandardsScience
  • SC.2.L.17.1 - Compare and contrast the basic needs that all living things, including humans, have for survival.
  • SC.2.L.17.2 - Recognize and explain that living things are found all over Earth, but each is only able to live in habitats that meet its basic needs.
  • SC.2.E.7.1 - Compare and describe changing patterns in nature that repeat themselves, such as weather conditions including temperature and precipitation, day to day and season to season.
  • SC.2.N.1.1 - Raise questions about the natural world, investigate them in teams through free exploration and systematic observations, and generate appropriate explanations based on those explorations.
  • SC.2.E.7.2 - Investigate by observing and measuring, that the Sun's energy directly and indirectly warms the water, land, and air.
  • SC.2.E.6.3 - Classify soil types based on color, texture (size of particles), the ability to retain water, and the ability to support growth of plants.
daily schedule
Daily Schedule
  • 8:00-8:20 Announcements, Pledge, National Anthem & Lunch Selection
  • 8:20-9:50 Mathematics (90 minute block)
  • 9:50-9:55 Rest Room Break
  • 9:55-10:50 Specials
  • 10:50-11:50 Language Arts (60 minute block)
  • 11:50-11:55 Rest Room Break
  • 11:55-12:20 Lunch
  • 12:20-12:50 Language Arts (30 minute block)
  • 12:50-1:10 Brain Break (recess)
  • 1:10-1:15 Rest Room Break
  • 1:15-1:45 Social Studies
  • 1:45-2:15 Science
  • 2:15-2:30 Announcements & Pack-Up
  • 2:30 Dismissal
media list
Media List
  • Books
  • Overhead Projector
  • Smart board
  • Computers
    • Internet Access
    • Pre-selected Websites
  • Videos
    • Computer Video Clips
    • DVDs
lesson plan overview social studies
Lesson Plan Overview Social Studies
  • Week one-Instruction commences with a focus on map skills in an effort to develop prerequisite skills the students will need to apply, while investigating the different geographical areas of North America. The inquiry then begins by making informed predictions about the origins of several artifacts and possible food supplies for the inhabitants of different geographical areas.
  • Week two-Instruction systematically works its way across the country discussing and recording information about the cultures of Native American tribes on a “Culture Chart”. Each lesson also incorporates a tribe specific art for the children to actively experience and replicate. The week culminates with a field trip to the Chehaw Native American Festival, in which students will vicariously experience local Native American customs.
  • Week three-Instruction is student centered, as cooperative groups analyze photos of Native American dwellings and then classify them based on the materials used for construction. The shelter information will be added to the “Culture Chart” and then groups will select a geographic region to specialize in. The group will create a circle map about their region and build a model of one type of Native American shelter used in that region. The week will end with the culminating activity day!
lesson plan overview l anguage arts
Lesson Plan Overview Language Arts
  • Week one-Instruction commences with the each cooperative learning group starting a K-W-L chart about Myths and Legends. As a class we will define characteristics of both literary forms and complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting them. This information will then be applied to daily lessons as each day the class reads authentic Native American tales from specific tribes. Then in “Literature Circles,” students will identify characteristics of the tales and then categorize the daily literature selection as either a Myth or a Legend. The author’s theme and development as well as cause and effect relationships within the tales will be discussed. Students will be required to identify descriptive language and new vocabulary words.
  • Week two-Continues the investigation and analysis of Native American tales for three more days. The class is then presented with a rubric and a graphic organizer for creating an original myth or legend. Students will then complete the pre-writing activity as they brainstorm ideas and record them in a web.
  • Week three-Instruction focuses on all stages of the writing process. Students write a draft from the web completed during week two. The draft is then edited to include descriptive words and sensory language. A peer review is conducted using the rubric. The teacher corrects spelling errors. A final draft is written and then the student draws an illustration for the original composition. Student presentations will be part of the culminating activity.
lesson plan overview math
Lesson Plan Overview Math
  • Week One- The class will get introduced to different measurement tools. They will receive a conversion sheet with Gallon Man, which will farther their understanding with measuring and how they are interrelated. We will have a hands-on group activity, allowing the students to convert water from one measurement tool into the other. They will practice this skill through an independent worksheet. They will have an opportunity to convert water from one tool into another independently. The students will apply this knowledge to Native American Sandpainting Worksheet. Students will be introduced to non-numeric patterns and will produce a patterned pasta necklace.
  • Week Two- Students will be provided with an overview on how to use a ruler. They will measure straws to produce a Native American tee-pee and pan pipe; they will also measure string to create their dream-catchers. We will review how to produce a non-numeric pattern and students will make a woven matas well as graphing class fears generated in the
  • Week Three- Numeric patterns will be presented to the students. They will get an opportunity to play a tribal rhythm on a pow-wow drum. Repeated addition will be introduced and practiced through Native American repeated addition worksheet. Students will select their favorite Native American region that we studied. The information will be presented on the Smartboard. We will discuss patterns and tends of the data. Students will produce food that are popular in the Native American culture, such as: beef and corn stew, Indian popcorn, popped wild rice, and fry bread for the feast the following day.
lesson plan overview science
Lesson Plan Overview Science
  • Week One-
  • Week Two-
  • Week Three-
  • Social Studies
    • Explore Native American artifacts and predict which region each is from
    • Identify and label geographic regions on a blank map
    • Food source predictions
    • Native American Culture Chart
    • Classification of Native American Dwellings
    • Construction of Native American Dwelling Model
  • Language Arts
    • Class K-W-L Chart about myths and legends
    • Characteristics of Myths & Legends Group List
    • Independent Classification of Literature as Myth or Legend
    • Group chart of specific myths & legends characteristic
    • Independent illustration of original myth or legend
    • Independent composition of original myth or legend
    • Independent use of rubric to complete peer review of original myth or legend
  • Mathematics
    • Conversation worksheet
    • Teacher observation and checklist during guided practice during measurement lesson
    • Independent questions while using Gallon Man
    • Teacher observation of student using patterns on drum
    • Checklist of class participation in graphing activity
    • Independent writing plans for pattern design for woven mat and past necklace
    • Teacher observation of the final result of woven mat and pasta necklace
    • Teacher will use a checklist and observe student making their tee-pee and pan pipe
    • Word problem worksheet for repeated addition
    • Teacher will use a checklist and observe student making their dream-catchers
  • Science
    • Calendar of Iroquois festivals/ceremonies and corresponding seasonal changes
    • Soil classification and identification of corresponding geographic region and trib.
    • Checklist of group participation in developing explanation for natural phenomenon
culminating activity part i
Culminating Activity Part I

The Great Beginnings Thematic Unit will have an equally great ending. The culminating activity will be a day long celebration of Native American culture. First thing in the morning the students will be given a brief overview of Native American names and their meanings. The students will then select a Native American name for themselves and and add it to their head dress. Students will gather for brief presentations of students original myths and legends. Each presenter will display his or her poster, name the main characters and describe their theme. At 9:15 the students will then have their Native American feast in the cafeteria. Class mother’s will be invited to help reheat the previously prepared foods, serve the food and help with clean up. The students will wear their necklaces and head dresses as they are seated around the models of Native American Shelters. They will use their woven mats as placemats. The walls will be a display center for the student’s geographic area collages, representative soil samples and circle maps. Native American music will be playing during the feast. During specials time, all second grade classes will report to the field for P.E. Since many Native American disputes were settled by playing ball games similar to field hokey, lacrosse, or soccer, the second grade classes will play soccer matches against one another.

culminating activity part ii
Culminating Activity Part II

During the Language Arts block, students will rotate through four classrooms. The students will learn to play a different game in each of the four classes. They will learn how to play “hiding the disks”, “the hand game”, “the snake stick game” and “the bowl game”. The students will discuss how the skills used in each of these games would have been required for the survival of the Native American people and how practicing skills through games would be much like school for Native American youth. During recess students will pick up the school grounds as a way to practice respecting and preserving Earth’s resources for future generations. After recess, the students will watch three excerpts from the movie Dream Keeper where an elderly grandfather tells his grandson mysterious Native American tales of love, friendship, and magic. After each tale students will take five minutes to write down whether they thought the tale was a myth or a legend and one sentence explaining their decision. At the end of the day students will have an opportunity to visit the “trading post” to exchange the Wampum that they have been earning, for small rewards such as pencils, stickers, and erasers.

student literature references
Student Literature References

Bruchac, J. (1993). The First Strawberries. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.

Crespo, G. (1993). How the Sea Began. New York, NY: Clarion Books.

Dearborn, Lyn, & Ritchie, Mary (n.d.) Legend Ojibwe Dream Catcher. Retrieved from

Dream Catchers Incorporated (n.d.) The Legend of the Dream Catcher. Retrieved from

London, J. (1993). Fire Race; A Karuk Coyote Tale. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Shepard, A. (2004). The Hidden One. In Folktales on Stage: Children’s Plays for Readers Theater. Los Angeles, CA: Shepard Publications.

Taylor, C.J. (1993). How Horses Came Into the World. In How We Saw the World; Nine Native stories of the way things began. Montreal, Quebec: Tundra Books.

Taylor, H.P. (1993). Coyote Places the Stars. New York, NY: Bradbury Press.

website references
Website References

planning resources
Planning Resources
  • Martinello, M. L., & Cook, G.E. (2000). Interdisciplinary Inquiry in Teaching and Learning (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
  • Roberts, P.L., & Kellough, R.D. (2008). A Guide for Developing Interdisciplinary Thematic Units (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson.
  • Jacobs, H.H. Interdisciplinary Learning in Your Classroom: From Concept to Classroom. Retrieved from: