Native American Voices
This lesson is the first in the Native American Literature unit, the first unit in MrsSperry.com’s complete, year-long, American Literature course. In this course, students travel through America’s literary periods by reading selected online works or works in Holt's Elements of Literature, Fifth Course. The journey begins with Native American literature and ends with today’s literature. Students improve their reading and writing skills and explore the knowledge acquired by Americans throughout the centuries. All lessons are designed to meet college readiness standards as measured by the ACT and SAT.
This 50 minute lesson engages
students by seeking their input to essential questions asked and answered by Native
Americans, establishes a purpose for future reading, and introduces new
This lesson plan
Printouts from http://www.mrssperry.com/Terms for Studying Native American Literature.htm or a teacher's computer with Internet access and an LCD projector
Each student should have a file folder or binder in which to keep notes, printouts, and work
Step 1 (Duration: 30 minutes) – Engage students, Skills Target 1
Open the class by displaying the essential question that Native Americans tried to answer: What does nature teach humans about their role in the universe?
(When you look at nature, how do you feel? How are we like other creatures? How are we different? How are we connected to the universe? Would the universe miss humanity if we became extinct?)
Tell students that they probably have wondered about the same questions Native Americans about life. Today they will find out how they and other students have answered those questions and what Native Americans decided the answers to those questions were. Perhaps input from other students and from Native American works will cause them to change their answer to some of life's most important questions.
Tell students that in this first unit, they will explore how their ideas and Native Americans' ideas are similar and how they are different.
Before dividing the class into groups, display and discuss today's knowledge and skills targets.
Divide students into groups of four with a reporter for each group.
Groups which finish early should discuss their ideas about the following questions as they wait for all groups to finish. Their answers to the following questions will be shared if time permits. Extra credit may be given.
Do people exist for a reason?
Is there purpose in the universe or is everything an accident?
Do people have souls?
Is death an absolute end or the beginning of a new kind of existence?
Remind students to give their own personal answers - NOT to predict what Native Americans believed.
Direct reporters to take notes so they will be able to share a summary of their group’s responses with the whole class.
Tell students that we study literature to see the results of other people's investigations of the universe so we can build on previous human knowledge instead of having to start over each generation.
Step 2 (Duration: 20 minutes) – Knowledge Target 1
Write the terms oral tradition, myth, metaphor, rhythm, and onomatopoeia on the board or use an LCD projector to show the page at http://www.mrssperry.com/Terms for Studying Native American Literature.htm
If not projected, write the terms' definitions on the board for the students to copy.
oral tradition = the spoken culture and history of people, passed down from one generation to the next
myth = an explanatory story about how gods, customs, the world, animals, or events began
metaphor = a direct comparison of two things which seem to be different but which have similarities (Example: The snow is a white blanket covering the ground. A blanket and snow seem very different, but both cover things)
rhythm = a pattern of sound
onomatopoeia = the creation or use of words which imitate sounds (Ex: pow, buzz)
Direct students to copy the definitions, and ask what they believe would be the hardest part of being a tribal storyteller who preserved history, knowledge, and traditions by the use of oral, not written, discourse.
Ask students what techniques and literary devices they, as oral storytellers, would employ. (Some techniques are the use of repetition, traditional beginnings similar to "once upon a time," memorable metaphors, and rhythm.)
Tell students that the next lesson will give them more tools to understand and interpret Native American poetry.
©2010 Gale Sperry, www.mrssperry.com, All rights reserved.