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Lesson #1: A Storyteller's Inspiration

Lesson #2: Video Storytelling

Lesson #3: Speak With Your Elders

Lesson 2: Our Small World
Printable Version

Native AmericanGrades 8-12
Subject: Language Arts/Civics
Estimated Time of Completion: six to eight 50-minute periods

  1. Summary
  2. Objectives
  3. Materials Needed
  4. Procedure
  5. Classroom Assessment
  6. Extensions and Adaptations
  7. National Standards
I. Summary

Misunderstandings, persecution, and even wars have resulted from a lack of tolerance and respect for those who are different. Helen Keller once said, “The highest result of education is tolerance.” Use this lesson to educate your students about tolerance for other cultures and other ideas. Use this plan to open dialogue between your students of different cultures. Invite students to explore indigenous and Native cultures, and promote appreciation for the contributions from these cultures. Use this plan to teach your students about cultural conservation and to bring more understanding about the issues that tribes face today.

II. Objectives
  • The students will understand the role that awareness and sensitivity to differences play in our society.
  • The students will understand differences among people.
  • The students will explore the presence of assumptions, stereotypes and prejudice.
  • The students will identify how intolerance and bias manifest in a person’s behaviors.
  • The students will engage in a creative process of generating ideas, drafting, revising, editing and writing on topics concerning tolerance and personal beliefs.
  • The students will be exposed to the history behind storytelling and relating oral histories.
  • The students will develop an appreciation of the contributions from various cultures.
III. Materials Needed
  • Pencil and paper
  • The board and chalk, an overhead and transparency or another presentation device
  • Computer with Internet access
  • LCD projector or another type of computer projection device
  • Music for “It’s a Small World” and/or “Circle of Life”
  • A picture of a Native American from a textbook or from the Web
IV. Procedure

(Class 1)

  1. Invite a person from a reservation or a local Native American to speak to the students, to describe his tribe’s traditions and culture. If this isn’t possible, the teacher might take students on a field trip to a reservation. If neither one of these resources is available skip to the next step.
  2. Using a tape or the computer, play the music for “It’s a Small World” in the classroom (words and lyrics available at the following link: or “Circle of Life” (words and lyrics available at and have students brainstorm what the phrase “It’s a Small World” means. Discuss the “Circle of Life.” Students should understand that all things are essential to life. Discuss the results of some animals and their effect on the ecosystem.
  3. Hold up a picture of an American Indian. Discuss the picture and what students see and think. Ask about different types of Native Americans. Is the picture representative of all Native Americans? Ask the students to take a guess as to how many different Native American tribes there are.
  4. “You have noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came to us from the sacred hoop of the nation, and so long as the hoop was unbroken, the people flourished. The flowering tree was the living center of the hoop, and the circle of the four quarters nourished it. The east gave peace and light, the south gave warmth, the west gave rain, and the north with its cold and mighty wind gave strength and endurance. This knowledge came to us from the outer world with our religion. Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round.

    Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves. Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the Nation’s hoop, a nest of many nests, where the Great Spirit meant for us to hatch our children.”

    —Black Elk, Oglala Sioux Holy Man, 1863-1950

    Share this quote with the students. Have students react to it. Do they agree or disagree? Can they think of other circles or references to circles in life? (Examples: band of hope, wheel of fortune, life cycles, Artic Circle, going in a circle, circle of light, circle of friends, Antarctic Circle, crop circle, circling the airport, round table, etc.)

(Class 2)

  1. Divide students into small groups of three to four and assign a particular culture for research. Have the groups of students choose a group of Native Americans from the list below, research their chosen tribe, and then make a presentation to the class. If possible, have the students speak to a Native American from that tribe as a part of their research by finding the tribal headquarters info on the web, calling their offices, and asking for the Tribal Publicity Director (if they have one). Many Native Nation’s websites are available at or at Students may also use the Tribal Background information in the Storytellers section of the CIRCLE OF STORIES site to learn more about the four storytellers’ tribes.
    • Have students choose from the following tribes: Hohokam, Mogollon, Anasazi, Navajo, Apache, Pueblo, Shoshone, Lakota, Dakota, Narragansett, Blackfeet, Chippewa, Kaibab-Paiute, Cherokee, Flatheads, Cahuillas, Wyandots, Serranos, Chemehuevis, Choctaw, Mohegan, Seminole or Hopi.
    • The teacher should try to have students choose many different tribes to provide as extensive overview of the Native American as possible.
    • After a suitable time frame, allow groups to present their information to the class. (Research could possibly take two to four days.
    • Make preparation for students to make their presentations during Class Four.)
  2. Have students listen to Rosella Archdale discussing her culture in the Storytellers section of the CIRCLE OF STORIES Web site, Explore other coordinating multimedia components from the site. Students should listen to Rosella’s tone. She obviously cares about her past. Why do you think her culture means so much to her? It is obvious her memories of food are precious memories. Discuss Native American traditions that are dying out (not just food, but language, crafts, etc.). Discuss other traditions that might die out if they are not protected. Ask students to elaborate on why cultural beliefs and ideas such as food preparation, crafts, and language should not be allowed to disappear completely. Discuss the near extinction of the buffalo. How did this affect the Native American culture? How might that have affected other inhabitants of the land?
  3. Discuss the part the buffalo played in the “Circle of Life.” Encourage students to see the connection between earth, people, animals, and resources.

(Class 3)

  1. Have students listen to the songs of Corbin Harney and his strong feelings of preserving Mother Earth at the CIRCLE OF STORIES Web site, Why do students feel that the indigenous song and dance of tribes needs to be preserved? Have the students ever witnessed such an event? Ask about how they felt to be a part of such a ceremony. Ask about other ceremonies that they might have attended in other cultures.
  2. Visit the Cultural Conservancy Web site This site is run by a Native American nonprofit organization “dedicated to the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures and their ancestral lands.” Click the link for StoryScape and read about Corbin Harney’s Mother Earth songs and how he sings of this precious earth. Pose discussion questions to the students about different points of view on Harney’s activist stand in relation to his tribal lands. Focus students on understanding various issues that tribes face today. Encourage students to make a link between what tribes face today and the issues we all face.
  3. Have students use the Cultural Conservancy Web site to read about Harney and discover his feelings concerning traditional lands being used as nuclear weapons testing grounds for the last fifty years. Have students write persuasive compositions to argue either for or against this issue.

(Class 4)

  1. Students will make their presentations of tribes and indigenous cultures to the class. (see #5)

(Class 5)

  1. Students will use the Cultural Conservancy Website to read about other efforts to protect indigenous stories, songs, languages, land, plants, food, medicine, skills and culture of the Native people. Have students brainstorm why this is important. Have students use reference books and the Internet to research what some people are doing to save the culture of these people.
  2. Have students listen to Tchin as he discusses his culture at the CIRCLE OF STORIES Web site, Have the students react to his comments about “What I Am.” He doesn’t want to be called Native American but Narragansett/Sisseka or Blackfeet. Ask students to respond to this comment. Why would a people feel this way? Open a dialogue with students on acceptance of other cultures.
  3. Have students respond to one or more of these questions either orally or as journal writing:
    1. How much do people judge others by their looks?
    2. How much do television and other media affect how people view each other?
    3. Discuss your favorite television shows. What values are they teaching?
    4. Why do you think people have certain ideas about certain cultures?
    5. Do you agree or disagree that we need to be more tolerant of each other?
    6. Do you agree or disagree that everyone needs to be involved in cultural conservation and preserving cultures? Why?
    7. How are Native Americans portrayed in the media, and how is this similar or different from what they see on the site?
    8. How do you think you can teach people to be more tolerant of other cultures?
    9. React to this study on tolerance. Do you think you or more or less tolerant now than when you began this lesson?

(Class 6)

  1. Have students comment about injustices and intolerance to cultures. Place students in groups of three to four students. Have students pretend that they are a tribe (allow them to choose if they would like). They are faced with the problem that the government is not allowing the tribes to operate their own schools. They want to do this to teach the basics of their culture to ensure that language, stories and such do not become extinct. However, the government is insisting that the students attend public school. Each group should complete the following tasks:
    1. First make a list of things you might do to change public and government opinion. What can you use to argue this? (What constitutional amendment would you use to support that your freedoms are being violated?)
    2. Write a letter to the legislature to outline your reasons for wanting to run your own schools.
    3. Try to imagine the arguments from others about your school. Write down some of their arguments and your answers to them.
    4. Draw up a list that would make your school different than a public school. (Example: stressing the native language, different religion, stressing care for “Mother Earth,” etc.)

(Class 7)

  1. During the stories from the Web site Corbin Harney uses some of his native language. “Naraborochi, in my words, that’s water,” he says. Later, he comments, “Anoso, in my language, that’s our mother. Our mother is the one that we’re circling on, everything on this earth. That’s what it’s about, Wanonoawatee, Wanososhy, we all are rotating with our mother.” Another culture bearer, Rosella Archdale, uses some of her Native language as she cooks. She says, “Guwa bi mnuna, it means bread, . . . turnips, the timsula, . . . corn soup, Washtapi.” Share some of this Native American language with the students. Ask the students about the importance of keeping their language alive.
  2. Ask students if they know of any words in our English language that was derived from the Native American language. Point out to them the many of our geographical places in the United States derived their names from this language. Allow students to view the Place Names map at the CIRCLE OF STORIES Web site to explore some of these native words. Focus students on noticing that the location was named for what Native American word or from what tribe. (i.e., “Ponca”, Arkansas: the name of a town derived from the Sioux tribal name; meaning “sacred head”; or “Alabama”: a Choctaw word meaning “cleaners of thickets.” Ask students to find as many words as they can that have originated with other cultures.
  3. Have students share their list of words with others with this fun activity. Students should bring their list to class. Ask students to wad the sheet of paper up. Throw it up in the air. As the paper comes down, students should catch a sheet different than the one they threw. Have the students read this list. Have the students again wad the paper and throw it. Again, the students catch a different one and read it. Repeat several times.

(Class 8)

  1. As a concluding activity have students share and learn about other cultures by encouraging students to communicate with other students about their culture stories. Use the organization called “Friendship Through Education”
V. Classroom Assessment

Activity Points (1 to 10)
Possible 100
(10 pts. each)
1. Group work/presentation of a Native American group    
2. Delivery of presentation:
a. accurate information
b. articulation, volume, fluency, correct grammar
c. Eye contact
3. Participation in group and individual participation in class discussions    
4. Persuasive compositions with specific rebuttals with accurate and insightful argument or supportive statements with accurate proof.    
5. Written expository composition to compare and contrast "food" thoughts    
6. Journal entries on tolerance    
7. Small group activities to begin your own school    
8. Following classroom guidelines and directions and staying on task    
9. Communication with other cultures    
10. Overall effectiveness    

VI. Extensions and Adaptations
  • Students will write about other people whose lives have played a positive part in impacting the way we view other cultures. (Be sure to examine some of the links on this site for some examples: Corbin Harney, Tchin, etc.)
  • Have students explore the legal aspects of sexual comments, age discrimination, and other manifestations of intolerance.
  • Research some of the treaties that were signed between Native Americans and our government. Learn the status of those treaties today.
  • Write poems that reflect tolerance for other cultures.
  • Write poems that reflect respect and appreciation for an aspect of nature.
  • Make a list of human rights. What rights do you think have been abused with different cultures?
  • Write a composition to argue or support your thoughts about people being allowed to speak their own language anytime. Should students be required to use English in school?
  • Are their arguments to support being bilingual? Should that be required? Have students respond to these questions as part of classroom journal writing.
  • Create a bulletin board that says “It’s a Small World.” Display the reports that students did on the different tribes around these words.
  • Have the students to look closely at the “Circle of Life.” Here are some other sites to open discussion and explore on the connections of all living things:
VII. Relevant National Standards

This lesson addresses the following national content standards found in the McRel Standards Database at

Language Arts

  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the writing process.
  • Demonstrates competence in the general skills and strategies of the reading process.
  • Uses descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas (e.g., establishes tone and mood, uses figurative language, uses sensory images and comparisons, uses a thesaurus to choose effective wording).
  • Uses paragraph form in writing (arranges sentences in sequential order, uses supporting and follow-up sentences, establishes coherence within and among paragraphs).
  • Will write expository compositions (synthesizes and organizes information from first- and second-hand sources, including books, magazines, computer data banks and the community; uses a variety of techniques to develop the main idea {names, describes, or differentiates parts; compares or contrasts; examines the history of a subject; cites an anecdote to provide an example; illustrates through a scenario; provides interesting facts about the subject}; distinguishes relative important facts, data, and ideas; uses appropriate technical terms and notations).
  • Uses strategies to adapt writing for different purposes (to explain, inform, analyze, entertain, reflect, and persuade).
  • Understands the role of the media in addressing social and cultural issues
  • Uses descriptive language that clarifies and enhances ideas (establishes tone and mood, uses figurative language, uses sensory images and comparisons, uses a thesaurus to choose effective wording).


  • Knows different viewpoints regarding the role and value of diversity in American life.
  • Knows examples of conflicts stemming from diversity, and understands how some conflicts have been managed and why some of them have not yet been successfully resolved.

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