This is a series of lessons using Native American literature that I run concurrently with a Native American Research Unit. It is part of a bigger unit on generational stories that my district is implementing. The students learn a lot from studying informational text while pairing it with literature. It also helps meet the 50/50 ratio of informational text to fiction recommended for third grade Common Core standards. My team and I chose The Rough-Face Girl as our shared reading text for this particular week, because it is a grade appropriate text falling in our Lexile band at 540. This series of lessons happened to take place our first week of school! I was just getting to know my students as learners, and we completed most of the work together. It was such an exciting time, and the students really enjoyed kicking off the year with great Native American literature and retelling ropes. I hope I've got them hooked! Please watch this short video to get an idea about the how and why behind this lesson and how it can work for you!
We gather around our fire, and I begin by sharing one last Native American folktale. Today, I've chosen "Skunk Outwits Coyote" in Dee Brown's Folktales of the Native American: Retold for Our Times. We use our retelling ropes and anchor chart to practice our skills. The students identify the lesson of the story and cite evidence from the text to support their choice. (See Resource File: Retelling Rope and Anchor Chart)
We review our academic vocabulary for this week's unit using our poster, including:
My tribe really knows their stuff by the end of the week, and they help lead the review. We apply our academic vocabulary to the stories they read yesterday by pairing and sharing about the different cultures.
Today is a day of celebration as tribe is ready to graduate and become Great Storytellers, as they present their Native American folktale retellings!
I set the stage for our tribe to share by reviewing our agreed-upon rules for speaking and listening. We use our Speaking and Listening Posters and rubric to guide us. (See Resource Files: Engage in Discussion Poster, Present Information Poster, and Native American Folktale Presentation Rubric) I tell them that after we give appropriate praise we are going to do the drumming activity on our laps that we've been doing all week. We practice to make sure we're ready to go and be good listeners and presenters. I model a presentation, and let my tribe know I'm looking for them to listen to others with care, stay on topic, gain the floor in respectful ways, speak clearly and slowly, and retell their folktale. Then I start choosing students to present.
As the students are presenting, I take a notes on a rubric for each student. When they're finished, I also collect their retelling and author's lesson sheets for assessment at a later time. Keeping the sheets behind them keeps them from playing with them while other members of the tribe are presenting.
After each member of my tribe presents, I give them a gift! The gift is a Native American name all of their own. After the class claps for the student and we begin drumming, I say, "I now pronounce you Great Chief (Adjective or Verb) (Animal)". Some examples are Running Bear, Friendly Rabbit, Chattering Squirrel, Swift Eagle, etc. The tribe really loves this! They may never want you to call them by their real name again!
I always end a week of stories with a direct look-back at our essential question. Our essential question for this six week unit of stories is, "Why do we hand stories down to the next generation?". (See SMART Notebook Resource File: Unit Two Essential Question Map) Here you'll see a picture of one of my students adding to our Essential Question document. My students have come up with some great ideas, even though we are early in the unit, and it's the first week of school! I'm so proud of them! Here is what my tribe has said so far about why we hand stories down to the next generation:
To learn about our families
They're really great stories
Keep traditions alive
Keep the story alive
So other people can hear it
Every generation can hear them
To learn lessons about life
As we go throughout the unit we continue to reflect and add to this document.
At Home: Provide research links for your students to do some online research at home. Invite them to share any new facts each day that you gather at the fire.
Native American Folktale Center or Follow-up Practice Activity: Offer your students a wide variety of Native American folktales to read. Ask them to retell the stories using their recounting ropes, or by writing our their recountings. (See Resource File: Recounting a Folktale Practice Page)
Cultural Research Center: Provide students with informational research materials about the tribes where the folktales originated from. Ask them to take notes on a particular tribe and report their findings in a class book page. See my Native American Research lessons on cc.betterlesson.
Native American Listening Center: Provide one or more Native American folktales for students to enjoy at a listening center. Use this as another opportunity to practice recounting folktales. I record my own listening centers to match our weekly stories. This is a great way to have conversations about the thematic topic of the week, and a way to model good prosody. I offer a couple of different choices for differentiation of the level of the text, as well as the text itself. Some Native American selections I offer my students are The Legend of Bluebonnet (740 Lexile Level) by Tomie dePaola, The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush (840 Lexile Level) by Tomie dePaola, The Flute Player by Michael Lacapa, and The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain by Denise Ortakales.
Even though this is the last day of Native American stories within my unit, I know the students are still excited about this genre. I'll keep extra Native American folktales out in a display area of my libary for at least another week or two, along with informational books about tribes.