Native American Research Project: The First Steps (Lesson 1 of 8)

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SWBAT build background knowledge about Native American cultures and areas. SWBAT take brief notes from a digital source.

Big Idea

Hello fellow teacher! Are you shopping for a Native American Research Project for your tribe? Look no further! You'll pre-assess Native American schema, give background knowledge, and take notes from a digital source in this first lesson of eight!

Welcome to My Lesson Video Narrative

This is a series of Language Arts lessons that I run concurrently with a Native American literature week.  The students love researching tribes that they are reading about in folktales and other Native American literature.  Pairing informational text with literature is an awesome combination!  Please watch this short video to hear some of the highlights of this lesson.  Thank you!

See What Your Tribe Knows

What schema does my tribe already have on Native Americans?

I want to see what my students already know before beginning informational projects, like this Native American Research Project.  We complete a quick pre-assessment activity during our computer lab time.  The students fill out a Google form to show me what they already know about what we are going to be studying, and what they'd like to learn.  (See Resource File:  Native American KWL Google Form)   You can also use a K-W-L chart for the same purpose.  

Introduce Academic & Content Vocabulary

15 minutes

At the beginning of any new project, unit, or set of lessons, I like to introduce my class to any academic and content vocabulary that they'll encounter.  We keep anchor charts for our content and academic vocabulary so that we can revisit them often.  In this lesson, I'll cover the following by defining, giving examples, and telling the students how these words are important to our Native American Research Project.

Academic Vocabulary:

  • Non-fiction Text Features (lesson to come tomorrow)
  • Internet research/Digital sources
  • Shared research
  • Informative/Informational text
  • Research project process:  research, evaluate, relevant vs. irrelevant, sorting into categories, note-taking, planning, drafting, editing, revising, publishing


Content Vocabulary:

  • Native American
  • Culture
  • Native American Cultural Areas of North America and the United States


We preview both Native American Cultural Maps. (See Resource Files:  U.S. Native American Cultural Map and North America Native American Cultural Areas)  I explain to students that in some of their informational resources the cultural areas will be represented one way, and they may find that they may be presented another way in other resources.

We also locate the cultural areas for literature that we're studying in reading class.  These tribes end up being the ones my students want to research due to the literature we are studying in reading class.  I show my class the location of the following tribes and their cultural areas:

  • The Rough-Face Girl (Algonquin/Eastern Woodlands Culture Area)
  • Sootface:  An Ojibwa Cinderella Story (Ojibwa/Eastern Woodlands Culture Area)
  • Knots on a Counting Rope (Believed to be Iroquois/Eastern Woodlands Culture Area)
  • The Flute Player (Apache/Southwest)
  • The Legend of the Old Man of the Mountain (Mowhawk and Pemigewasset/Eastern Woodlands Culture Area)
  • The First Strawberries (Cherokee/Southeast)
  • How the Stars Fell Into the Sky (Navajo/Southwest)
  • Dee Brown's Folktales (Many tribes and cultural areas)
  • The Girl Who Helped Thunder (Many tribes and cultural areas)


Build Your Tribe's Background Knowledge

35 minutes

My district subscribes to a video service, and today we are going to watch a 20 minute video on Native American cultures.  There are also many informational videos for free online.  


Explain Taking Notes From a Digital Source:

Before beginning the video I tell my students that they'll be taking notes during and after the video presentation.  I model this for them on an index card on my document camera.  The class puts a title at the top of their index card, "Native American Video Notes", and their name.  I explain that when you take notes, you just want a few important words, not a whole sentence.  I also model relevant vs. irrelevant information.  We all put one of the first facts mentioned in the video on our card together, preceded by a dot to mark that this is a new note, like this:

  • lived all areas of U.S.

I let the students know that they should take as many notes as they feel comfortable during the video.  However, I explain that if it's easier for them to just watch, we will have a word wall with important words from the video for them to finish their note taking after viewing.  


View Video:

We watch the video, and I monitor that my tribe is watching, and taking some notes.


Complete Notes After Video With Word Wall of Important Video Words:

At the conclusion of the video, I ask the students for important words they heard while watching.  I make them a quick word wall on my dry erase board, adding any words I feel are important along with their suggestions.  We talk about five to ten minutes to finish taking notes.  During this time I walk around to all of my students checking to make sure they are only writing their notes as a few words, and have relevant information.  



I assess my students after this first note-taking activity to see where their skills are before we begin taking notes on the Native American tribes.  This gives me time to work with students before the research begins on day three.  (See Resource File:  Note Taking Native American Video Rubric)

Review & Celebrate Today's New Learning!

5 minutes

We complete our learning for today by sharing our note-taking facts that we learned from the video.   I have the class acknowledge everyone's efforts by having the person next to them say something nice (They can't repeat any compliment said before them.).  I remind students that the notes they took were short, only a few words, and were relevant.  


I give my tribe a sneak peak at tomorrow as I show them the stacks of informational texts and magnifying glasses I have out for tomorrow.  They are excited to see what the day holds!  If you're excited, too, please see Native American Research Project:  Feature Detectives & Book-Arounds (Day 2 of 8).