Resources & Activities for Teachers & Librarians:

Teaching children about Native Americans can be a challenging task. Stereotypes abound, and even books that are reviewed positively by mainstream sources may not provide accurate information. It is important to consult sources such as Oyate or Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature blog as you work to develop plans and select books. Below, you will find selected resources and activities for your classroom developed around The Journal of Jesse Smoke and My Heart is on the Ground.

Suggested Classrom Activities:

Using Historical Fiction in the Social Studies and Language Arts Classroom
Tarry Lindquist shares his experience and techniques for using historical fiction to reinforce his social studies lessons in "Why and How I Teach with Historical Fiction." In a section about dealing with historical fiction, he offers the following suggestions:

It's easy to discern fact from fantasy in a Disney movie — just wait until the animals break into song. Less than obvious is what's historically accurate and what isn't. Our students are faced with the same dilemma when we teach with historical fiction. How can we help them differentiate between make-believe and history, and recognize the interpretive nature of historical reporting? Here's what I do.

-Raise students' awareness. I alert kids that historical fiction and written accounts of history are different genres. I tell them: As you are reading throughout the year, see if you can find differences between these two kinds of books.

-Bring in resource people. Invite experts into your classroom so kids have an opportunity to discuss their observations and explore questions. Remember, an expert can be a grandmother who was interned, an uncle who has traveled extensively, or a local lawyer who can tell your kids how trials really work.

-Integrate skills across the disciplines. I hold reading practice — such as distinguishing between fact and opinion, and fiction and nonfiction — into social studies.

-Investigate sources. When I read a book aloud to my class, I model how to examine the sources of information used by the author and illustrator. Author's notes are particularly valuable. When kids read independently, we frequently conference about the sources used. It's also critical to read more than one kind of resource so students have the opportunity to discover multiple perspectives.

Beyond Stereotypes/Generalization of Native American Indians
Ask students to draw a Native American child. The students' drawings may contain many generalizations about Native Americans. For example, teachers may point out that some tribes used bows and arrows for hunting, but not all tribes. Link the stereotypes of the look to other generalizations about Native Americans. Teachers may show them the photographs of Native American children in non-fiction photo books such as Children of Native America Today. Then, discuss with students stereotypes of Native Americans they might see in the media. Ask students to make a list of statements about stereotypes that might not be true of all American Indians.
(Adapted from "Exploring Native Americans Across the Curriculum" at Education World

Contemporary Issues activity
Explore contemporary issues surrounding Native Americans by having students choose one topic from this NativeTech website. Assign a written response that explains the issue and its impact on Native American culture.

Cooking activity
Have students prepare Native American recipes. Some examples are available here:

Language activity
Create a worksheet in Lakota Sioux language and with a reference sheet, have students translate the text into English. A Lakota Sioux language resources site is available here: Here is another:
And here is one where you can hear the Lakota word:

Native American Proverbs, Folktales, Myths, and Legends
Use library or internet sources to find proverbs, folktales, myths, and legends representative of Native American cultures. Divide into small group and assign one story to each group. Have each group read and study the story and then put together a play or skit. Have students consider questions such as: What is the plot of the story? Who are the main characters? What moves the story along? Have students present their play or skit to the class.
Try this site for Native American Proverbs:
You should also consult books such as Tim Tingle's Spirits Dark and Light: Supernatural Tales from the Five Civilized Tribes or books recommended by Doris Seale in A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children.

Nature activity
Explore plants, animals, and the rest of the natural world using the Keepers of... series by Michael J. Caduto and Joseph Bruchac.
Books in the series:
Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife for Children
Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children
Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants Through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children

Origins of English words activity
Ask students to list words that have Native American origins. Teachers might provide lists of words with Native American origins along with other words. Ask students to try to figure out which words originated with Native American languages. Here is a link for teachers to consult:

Tell me about the photo
Show students the photographs from the books such as Children of Native America Today by Yvonne Wakim Dennis and Arlene Hirschfelder and Rattlesnake Mesa: Stories from a Native American Childhood by Ednah New Rider Weber. Ask students to write about the photo. After having students present their story, compare the original text that goes with the photo. Students will learn how effective a photo can be in conveying a story.

Trail of Tears activity
Provide students with a historical account of the Trail of Tears, as well as its geographical route. Discuss with children their reactions to the Trail of Tears. Have students research more on the Trail of Tears for group project. Here is an example of lesson plan for teaching the Trail of Tears:
Here is an example of the map:

Resources for further information and study:

Appalachian Folklore Picture Books: Cherokee Tales - - This website contains annotated bibliography of picture books with Cherokee themes.

A Critical Bibliography on North American Indians for grades K-12 - - provided by the Smithsonian, this site lists a number of books for use in the classroom.

Debbie Reese's List of Recommended Books and resources -

"I" is not for Indian - - This article describes selection criteria of Native American books for librarians. Selective bibliography includes short reviews on recommended and not-recommended titles.

Internet Public Library: Native American Authors - - This website provides information about Native American authors with bibliographies and biographic information.

Seale, Doris and Beverly Slapin, eds. A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children.- This comprehensive resource is endorsed by Oyate and Debbie Reese.

Slapin, Beverly and Doris Seale, eds. Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. (If visiting this link, scroll to the bottom for information about Through Indian Eyes.) This comprehensive resource is endorsed by Oyate.

Stott, Jon J.  Native Americans in Children's Literature. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1995. - This book has a foreword by Joseph Bruchac and includes an entire chapter about incorporating Native stories into the language arts curriculum.

Teacher and Librarian Resources for Children's and YA Books with Native Themes - - Native author Smith provides a comprehensive list of books and websites related to Native Americans and Children's and Young Adult literature.

Carlisle Indian School links and books:

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School - - a website created by Cumberland County (PA) Historical Society Assistant Librarian Barb Landis with great historical resources and information.

The Carlisle Indian Industrial School - - a history of the Carlisle Indian School as well as information about additional resources maintained by the Cumberland County (PA) Historical Society in Carlisle, PA.

Indian Boarding Schools: Civilizing the Native Spirit - - A lesson plan about Indian Boarding Schools from the Library of Congress.

Teaching English to American Indians - - An eye-opening essay on methods used to teach English to Native American children. Information about the Carlisle school included.

Witmer, Linda F. The Indian Industrial School: Carlisle, Pennsylvania 1879-1918. Carlisle, PA: Cumberland County Historical Society, 2002. - As Excutive Director of the Cumberland County (PA) Historical Society, Witmer is very familiar with the history of the Carlisle Indian School. Her in-depth book includes many photos, a partial list of students who attended the school, and a Foreword by George Horse Capture, Deputy Assistant Director, Cultural Resources, NMAI, Smithsonian Institution.

Evaluating Resources

Questions to Ask When Selecting American Indian Books for the Classroom - - Tips for evaluating Native American books for the classroom. 

Techniques for Evaluating American Indian Web Sites - - endorsed by Debbie Reese

Historical Information and Information about Teaching About Native Americans

First Americans - - fun and interactive website containing information about Native Americans.  

The Learning Page - Native Americans - - This collection of teaching resourcse from the Library of Congress focuses on Native Americans

Museum of the Cherokee Indian - - A museum devoted to the Cherokee - - This website provides free lesson plans on various Native American topics, a comparison chart of Native Americans with Europeans and Native American stories.

National Museum of the American Indian: (Smithsonian) -

Native American Resources - - index of Native American teaching resources.

Native American sites - - This website provides links to Native American Nations and organizations as indexed by a librarian and endorsed by ALA's Great Websites for Kids.

PBS's The West - - Archives from the PBS series "The West" contains history, people and places, lesson plans, and quizzes.

Southern Oregon Digital Archives First Nation Collection - - a digital archive with a great deal of information available online that would work well to supplement a lesson about Native Americans

Surrounded by Beauty: Arts of Native America - - This website introduces Native American artwork in different regions of U.S. - - Award winning website that teaches the value of diversity and tolerance. Includes resources for teachers.

Walking the Trail of Tears- - This website provides a lesson plan for teaching the Trail of Tears for grades 4-5 social studies.

Professional Resources:

American Indian Library Association -

American Indians in Children's Literature - - Debbie Reese's excellent blog about Native Americans in Children's Literature as well as contemporary issues surrounding education and Native Americans

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Edited by Janet