Thanksgiving is a perfect time to teach about Native American history. Whether you are teaching a preschooler or a middle schooler, American Indian history is interesting to all. A unit study is a great way to focus on a topic for a short period of time, a week or two perhaps. The study outlined below will be ideally done in a two week period, but feel free to cusomize it to your timetable.
PRE-K to Grade 2- Begin with a KWL chart. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is a chart with three sections. They are K-or what I know, W- or What I want to know and L- what I learned. Start by listing with your child what they already know about Native Americans. Next find out what they want to know.This will help you in choosing books and materials to suit their interest. The book series "If You lived With..." is a wonderful one that younger elementary students enjoy. The books focus on specific Indian tribes, like the Sioux, or the Indians of the Northwest Coast. When you reach the part in the story about Indian homes encourage your child to create a mini model of a teepee or log home. Lincoln Logs and brown paper are easy materials to use to accomplish this. Try incorporating Math into the unit by teaching patterns by making Indian bead bracelets. The craft of making a headdress from paper is always a hit with the younger crew. Offer colored construction paper and design a feather pattern for your child to cut. Paste the feathers on a wide paper headband and you are set! Plan to make a traditional Native American food, like cornbread with your child too. It doesn't have to be an exact replica of Native American Maize, just a representation of a food Native Americans enjoyed throughout history.
Grades 3-8- Older elementary and middle schoolers love to learn about tribe specifics. Start by finding out your local Native American tribe history. Geographic locations can be found for your area, and discover the rich Native American history in your own backyard. Point out on a map the areas around the US where various tribes settled. Choose one or two tribes to study in depth. Choose a good reference book, like "Daily Life in a Plains Indian Village" and challenge your child to create a report on their research and findings. Compare and contrast two tribes from different geographic areas to find out how alike or different the various tribes were. Be sure to visit the Scholastic website and sign up for weekly email articles based on Native American history. This year the Thanksgiving season brings weekly diary entries from a fictional child from the "Pokanoket" tribe. They are fascinating for children and adults alike! Challenge your child to create a diary, written as if they were a child of the tribe of their choice. What would their daily life be like? What would they like or not like about living in a tribe? Scholastic printables offers free Harvest themed notebook paper to print from home, as an option to brighten up the "diary". If possible, visit your local museum to check out a Native American exhibit, or a Native American festival. The Smithsonian website has a wonderful site with links to American Indian History Centers, festivals and more.
Enjoy the blessings of teaching your child this season!