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Designed by

Janice Kennerly and Donna Skahill

Introduction | Content Areas | Standards | Implementation | Resources | Entry Skills | Evaluation | Variations | Conclusion



This lesson was developed as part of the San Diego Unified School District's Triton Project, a federally funded Technology Innovation Challenge Grant. This unit will complement the third grade Social Studies curriculum's study of Native Americans. It will emphasize the Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, Western Apache, and Zuni Native Americans.

Your students will learn about the locations, the different types of homes, foods, clothing, and beliefs of the previously mentioned Native American tribes.

Content Area and Grade Level

This lesson is written to complement the fifth grade History-Social Science curriculum. It also includes language arts, geography, and art. This lesson can easily be extended to different regions or grade levels by changing Activity 1 or expanding the expectations of any of the other activities.

Curriculum Standards:

H-SS Content Standards

5.1 - Students describe the major pre-Columbian settlements, including the cliff dwellers and pueblo people of the desert Southwest, the American Indians of the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the wood-land peoples east of the Mississippi River.

  • 5.1.1 - Describe how geography and climate influenced the way various nations lived and adjusted to the natural environment, including locations of villages, the distinct structures that they built, and how they obtained food, clothing, tools, and utensils.
  • 5.1.2 - Describe their varied customs and folklore traditions.
  • 5.1.3 - Explain their varied economies and systems of government.

Language Arts Standards

  • Organizes thoughts and information for writing.
  • Makes connections between the text, personal experiences, and prior knowledge.
  • Writes in a variety of genres.
  • Writes to a range of audiences for a variety of purposes.

Implementation Overview

This unit will take approximately two weeks during the Social Studies class time. Students will have the opportunity to work independently or in small groups. Many students would rather do this type of project with a partner than by themselves. This is great. You may choose to assign any task as a group or individual project. An easy way to make sure all the tribes are covered is to split your class into the five tribes. This would make sure that all the tribes are explained and discovered. Our classes are filled with individuals which is typical of this age level. Working cooperatively does not always work well. Thus we have foreseen the following scenario:

Activity 1 - individual work

Activity 2 - group or partner work

Activity 3 - individual work

Activity 4 - individual or partner work

Activity 5 - individual or partner work

The students' work may be posted on the Web. Remember to find out what your District guidelines say about posting student work on the web. The posting of the work may need to be overseen by an aide, teacher, or parent helper. It is helpful to do this part of the activity in a computer lab as a class if you can. It will help with the use of computer time and also teach an important word processing lesson. Students may have time to get direction about the use of Tabs and even Spell-Check.

Resources Needed

Each student will need a journal for writing. You will need to copy off the chart for Activity 2 and may want to have a hard copy of the Venn diagram also. You may click here and make a hard copy for your use.

It would be helpful to read a book such as Knots on a Counting Rope or Arrow to the Sun as a class before beginning this unit. Some useful materials to enhance student learning about these five southwestern tribes are listed below:


  • The Anasazi by David Petersen--about the Pueblo tribes
  • Children of Clay by Rina Swentzell--a family of Pueblo Potters
  • Dancing Rainbow by Evelyn Clarke Mott--a Pueblo boy's story
  • Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes by Carl Waldman
    • A comprehensive reference work discussing more than 150 Indian tribes
  • Southwest Images by Stephen N. Dirks --a color album.
  • The Village of Blue Stone by Stephen Trimble 

Film: North America.

  • The Goat in the Rug by Charles L. Blood & Martin Link--a fictional story about a goat and a Navajo weaver.
  • The Hopi by Ann H.Tomchek
  • The Hopis, A First Americans Book by Virginia D.H. Sneve
  • Houses of Adobe by Bonnie Shemie--building of homes of adobe and stone
  • Indian Heritage of the Southwest by Smith-Southwestern, Inc.
  • Indians of the Southwest by Karen Liptak
    • Describes the habitats and lifestyles of Indian tribes that inhabited the southwestern United States.
  • Native Americans Cooperative Learning Activities by Mary Strohl and Susan Schneck.
  • The Navajos by Virginia D. Hawk Sneve
  • North American Indians by Frank Fox--a color and story album.
  • The Pueblos by Suzanne Powells


  • Navajo Country. F06036005

You will need to use a scanner if you want to put your student's work on the web. You will also need to use a word processor, such as Claris Works.

Entry Level Skills and Knowledge

Students who are reading and writing at a third grade level and are computer-literate will not have trouble with this unit. It will be helpful to have a large map of the Southwestern United States accessible. This unit is written for the use of novice teachers, but experienced teachers will enjoy it, too. The teacher may learn as much as the children will about these tribes.


Collect the completed charts. Collect also the Venn diagram for evaluation purposes. Were they able to complete it? Did they use the information gathered to write their paragraphs? The following rubric will be used to evaluate the students' journal-reports.

Scoring Rubric for Written Activities 2, 4, 6


  • Writer meets requirements of the prompts.
  • Writing is focused, original, and clear.
  • Main ideas are clearly stated.
  • Few or no errors occur in spelling, grammar, or punctuation.
  • Writer meets most requirements of the prompts.
  • Writing is reasonably focused, original, and clear.
  • Most main ideas are clearly stated.
  • Some errors occur in spelling, grammar, or punctuation, but they do not interfere with meaning.
  • Writer meets some requirements of the prompts.
  • Writing has some focus, but lacks clarity.
  • Main ideas are not clearly stated.
  • Some errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation interfere with meaning.


  • Writing does not relate to the topic or prompt.
  • Writing lacks organization and a plan.
  • Errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation seriously interfere with meaning.


Possible Variations

The lesson activities that are used follow Bloom's Taxonomy ( knowledge, application,analysis, evaluation, and synthesis). You may delete any activity that you feel is too difficult for your students. You may use other regions or tribes by changing the map in Activity#1 and finding a link to match your needs. There are many ways to change the assignments such as comparing two tribes from the 1800s instead of then and now comparison. We have also had students build homes instead of draw them, or construct a diorama of a tribe.


This lesson is important in that it helps students to understand the relationship that exists between the environment in which they live and how they live. The world Native Americans lived in and how they lived will help them see this strong relationship. We must help them see how and why we must take care of our environment now.

This lesson will also help students to understand and respect other cultures. Hopefully, they will gain respect and understanding of these Southwestern cultures. Noticing the way Native Americans worlds changed as other's views were imposed upon them will help students to realize that how they see and accept other cultures today does matter. This will help them keep an open-mind when they encounter new cultures in the world today.

Last updated on Jan. 06, 2004 by
Donna Skahill and Janice Kennerly


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