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Native American Literature

Reading 2: The student understands the meaning of what is read.
Reading 3: The student reads different materials for a variety of purposes.

GRADE LEVEL: Secondary

BASIC CONCEPTS: Literature written by Native Americans or with a Native American focus.

ORGANIZING GENERALIZATION: Within the many Native American cultures, strong oral traditions continue to serve as a means of preserving the wisdom of the tribal elders. Respect for the traditions of the past will assist in perpetuating the importance of culture for younger generations. Classroom teachers provide a significant role in generating healthy attitudes as they focus on diversity in a positive way. The use of stories, music, and dance enhances curriculum and can be used effectively to strengthen reading skills.

CULTURE AREA: Entire United States

TIME PERIOD: Contemporary

BACKGROUND: Reading for authentic purpose includes the use of cultural songs, stories, and dance in the classroom, and facilitates the following purposes: Gives teachers the opportunity to make a connection with students from diverse backgrounds. Develops an understanding that we are more alike than different. (Children from all backgrounds have similar needs and feelings.) Gives value to the student's culture. Provides motivation for the "reluctant learner." Encourages students to share personal stories, songs, and dances from their own family history. Provides a background for introducing reading concepts and strategies within a familiar context.


Knowledge Students will: (Reading 2.1) comprehend important ideas, (Reading 2.2) expand comprehension by analyzing, interpreting, and synthesizing information and ideas, and (Reading 2.3) think critically and analyze authors' use of language, style, purpose, and perspective AND (Reading 3.3) read for literary experience.

Skills Students will: Read for a variety of purposes: oral retelling, reflective journaling, making connections between reading and writing, etc.

Values Students will: summarize the main idea and supporting facts and details with evidence from reading, use logical sequence to accurately retell stories; order and/or sequence parts of text, apply information gained from reading to give a response and express insight, analyze, interpret, and evaluate ideas and concepts within, among, and beyond multiple texts, AND read critically to analyze, compare and contrast works of various authors and to understand multiple perspectives and issues of self, others, and world issues.

ACTIVITIES: After reading a selection from one of the recommended reading lists, hand out copies of Criteria for Selecting Native American Literature and have students answer questions.

Suggestions for classroom use:

  1. Books such as The Mud Pony or Annie and the Old One can be used as samples by the teacher for oral storytelling.
  2. Listening and reading comprehension skills can be evaluated through oral retell of the stories.
  3. Students can be encouraged to ask family members to tell them stories that they heard as children. Students could tape the stories to be used in the classroom.
  4. Journals about special events or community type activities that are reflective of the culture could be kept by the students.
  5. Creative writing could be encouraged as students have opportunities to hear stories and to tell their own stories.
  6. Music and dance can "set the mood" and create areas of interest for students who need additional motivation to make the reading/writing connection.

EXTENSIONS: Forming groups of students to pick from one of the following categories of Native American literature: Children's literature, Northwest Indians, Great Plains Indians, Northeast Indians, Canadian Indians, Legal Issues, General Information (Miscellaneous), Adult literature, or Multicultural Studies. Students must select at least three selections (If not available, teacher gives permission on other selection), apply Criteria questions to reading selections, and analyze any unifying factors, perspectives, language, purpose, etc.

EVALUATION: Student evaluations and self-evaluations would allow a more personalized viewpoint, especially for students that are usually reluctant to report orally.


Book lists and Criteria for Selecting Native American Literature (included)

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