Five Things to Remember When Teaching Your Native American Unit

It is fun to teach Native American history.  I teach it each  year, regardless of the grade I’m teaching.  Here are some tips to make your unit a success:

1.     Teach it with integrity.  Make sure that you are using historical accuracy.  Native American craft projects are so much fun to do, but remember that there is a rich history behind each artifact.  Totem poles are fun to create with my students.  When, however, my students understand that for Northwest Coast Native American tribes, each totem pole was created to tell a story about their family then the project becomes meaningful. The meaning also opens the project up to authentic writing ideas for students to tell their own story with their totem pole.

2.     Remember that traditions and cultural practices changed based on Region.  Native
Americans lived throughout North America, and as a result there are different languages, cultures, traditions, and religious practices.  Teach about the different regions:  The Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, the Plains, and the Southwest Coast.  If you must focus on one group alone, be sure to let your students know which group of Native Americans you’re studying.  Finally, do not generalize the practices of a few tribes, as being the practices of all Native Americans.

3.     Native American history is part of American history.  Incorporate ways Native Americans have contributed to our nations’ success. One good example is the way our country used the Navajo language to create a secret code which helped us bring World War II to an end with victory.

4.     European colonization dramatically changed life for Native Americans.  As settlers from Europe, and eventually the US, spread throughout our country Native Americans were forced to migrate.  This part of America’s history is not our finest moment, nevertheless, it is important for students to learn.

5.     Native American traditions and customs are still alive today.  Native Americans are Americans, and continue to contribute to our country each day.  Be sure to let students know this, and take the time to learn about modern day heroes with Native American lineage.

Need help planning your Native American unit?  Check out my Native American Bundle, which covers four Native American regions with fun pop up books for children to create after studying each region.  You can also purchase Native American regions of your choice individually in my TPT store.

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