Skip directly to content


Jillian Van Ells, NEH Summer Scholar 2015


Lesson Plan by Jillian Van Ells

Grade 5

Length:  Each lesson is 30 minutes


Essential Understandings Addressed

Essential Understanding 1 : There is great diversity among the 12 tribal Nations of Montana in their languages, cultures, histories and governments. Each Nation has a distinct and unique cultural heritage that contributes to modern Montana. * adapted for US context

Essential Understanding 2 : There is great diversity among individual American Indians as identity is developed, defined and redefined by many entities, organizations and people. There is a continuum of Indian identity ranging from assimilated to traditional and is unique to each individual. There is no generic American Indian.

Essential Understanding 3 : The ideologies of Native traditional beliefs and spirituality persist into modern day life as tribal cultures, traditions and languages are still practiced by many American Indian people and are incorporated into how tribes govern and manage their affairs. Additionally, each tribe has its own oral history beginning with their origins that are as valid as written histories. These histories pre-date the “discovery” of North America.

American Library Association Standards for the 21st Century Learner Addressed:

Standard 1: Inquire, think critically, and gain knowledge.

Standard 2: Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.

Standard 3: Share knowledge and participate ethically and productively as members of our democratic society.

Standard 4: Pursue personal and aesthetic growth.

Overview and Rationale

Our fifth grade students study American history in their social studies curriculum. This unit provides a wonderful opportunity to complement and expand what is taught in social studies while building essential information literacy skills through the exploration of depictions of Native Americans in our library collection. The starting point for this unit will be a discussion of the broad concept of stereotypes which will lead into an examination of common stereotypes of Native Americans (as held by students and within popular media sources such as books). In pairs, students will be tasked with analyzing a Native American themed picture book (texts selected will represent a broad geographic range in order to address the diversity of Native cultures in the US)  in order to provide an evaluation of the book in terms of its depictions of the specific Native Americans and Native American culture(s) depicted. To accomplish this, students will be guided through the research process, accessing a variety of print and online resources available through the library collection and the web. The librarian will provide a libguide to scaffold the research process and to provide access to high quality materials. In addition, students will have an opportunity to visit the Museum of the American Indian and further their investigation through the tribal displays. Based on their research, students will evaluate and then grade their assigned book, creating a label to be displayed on the cover of the book (A-F). In addition, the students will create a QR code linking to an audio file explanation of the grade. After sharing their findings with the class, students will be guided into materials exploring the contemporary experience of Native American children from different regions of the US. Time allowing, we will examine the broader issue of Native American stereotypes in pop-culture, including the local debate about the use of “Redskins” as the team name for the Washington NFL team.

Text and associated tribes to be examined:

Sootface: Robert San Souchi, Ojibwa

Knots on a Counting Rope: Bill Martin, unidentified tribe

The Turkey Girl: Penny Polluck, Zuni

Beaver Steals Fire: Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Salish

Roughface Girl: Rafe Martin, Algonquin

Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: Susan Jeffers, Duwamish

The Legend of the Bluebonnet: Tomie DePaola, Comanche

Buffalo Bird Girl: Hidatsa

The Story of the Milky Way: Joseph Bruchac, Cherokee

An Algonquian Year: Michael McCurdy, Algonquian

Arrow to the Sun: Gerald McDermott, Pueblo


Each lesson will take approximately 30 minutes.

Lesson 1: Stereotypes Part 1

Essential Question: What are stereotypes?

Learning Objective: Students will develop a working definition of stereotypes and will understand that everyone uses stereotypes


Each student will be given a blank piece of paper.

  1. Students will have 30 seconds to draw a tree on one side.
  2. Students will flip the paper and in 30 seconds draw a house that Native American would live in. These papers will be the starting point for a conversation about stereotypes. 
  3. Students will start by sharing their tree pictures, many of which I expect will have a hole in the center and apples. We will then see a slideshow of different tree species and discuss how we have a stereotype of a tree (as seen in the drawing) even though we know there are many varieties of trees.
  4. As a class, come up with a definition of stereotype.
  5. Using the definition developed by the class, in small groups, have students brainstorm other stereotypes. ______ (category of people) are ________.  For example Basketball players are ?? (or tall people are ??? )
  6. Share findings.

Lesson 2: Stereotypes Part 2

Essential Question: How can stereotypes affect you? Where do stereotypes come from?

Learning Objectives: Students will examine stereotypes of girls in order to better understand how stereotypes can negatively impact individuals.


  1. Continue discussion of stereotypes by focusing in on stereotypes of girls.
  2. Share examples of children’s books : Start with Treasure Hunt for Boys and Treasure Hunt for Girls and discuss the stereotypes these books are making about girls and boys. Working in pairs, have the students look at one of the following books and list the gender stereotypes within. Guyku, The Dangerous Book for Boys, The Dangerous Book for Girls, Tyrannosaurus Math, The Big Book of Boy Stuff, The Big Book of Girl Stuff. Have pairs share the stereotypes for girls and boys they found and list them on the board.
  3. Divide into small groups and have students discuss stereotypes. Possible discussion questions: a) Where do stereotypes come from? b)  How do the stereotypes of girls make you feel? Why?  c)How can stereotypes be harmful? d) Could they be helpful? e) Are all stereotypes bad? f) Are stereotypes “right” or “wrong”?
  4. Share back in larger group.
  5. Look back at the pictures the girls drew of a house a Native American would live in from the first lesson, many of which I expect will be teepees. Look at a slideshow depicting a wide range of traditional and then modern houses a Native American might live in (depending on location, time, culture, etc.). Allow the girls to identify the teepee image they drew as just one of many stereotypes of Native Americans. Ask, “Where do you think this stereotype came from?”
  6. In small groups, have the students brainstorm other stereotypes they might have of Native Americans. Come back to the larger group to share these stereotypes and discuss where they came from (books, movies, songs, games etc.) and why they might be harmful.

Lesson 3: Introduction of Research Project: Task Definition

Essential Questions: What are potential problems with books about Native Americans? How do we know if a book is perpetuating stereotypes? 

Learning Objective: Students will define their information problem and needs by making observations from a picture book and flipping these observations into questions.

  1. Review Big6 research method:
  2. Display a variety of picture books about Native Americans from the library collection. Ask: What sorts of things should we look at to determine whether these books are good books for our collection? What “problems” might some of these books have?
  3. Task Definition Part 1: Have the students define the information problem. (How do we know if a book has stereotypes? )
  4. Ask: What should we do with books in the library collection that have stereotypes in them?
  5. Introduce Stereotype Research Project: see attachment
  6. Task Definition Part 2: Identify information needed (to solve the information problem) Break students into pairs and have them complete the Getting Started section from the project handout.

Lesson 4: Information Seeking

Essential Questions: What are possible sources for reliable information on Native Americans?

Learning Objectives: Students will identify possible sources for finding information on Native Americans by brainstorming and using a Images of Native Americans Lib Guide (in development)

  1. Review step 2 of the Big6
  2. Have students work in small groups to brainstorm sources of information about Native Americans.
  3. Share brainstorming and record class list.
  4. Lead discussion of what makes a good source of information and why getting information from multiple sources is important. Ask questions like: Does it matter who the author is? What should look for in a web site? What should you avoid?
  5. Review class brainstorm and refine/expand based on discussion.
  6. Provide a tour of the Images of Native Americans lib guide.

Lesson 5: Citing Sources

Essential Questions: Why is it important to cite sources of information for research?

Learning Objective: Students will develop an understanding of why citations are an important component of the research process and how to create a works cited list using EasyBib

  1. Ask students if they use Wikipedia. Ask if anyone can describe what is at the end of every wikipedia article. Show an example from the wikipedia article for Edward Curtis. Have the students turn and talk to discuss why the references section is an important component of a Wikipedia article? Share back with the group.
  2. Ask students if they know of another name for the reference section. Review vocabulary words: reference/citation/bibliography/works cited.
  3. Have students log in to

Lesson 6-8: Locating, Accessing and Using Information

Essential Question: How do you access information from various sources? How do you extract relevant information from sources?

Learning Objectives: Students will be able to use the brainstorm list from the previous lesson and the lib guide to locate information on their assigned tribe. Once sources have been located, students will extract information in order to answer their research questions.

  1. Review how to access database and book resources
  2. Discuss strategies for evaluating the usefulness of sources and extracting information.
  3. Remind students to create a citation for any source from which they collect information.
  4. Use remaining class time for students to work with their partner to conduct research. Librarian will circulate among students to provide guidance as needed.
  5. At the start of lesson 8, gather students and have them share their research successes and struggles. This will provide an opportunity for the students to learn from each other and for the teacher to monitor their progress.

Lesson 9: Synthesis: Part 1 Creating a rubric

Essential Questions: How can we use the information we have collected to evaluate our book?

Learning Objective: Students will synthesise the information they collected during the research phase of the project to evaluate their assigned book

  1. Gather students to discuss the outcome of their research. Ask: How can we use this information to help us grade our book?
  2. In groups of 4 (2 groups paired) have brainstorm criteria for the grading scale.
  3. Have groups share and as a class, create a rubric for grading the books (A-F).
  4. Ask: What should we do if we didn’t find the answers to all our questions or are unsure of our information? Suggest a ? grade for books for which they were not able to find enough information

Lesson 10: Synthesis: Part 2 Grading and Labeling Books

Essential Question: How can I use the information I gathered to form a conclusion and answer a question?

Lesson Objective: Students will sythesize the information they gathered during the research phase of the project in order evaluate the merits of their book.

  1. Review grading rubric developed in the previous class.
  2. Using the grading rubric as a guide, pairs will refer to their research in order to determine a grade for their book. For each component of the rubric, students should indicate which answer(s) from their research support their scoring.
  3. Once pairs have determined the grade for their book, they will design a grading label to be affixed to front cover the book (mailing labels should work well for this).
  4. Time allowing, pairs will partner with another group and share their findings and grade.

Lesson 11: Synthesis: Part 3 Record QR Code Explanation

Essential Questions: How can we best communicate our research findings?

Learning Objective: Students will share the findings of their research by recording a 1-2 minute explanation of the grade and creating a linked QR code.

  1. Ask: What are some strategies for effectively communicating our research? Who is our audience? What should we focus on in 1-2 minutes so that our audience understands why we assigned the given grade?
  2. In pairs, students will work out a brief script to explain the findings from their research that support the grade they gave their book.
  3. Pairs can choose to record their explanation with their ipad using audio or video.
  4. Students will save their recording as a Google Docs file.
  5. Using the URL from their recording file, students will create a QR code with the Google URL shortner ( Once the shortened URL is created, click on details to access and print the QR code.
  6. Test the QR code.
  7. Attach the QR code to book.
  8. If students have extra time, direct them to the extension.

Lesson 12: Sharing

Essential Questions: How can I learn about my own work by seeing the final products of other groups?

Learning Objective: Students will have an opportunity to share their work and learn from their peers by conducting a gallery walk of all the graded books for this project.

  1. Display books with QR codes and grade labels around the library.
  2. Allow students to browse the books and view the QR recordings.
  3. Encourage students to post comments or questions using Post-It notes.
  4. Allow students to review the comments/questions generated by their project.

Lesson 13: Evaluation and Reflection

Essential Questions: How can we use this research experience to improve our research process in the future? How can we continue to be critical readers of texts about all groups of people?

Learning Objective: Students will identify strategies that worked and areas that need improvement in their research process. Students will also reflect on the learning about stereotypes in books and discuss how they will approach books in the future.

  1. Break students into groups (2 pairs per group). Ask the groups to discuss what worked well in the research process and what they struggled with.
  2. Bring the groups together to share (teacher/librarian should take notes at this stage for future planning/fine tuning).
  3. Ask the students what they learned from this project that might apply to other situations. Discuss how their findings related to misrepresentations of Native Americans in books could apply to other media and other groups of people. Connect back to the early discussion of gender stereotypes.

Lesson 14: Contemporary Native Americans in books

Essential Questions: How can people define themselves through text and images? What does it mean to be Native American today?

Learning Objective: Students will explore contemporary stories of Native Americans

  1. Contemporary Native Americans in books: Have students compare the images from Edward Curtis Gallery and Project 562. Ask: Is there anything surprising to you in the Project 562 photos? How are they like and different from the Curtis images? What do you think Matika Wilbur is trying to do with Project 562?
  2. Have students return to their pairs. Give pairs book(s) depicting the contemporary lives of the members of the tribes researched for the book grading project. Have the students note new learning and anything that surprised them.
  3. Have the pairs come back to the group to share their findings.

Additional readings: Looks Like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids by Deborah Ellis and Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices

Extension Activity:

Invite students to identify examples of stereotypes of Native Americans in other media forms. Students will likely lead to identification of the Washington NFL mascot as a stereotype. This can further lead into a discussion and investigation of the debate surrounding the use of the name “Redskins” and the image associated with the name.


ALA/OLOS Subcommittee for Library Services to American Indian People American Indian Library Association, comp. "I" IS FOR INCLUSION: THE PORTRAYAL OF NATIVE AMERICANS IN BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. Rep. ALA, 23 June 2007. Web. 15 July 2015. <>.

Belarde-Lewis, Miranda, and John Harrington. Meet Lydia: A Native Girl from Southeast Alaska. Tulsa, OK: Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in Association with Council Oak, 2004. Print.

Bruchac, Joseph, Gayle Ross, and Virginia A. Stroud. The Story of the Milky Way: A Cherokee Tale. New York: Dial for Young Readers, 1995. Print.

Buchanan, Andrea J., Miriam Peskowitz, and Alexis Seabrook. The Daring Book for Girls. New York: Collins, 2007. Print.

Bunting, Eve, and John Sandford. Moonstick: The Seasons of the Sioux. New York: HarperCollins, 1997. Print.

Charleyboy, Lisa, and Mary Beth Leatherdale, eds. Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices. Toronto: Annick, 2014. Print.

D., San Souci Robert, and Daniel San Souci. Sootface: An Ojibwa Cinderella Story. New York: Dragonfly/Random House Children's, 1994. Print.

DePaola, Tomie. The Legend of the Blue Bonnet. N.p.: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1983. Print.

"Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: About the Site." Edward S. Curtis's The North American Indian: About the Site. Northwestern University Digital Libraries Collection, n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.

Ellis, Deborah, and Loriene Roy. Looks like Daylight: Voices of Indigenous Kids. Toronto: Groundwood /House of Anansi, 2013. Print.

Harjo, Joy, and Paul Lee. The Good Luck Cat. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 2000. Print.

Higgins, Jennifer Johnson. Multicultural Children's Literature: Creating and Applying an Evaluation Tool in Response to the Needs of Urban Educators. New Horizons for Learning. Johns Hopkins University School of Education, n.d. Web. 15 July 2015. <

Highway, Tomson, and John Rombough. Caribou Song. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Iggulden, Conn, and Hal Iggulden. The Dangerous Book for Boys. New York: Collins, 2007. Print.

King, Bart. The Big Book of Boy Stuff. Salt Lake, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2004. Print.

King, Bart. The Big Book of Girl Stuff. Layton, UT: Gibbs Smith, 2006. Print.

Korba, Joanna, and Charles Perrault. Rough-face Girl: A Native American Cinderella Tale. Pelham, NY: Benchmark Education, 2006. Print.

Markel, Michelle, and Doug Cushman. Tyrannosaurus Math. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle, 2009. Print.

Martin, Bill, John Archambault, and Ted Rand. Knots on a Counting Rope. New York: H. Holt, 1987. Print.

McCurdy, Michael. An Algonquian Year: The Year According to the Full Moon. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Print.

McDermott, Gerald. Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale. New York: Viking, 1974. Print.

McDermott, Gerald. Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1994. Print.

Mendoza, Jean, and Debbie Reese. "Abstract." ECRP. Vol 3 No 2. Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls. University of Illinois, n.d. Web. 20 Aug. 2015.

Nelson, S. D. Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story. New York: Abrams for Young Readers, 2012. Print.

Ortiz, Simon J., Michael Lacapa, and Victor Montejo. The Good Rainbow Road = Rawa 'kashtyaa'tsi Hiyaani: A Native American Tale in Keres and English, Followed by a Translation into Spanish. Tucson: Univ Of Arizona, 2010. Print.

"Oyate : Home." Oyate : Home. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 July 2015. <>.

Pollock, Penny, and Ed Young. The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story. Boston: Little, Brown, 1996. Print.

Raczka, Bob, and Peter Reynolds. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. Boston: Houghton Mifflin for Children, 2010. Print.

Sandoval, Sam. Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story. Lincoln: U of Nebraska, 2005. Print.

Seattle, Susan Jeffers, and Atha Tehon. Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle. New York: Dial, 1991. Print.

Secakuku, Susan, and John Harrington. Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest. Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Pub., 2003. Print.

Simermeyer, Genevieve. Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy from Oklahoma. Tulsa, OK: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Association with Council Oak, 2008. Print.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich., Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu. Jingle Dancer. New York: Morrow Junior, 2000. Print.

Smith, Cynthia Leitich., Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu. Jingle Dancer. New York: Morrow Junior, 2000. Print.

Tayac, Gabrielle, and John Harrington. Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area. Hillsboro, OR: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Association with Beyond Words Pub., 2002. Print.

Tayac, Gabrielle, and John Harrington. Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake Bay Area. Hillsboro, OR: National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, in Association with Beyond Words Pub., 2002. Print.

Teevee, Ningeokuluk, and Nina Manning-Toonoo. Aliguq. Toronto: Groundwood, 2009. Print.

Tingle, Tim, and Jeanne Rorex Bridges. Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship & Freedom. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos, 2006. Print.

Tingle, Tim, and Karen Clarkson. Saltypie: A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos, 2010. Print.

Treasure Hunt for Boys: Over 500 Hidden Pictures to Search For, Sort and Count. New York: Created for St. Martin's by Priddy, 2010. Print.

Treasure Hunt for Girls: Over 500 Hidden Pictures to Search For, Sort and Count. New York: Created for St. Martin's by Priddy, 2010. Print.

Waboose, Jan Bourdeau., and Brian Deines. Skysisters. Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can, 2000. Print.

Wilbur, Matika. "Gallery : Project 562: A Photo Project by Matika Wilbur Documenting Native America." Gallery : Project 562: A Photo Project by Matika Wilbur Documenting Native America. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Aug. 2015.