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Lesson Plan

Native Americans Today

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Native Americans Today

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Debbie Reese

Debbie Reese

Urbana, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Many people think that Native Americans are a vanished people—that they do not exist in the present day. In this lesson plan, teachers use photo essays and other texts to introduce students to Native children and their families, thereby countering the idea that Native people no longer exist. Students first brainstorm all they know about Native Americans, while the teacher creates lists of their comments on the board. Students then read books and explore Websites from provided lists highlighting contemporary Native Americans. Finally, they use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast their ideas about Native Americans at the beginning of the lesson with what they now know.

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Present-Day Native American Book List: This book list includes books that portray contemporary Native Americans from a variety of tribes.

Teaching Native American Literature and Cultures: Additional Teacher Resources: These teacher resources provide information about teaching about Native Americans without perpetuating stereotypes.

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In their book Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature, Kathy Short and Dana Fox state that "literature serves a crucial role in multicultural education, social justice, and reform."  In Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom, Rudine Sims Bishop identifies five functions of multicultural literature: to provide knowledge or information; expand how students view the world by offering varying perspectives; promote or develop an appreciation for diversity; give rise to critical inquiry; and illuminate human experience.

This lesson utilizes the powerful role of literature described by Short and Fox to help students address stereotypes and misconceptions about Native Americans in contemporary society by providing them with knowledge and information about present-day Native Americans. With this knowledge and information, children are introduced to different perspectives on family and community, and they have an informed knowledge base from which to critique stereotypical representations of Native people in their textbooks, literature, television programs, videos, and movies.

Further Reading

Short, Kathy and Dana Fox. 2003. Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature. Urbana, IL: NCTE.


Bishop, Rudine Sims. 1997. "Selecting Literature for a Multicultural Curriculum." Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom. Violet Harris, ed. Norwood, MA: Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

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