Totem Pole Lesson Plan

After hearing the elders speak to us multiple times, plus the addition of doing some research at SLAM, I have learned the power of story telling. My lesson plan is something that will use multiple styles of story telling. I thought that I could really make this lesson go anywhere from 6th-12th grade.

(15 min) I will start out by having a whole group discussion about the power of story telling and what it means to specific cultures. After this step we will transition to the students talking in their table groups about stories that they have been told growing up by their parents or other members of their family. The hope is that this will begin to build some background and secondary information on the subject of story telling and its importance.

(15 min) From here, I will show the students some totem poles and explain the meaning that totem poles have in native american cultures. (I will provide to them a brief reading the night before about totem poles and their purpose as well as the meaning of the animals. With this knowledge I will then give them a quick story that they will read, with a corresponding totem pole so they can see how the two relate. (  something in respects to an idea like this. Just not this source)

(5 min) I have had some trouble deciding what to do here. I have been debating having the students use Kahoot, and the idea would be me showing them sections of a totem pole, and having them guess what they think either the animal being depicted is, or the meaning of the animal being shown. I would like to do this in order to get the kids thinking about what the animals mean and look like, in order to have them start thinking about about what they could do, when they make their own totem poles from the story I will have them write.

(15 min) It is from here where the students will have to write their own short story, and then go on to develop their own totem pole. I think I will have the students make a modern day totem pole, to try and peak interest in their design, but mostly I want them to be creative and use their minds and background information to create a story and then turn that story into a totem pole. The students will be expected to finish their writing in class, and if they do not it will be homework. The next day they will make their totem poles, then show the class what they drew, and how each animal on their totem pole relates to the story that they wrote.

I am not 100% on any of this in terms of my plan being set in stone, so I would love any input on what should be added or removed from the lesson plan. Any and all feedback would be amazing. Essentially from this, the overarching goal is that the students will be able to see how important story telling is in native american culture, the different types of story telling (totem poles) and how they can develop their own stories and put them into a similar format as a totem pole. I want the students to learn that there are many different ways to get the same information across.


One thought on “Totem Pole Lesson Plan”

  1. I like where your lesson is going.

    What’s the modern equivalent of the totem … emoji?

    If so, I think you could get the kids to try use emoji to illustrate a story. It gets at the core of how symbolism works and yet how symbols are dependent on a shared understanding.

    Let the students work with something they know (emoji) to master the concept (symbolism) then pivot to your lesson on stories / totems.

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