Lesson 2: Early Nomads and Native Americans from the Woodland Region
(Core Lesson)

Discuss this lesson

Lesson 2 Overview:

There are many possible lessons to teach about the Woodland Tribes. Teachers should select from the lessons below those that fit their time schedule and their students’ interests. This lesson concentrates on how the environment shapes peoples’ way of life, and how a group of people expresses that connection through legends. The emphasized skills include: writing a reflection, scaffolding, and incorporating documents into an essay. A parallel task mirroring the NYS English Language Arts Book 2 Listening and Writing activity is included.

Suggested time allowance: 6 class periods


  • SS.3.2: Geography requires the development and application of the skills of asking and answering geographic questions; analyzing theories of geography; and acquiring, organizing, and analyzing geographic information.
  • RL.4.2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text; summarize the text.
  • RL.4.6: Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
  • RL.4.11: Recognize, interpret and make connections in narratives, poetry, and drama, to other texts, ideas, cultural perspectives, personal events and situations.
  • RI.4 .4: Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.
  • RI.4.9: Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
  • SL.4.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
  • W.4.2: Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
  • W.4.9: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Essential Unit Question: In what ways did geography influence Native American life?

Resources/Materials for this lesson: (Recommended book is bold)
Note to teacher: Some books that were originally included are now out of print. They are still listed here for districts that already have them. Following the out of print book there is a replacement book listed if one was found.


Note to the teacher:

The books below provide an excellent description of the arrival of the first North American native people. The teacher may want to have students trace the path of the nomads across the Bering Strait on a world map (not included). This can be done before handing out the Regions map on Day 1 or as a separate lesson (not included).

  • Levine, Ellen. If You Lived With the Iroquois. New York: Scholastic, 1998. (Q)
  • Maestro, Betty. Discovery of the Americas: From Prehistory through the Age of Columbus. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1991.

Day 1: The First North American Native Peoples

1. Have students work in groups to write down on the chart “What We Know About Native Americans” (included) what they already know about Native Americans and their natural resources. Compile a class list on chart paper. Point out to students that there were no stores available and that all the products to fulfill their needs/wants came from their environment. 2. Review the term natural resources (from Grade 3) with students. (See Glossary)

3. Distribute the Native American Regions map (included). Discuss the various regions as a class. Ask students to speculate what they think the term region means. Ask them to explain how this map is divided up by region and which natural resources are found within each region. Ask students to identify the region in which they live. (The teacher may choose to have students create a key and color the Native American Regions map as a homework assignment.)

Day 2: Background information on Woodland Indians (Iroquois and Algonquin)

Background for the Teacher:

  • There are two tribes, Iroquois and Algonquin, that lived within the Woodland Region. Their natural resources were similar. At times the different tribes used them in different ways. Natives who lived in the Woodland Region depended on the forest environments such as the deciduous and coniferous forests of the Northeast. In order to obtain food, clothing and shelter, the native people of the Northeast developed tools to help them survive within their area.
  • The Woodland tribes hunted animals such as, moose, caribou and deer inland in northern areas. Along the coast, they fished for shellfish and used materials from the ocean to create decorative ornaments and trading goods. Native Americans also harvested many plants. Their three main crops were corn, beans, and squash (which were called The Three Sisters). Stone, clay and animal skins were used for household utensils, weapons and clothing.

1. Use a variety of Iroquois and Algonquin resources (whatever is available to you) to complete the comparison chart. (included) A suggested list of books is below. This can be done as a class, a group or individually.

  • D’Apice, Rita. Algonquian. Rourke Publishing, 1992. ISBN 0531200655 (medium) Levine, Ellen. If You Lived With the Iroquois. New York: Scholastic, 1998. (Q) Oestreicher, David M. Algonquin of New York. New York: PowerKids Press. August 2003 ISBN 0823964272 (medium) Gaines, Richard. Algonquin. Edina, MN: ABDO Publishing Company. September 2000. ISBN 1577653831 (low)
  • Quiri, Patricia R. Algonquins. New York: Scholastic Library Publishing. May 1992. ISBN 0531200655 (medium)

2. Review the information/chart as a class being sure to discuss how geography affected everything from diet, shelter and clothing to politics and religion.

3.Use the SMART Board file, above, under Resources, to review vocabulary.

Day 3: Use the Background information on Woodland Indians (Iroquois and Algonquin) to complete Document Based scaffolding questions.

1. Refer back to the map Native American Tribes of New York State to review where the Iroquois and Algonquin tribes lived.

2. Divide students into 7 small cooperative groups. Distribute the Document Based Question from the New York State November 2001 Social Studies Assessment..

3. Assign a different document from the DBQ to each group. Ask students to work in small groups to answer the question(s) from the document assigned to them. Using the Jigsaw Method of Cooperative Learning, students present their responses as the teacher records their information onto an overhead transparency. The rest of the students listen and take notes on their master copies.

Day 4: Model how to write an essay based on information from documents and students’ knowledge from social studies.

1. Activate prior knowledge of how the Iroquois and Algonquin used nature and the natural resources around them to meet their needs and wants.

2. Engage students in a writing activity by facilitating a discussion while modeling (on chart paper or overhead or computer screen) how to write a well-organized essay using the 7 documents looked at on Day 2 to complete the following task:

Describe how the Iroquois and Algonquin have used nature and the natural resources around them to meet their needs and wants. Remind students to:

  • Include an introduction, body and a conclusion Use information from the documents in your answer
  • Include details, examples, or reasons in developing your idea

Day 5: “The Chipmunk and the Bear”

Note to teacher: Students are required to complete a listening and writing task on the New York State English Language Arts Assessment. Using the Iroquois Legend, “The Chipmunk and the Bear,” the teacher can model the successful completion of this task.

1. Print out the booklet for each student. (included)

2. If students have not been exposed to this task before, follow the directions as you model each step of the booklet. If they have, let them complete the booklet on their own, and then grade it using the NYS rubric.

Day 6: “The Spirit of Corn” (optional)

1. The teacher may use “The Spirit of Corn” legend as a listening or reading comprehension assessment. Students write a journal reflection about the theme or lesson of the story.


Vocabulary (See Glossary for definitions):

region natural resource Ice Age
land bridge nomad artifact
hunter-gatherer legend long house
ancestor heritage Native American
Woodland Region headdress large & small game
Three Sisters arrowhead archaeologist
wigwam Iroquois geography
influence tribe clan
morals values quote


Revised March 27, 2013

Integrated Social Studies/English Language Arts Curriculum (Grade 4)
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