Lesson plan

Native American Legends

Social studies, reading comprehension, and writing come together in this high-engagement lesson about Native American legends!
Grade Subject View aligned standards

Students will be able to write a legend that includes all important characteristics of a legend.

(5 minutes)
  • Tell students that today they will be learning about Native American legends.
  • Ask students if they can identify what a legend is. Have several students share out ideas.
  • Tell students that a legend is a story that explain how something came to be.
  • Explain that students will be hearing a legend today, as well as writing their own!
(5 minutes)
  • Write "Characteristics of a Legend" on the board.
  • Underneath, list the following characteristics: tells how something came to be, has a plot (beginning, middle, and end), includes elements of Native American life (importance of nature, Great Spirit, etc.), can include animals or objects that talk.
  • Discuss each of these characteristics with students to ensure understanding.
(25 minutes)
  • Show students the book The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.
  • Explain that you will be reading this legend aloud to students. As you read, students should be looking for examples from the "Characteristics of a Legend" chart.
  • Read the story to students.
  • When you are finished, ask students to identify what this story was explaining that came to be. See if students believe the story had a clear plot, had elements of Native American Life, and if there were any talking animals or objects.
(30 minutes)
  • Hand out lined paper. Tell students that now they will be writing their own legends to explain how something came to be. Remind students that they should choose something in nature.
  • Tell students to use the "Characteristics of a Legend" chart to help them. Tell students that their legend must include all of these characteristics!
  • Give students ample time to write their legends. It may be helpful to give them a "planning page" to organize their ideas before starting on the legend.
  • Enrichment: Have these students write a legend of a specific Native American group they have studied in class. Their legend should include details that reference specific vocabulary related to this tribe (such as moccasins, wigwam, etc.) and reflect the land, climate, animals, and other elements of the tribe.
  • Support: Give these students topics to write about. Some examples include: How the Turtle Got His Shell, How the Great Lakes Came to Be, or How the Porcupine Got Her Spikes.
(5 minutes)
  • Use the rubric provided to assess students' ability to write a legend with all of the characteristics discussed in class.
(10 minutes)
  • Put students in groups of three to four.
  • Have students share their legends with one another. As students are sharing, the rest of the group should be listening for the characteristics of a legend.

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