Native Americans in Utah

Unit 2 – Integration  Lesson 6: Native Americans in Utah

Date:  (03/23)Lead Teacher:  Becca


Lesson Objective:

Students will demonstrate their understanding of Native American culture and how stories are traditionally passed along as they participate in a scene circle.


National Arts (UT Core) Standards:

  • Pr6.1.4.a. Share small-group drama/theatre work, with peers and audience.
  • Re7.1.4.a. Identify artistic choices made in a drama/theatre work through participation and observation.
  • Cn10.1.4.a. Identify the ways drama/theatre work reflects the perspectives of a community or culture.


UT Core Social Studies Standard-

  • 2.1.e.Explain the importance of preserving cultural prehistory and history, including archaeological sites and other historic sites and artifacts. 



  • A large space for performing


Warm-Ups:(5-10 min)

  • Designated mindfulness warm up by Mrs. Dunlap



  • Play a game of telephone
    • Have the students sit in a large circle.  They need to be close enough to be able to whisper into their neighbor’s ear.  Have the teachers strategically placed in the circle to help with classroom management.
    • Once everyone is sitting in a circle, instruct the students that they will be participating in a game of telephone.  Explain that this is where a message will be passed around the circle.  The goal of the activity is to stay as close to the original sentence as possible. Students will only be able to say/listen to the sentence once before having to pass it to the next student.
      • The teacher should remind the students that the sentence needs to stay appropriate for the classroom.  Students need to really try to pass along the original sentence. If anything inappropriate is said, the game automatically discontinues. (The teachers sitting throughout the circle can monitor this.)
    • To begin, have the lead teacher whisper a sentence to the student to their left.
      • Sentence suggestions: Minions would look really weird with contacts.
      • Sally’s nose ran away to the jungle.
      • The shark tank has a guppy.
    • The student will then whisper what they heard to the person to their left, and the message will be passed around clockwise until it completes the circle and is whispered back to the lead teacher who will then announce to the class what the final sentence was.
    • Afterwards, discuss with the class some of the successes and struggles they may have experienced in this activity. 
      • What made this activity difficult?
      • What could have made this activity easier?
      • Was it easy to understand what your neighbor was saying in your ear? Why or why not?
      • How might this activity be similar to the stories you hear in real life?
    • Today we are going to be learning about Native Americans in Utah, specifically the Navajo tribe and tradition of oral storytelling. How might this activity be similar to oral storytelling?



  • Step 1:
    • The students can remain in their large circle as the following discussion happens.  If this becomes a problem, return to their assigned dots.
    • Today we will be joined by someone who is from the Navajo tribe and she is going to share with us a little bit more about her history and culture.. Now, I expect you all to be on your best behavior. When I put on this necklace I will become our special guest, Raven. (Put on necklace)
    • Hello class. My name is Raven. Your teacher invited me here today to tell you more about my heritage. Before I begin I wanted to ask you, does anyone know anything about Navajo Native Americans?
    • Write their responses on the board, if any. Then share with them these facts. Make sure to share the last two facts that are in bold:
      • The Navajo Nation territory, or what we call a reservation, is in the four-corners area of Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.
      • Our reservation covers more than Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont combined.
      • We call ourselves Dine.
      • 88% of the reservation is without telephone service, lots of places don’t even have electricity.
      • Navajos believe in Medicine Men for healing. Some of us even refuse to go to hospitals.
      • Common forms of employment are silversmithing, weaving, and farming.
        • You may need to explain what those are…
      • Traditional Navajo meals aren’t measured with cups and table/teaspoons, but rather by the handful.
      • The Navajo language was used to win World War II with the Navajo Code Talkers.  This code was the only code that couldn’t be broken during the war.
      • The Navajo language, as well as traditional stories and legends, is something that is passed down orally rather than written down.
    • Thank you, class, for inviting me to come and letting me share my heritage with you it was so much fun. Unfortunately, I have to leave now but tell you teacher that I said hi.
    • Come out of role. What did you guys think of Raven? What things did you learn from her about the Navajo tribe?


  • Step 2:
    • Discuss the importance of preserving cultural history in the circle.
      • Why is it important to remember what’s happened in the past?
      • How do we remember/preserve these things?
      • In the ways of the Navajos, what challenges could come up with the fact they pass their history orally rather than writing it down?


  • Step 3:
    • We’re going to explore some benefits and challenges of passing a story “from generation to generation” through oral storytelling. To do this, we’ve prepared a story that will be passed around.  We’re going to split everyone into groups, show you the story, then we’ll go around the room and you’ll recreate the story as a group and pass it on to the next group. This is similar to the telephone activity we did at the beginning of class, just with acting.
      • I will first read this story aloud to the whole class. We will then start with the first group who will begin acting out the story. Then when they are done the second group will act out the story, and then so on and so forth. I will also assign each person in the group a character from the story either a chipmunk, grandmother, giant, or narrator. I want you to pay specifically close attention to what your character does in the story to help you when it is your turn to act out the story.
    • Split the class into groups of 3 or 4 and place them around the room so everyone can still see each other, and the story can be passed in a circle. 
    • The teacher will begin by telling this story.
      • The Story of the Noisy Chipmunk

Once there was an Indian village, and in it lived a Chipmunk and his grandmother. He was a very noisy little Chipmunk, and his grandmother used to say:— “My Grandson, when you are out in the woods, you must not make so much noise, or something will find and catch you.” But he did not mind her, and every morning he went to the woods, and ran about until he found some berries. Then he climbed a tree, and sat on a limb, and while he ate the berries he made all the noise he could. In the evening his grandmother always told him stories, and once she told him about a Giant who wandered about the woods chasing Chipmunks and other creatures. He had a bag full of red-hot stones, and whenever he caught a small animal he popped it into the bag and cooked it. “I do not believe that!” said the little Chipmunk. Well, one day the little Chipmunk went out as happy and mischievous as ever. He scurried along looking for berries, and then he thought, “I’ll go as far as I can, for I wish to see that Giant.” So he went on and on, till he came to a high bluff, and on it he found a quantity of berries. So he sat on the top of the bluff, and while he ate, he tried to make as much noise as he could. The Giant heard all the noise that the little Chipmunk made, and he came creeping quietly, but he was not able to reach the Chipmunk, because the bluff was too high. “Come down, little one,” said he, as pleasantly as he could, “and I’ll give you a heap of fine berries.” But the little Chipmunk said, “No! If I do, you will catch me and make a fine meal for yourself!” So he stayed up on the bluff. Well, it got to be evening, and the little Chipmunk was tired of waiting for the Giant to leave, and tried to think of a plan to get away. So he broke off some branches from a bush, and threw them down. The Giant heard them fall, and thought it was the little Chipmunk, and sprang on top of them. But it was not the Chipmunk at all, only branches of bushes, and when he looked up, the little chipmunk was gone! Then the Giant ran, and he took such long strides that soon he saw the little Chipmunk leaping home as fast as he could. And the Giant ran and ran, and just as the little Chipmunk was about to spring into his grandmother’s house, the Giant overtook him and grabbed his back. But the little Chipmunk slipped away, and jumped into the house. So he was safe, and the Giant, grumbling with rage, had to go home without his supper. That is why Chipmunks have white stripes on their backs—the marks of the Giant’s fingers.

      • Once the story has been told, go around the circle and see how the story changes with each performance. 



  • Afterwards, discuss as a class the differences they saw amongst the performances.
    • Did the words change?
    • What actions were different?
    • Were some stories clearer than others?
    • What choices did your classmates make that made the story more or less clear to you?
    • What were some of the challenges and successes in performing the same story over and over again?
    • Was it an effective way to accurately pass along information? Why or why not?