Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Indian Way of Life

Harold Towne


Why did the Sioux Indians live in tents covered with animal skins, the Cherokee live in wooden homes, and the Navajo live in mud houses? This activity is a way for students to investigate why several Indian tribes developed different ways of life based on geography. (This lesson must be done after the students have had instruction in the physical regions of the U.S.)


The student extends and refines understanding of ways geographical factors have influenced selected groups (for example, Native Americans in the Great Plains).


-Several pictures of Indian dwellings.
-Outline map of the main physical regions of the continental U.S.
-A copy of the outline map for each student.
-List of major Indian tribes, at least one for each physical region.
-A piece of notebook paper for each discussion group.
-White board or overhead projector.
-Textbook with map showing the major Indian tribes for each student. I use [Americas Past and Promise.] Harcourt and Brace, 1997.
-Copy of the rubric (see associated file)


1. Prepare an out line map of the continental U.S. showing the different physical regions of the country. (mountains, plains, forest lowlands, deserts, etc.) Run off enough copies for each student to have one.
2. Prepare a list of 10 Indian tribes. Each tribe should represent a different region of the country. Write the list of the board so all students can see it.
3. Collect or draw pictures to represent the different types of dwellings that several different tribes lived in.
4. Make sure that each student has the appropriate text book with a map of Indian tribes.


1. Write the names of ten major Indian tribes on the board. Ask the students if they have ever heard any of these names.

2. Show the class pictures of several different types of Indian dwellings. Ask the students if they know what kinds of Indians might have lived in each type of house. Ask the students if they know what area of the country each dwelling may be found.

3. Instruct students to open their textbooks to the map of the major Indian tribes. Ask them to locate the tribes from the list on the board.

4. Pass out outline maps.

5. Instruct the students to write the names of the ten tribes in the correct location on the map.

6. Walk around the room checking that all students are placing the names correctly.

7. When the maps are finished, divide students into groups of three or four and assign each group one tribe to discuss.

8. Inform the groups that every member of the group should be ready to discuss the groups' ideas.

9. Instruct groups to discuss how the area where the tribe lived might have influenced their way of life. Instruct groups to produce one paragraph describing how the geography of the area might have influenced the tribeís way of life.

10. Circulate among the groups making sure they are on task and offering advice where needed.

11. After 5 to 10 minutes, ask members of each group to describe their groupís ideas. Be sure to include all members of the group in the discussion and ask higher order questions. Allow other members of the class to ask any questions they may have. Use the rubric to assess the students ideas.

12. After all groups have discussed their tribe, collect the maps from all students and the paragraphs from each group. Assess the maps for 7 of 10 tribes placed correctly. Remediate as necessary and give feedback.


NOTE: This lesson formatively assesses student ability to extend and refine knowledge of U.S. geography and its influence on Native Americans.

Assess the studentís ability, using maps in the text book, to correctly place 7 of 10 major Indian tribes (such as: Sioux, Cherokee, Iroquois, and Navajo.) in the correct location on an outline map of the continental U.S. that has major physical features listed. (such as: plains, forests, mountains, rivers, and deserts.)

In groups of three, each group discusses ways in which geography may have influenced one tribeís way of life. Each group must produce a paragraph about their tribe and each member is prepared to discuss their ideas in a class discussion. (A rubric used for assessment purposes can be found in the associated files.)

Attached Files

The Indian Way of Life Rubric     File Extension:  pdf
Return to the Beacon Lesson Plan Library.