Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Who Were the First Americans?

Laurie Ayers
Bay District Schools


This lesson is the beginning lesson of the unit [Native Americans]. Students will view an introductory PowerPoint presentation about Native Americans. They will then discuss the physical surroundings and climate of the region they live in.


The student knows similarities and differences among selected Native American cultures from different regions and times (for example, nomadic groups, agricultural groups, city building, relationship with the environment).

The student knows some works of art that reflect the cultural heritage of the community or country (for example, paintings, statues).

The student understands ways climate, location, and physical surroundings affect the way people live (for example, food, clothing, shelter, transportation, recreation).


-Different Tribes, Different Times PowerPoint presentation (see extensions)
-Projection system for the PowerPoint presentation (LCD display, large screen TV with computer access, etc.)
-Large map of the world displayed in the classroom
-List of Suggested Books and Videos for the unit (in associated file)
-Social Studies Sunshine State Standards for this unit (in associated file)
-Vocabulary Words and Meanings for the Big Word display (in associated file)
-Vocabulary List (in associated file)
-Big Word display
-Parent Note (in associated file)
-Drawing paper, one per student
-Markers or crayons for each student
-Region Labels (in associated file)
-Map Transparency made into a bulletin board display (in associated file)
-Bulletin Board space


1. Administer the Diagnostic Assessment for this unit (see extensions) prior to this lesson.
2. Gather materials.
3. In advance, download the PowerPoint presentation (see extensions).
This is a large file, so allow ample time for it to download. Follow these procedures:

* Open the PowerPoint file.

* Click File from you browsers tool bar (top left corner of your screen)

* Select “Save As”

* Save the file onto your computer. Put it in a place where you can find it again, like on your desktop.

* Now you have two options for the PowerPoint presentation:

A. You can use the PowerPoint presentation from your computer.
B. It can also be copied to a disk and placed on any other computers for easy access by your students for review purposes.

4. Set up the projection system for the PowerPoint presentation.
5. Collect some books and other informational texts about Native Americans. A suggested list is in the associated file. These reference materials will be placed at group workstations on Days 5, 6, and 7 for the Be An Expert activity. Students will use them in addition to the provided informational texts to get visual images of the region and information about the culture group’s way of life. These reference materials need to be on an appropriate level and contain vivid graphics so students can use them independently.

Note: The developer is aware that reference materials of this nature are limited for this grade level, and therefore has created informational texts with graphics (in associated file) to be used in addition to the reference materials the teacher collects.

6. Create a Big Word display area in the classroom. This could be a bulletin board or a framed display on the wall.
7. Download and make a copy of the Vocabulary Words and Meanings (in associated file) to be added to the Big Word display as they are introduced. Cut them out and mount them on construction paper. It is suggested they be laminated to make them sturdier.

Note: Vocabulary words to be introduced in Language Arts during this unit are also included.

8. Download and make copies of the Vocabulary List, one for the teacher and one for each student (in associated file).
9. Download and make copies of the Social Studies standards for the unit (in associated file). It is suggested that these be put on a construction paper backing, laminated, and then displayed in the classroom.
10. Download and make copies of the Parent Note, one per student (in associated file).
11. Download and make a copy of the Map Transparency (in associated file). Use an opaque projector to make an enlarged map for the bulletin board.
12. Before Day 3, download and make a copy of Region Labels for each culture group region (in associated file). The teacher might want to glue them onto construction paper backing and laminate them to make them sturdier.
13. Before Day 3, make a bulletin board display of the Map Transparency. A title for the bulletin board might be “Where, Oh Where?” Outline the regions on the map, but do not label them at this point. The teacher may want to embellish the display with pictures of Native Americans or Native American symbols.
14. If interested, write to get information or schedule class visitors from the North Bay Clan of the Lower Creek Muskogee Tribe, Inc. in Bay County. The address is P.O. Box 687, Lynn Haven, FL, 32444.
15. For a wide range of curricular materials for teachers contact Native Monthly Reader, RedSun Institute, P.O. Box 122, Crestone, CO) 81131.
16. If you want your students to become penpals with children living on reservations, write the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Director of Indian Education Programs, 1849 C Street NW-MS 3530-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240.


Note: The Diagnostic Assessment (see extensions) should be done prior to this lesson. See reference in Extensions/Modifications.

1. Begin by displaying a large map of the world. Ask students, “What country do we live in?” Elicit from them that we live in the United States. Call on a volunteer to locate the U.S. on the map.

2. Ask, “Have you ever wondered who were the first Americans? Who were the first people to live in our country?”

3. Explain that in the next few weeks the class will be learning about the first Americans and learning how to speak to others about them.

4. Tell students you have a presentation for them to watch. They are to watch the PowerPoint presentation (see extensions) to learn more about the first Americans.

5. The teacher writes the following questions on the board:
· Who were the first Americans?
· Did they all live in the same region of our country?
· Did all of them live the same way?
· How were they alike?
· How were they different?

6. The teacher reads the questions on the board aloud and encourages students to watch the PowerPoint to find the answers to these questions.

7. Students view PowerPoint presentation.

8. Review the presentation and guide the discussion to include the following concepts:
· The Indians were the first Americans. They were in our country before the Europeans (such as Columbus) arrived. They are also called Native Americans.
· Different groups of Indians lived in different regions of the country.
· Native American culture groups met their needs according to factors in the physical surroundings, location, and climate of their region.
· Daily life in each region was different in some ways and alike in others.
· All Native Americans respected nature.
· All Native Americans used natural resources in their region to meet their basic needs.

9. Provide formative feedback to students as warranted during the discussion. Formative feedback should be both guiding (Are you sure the Indians of the Plains and the Southwest Indians both farmed?) and positive (Yes, the Native Americans of each group all respected nature.).

10. Explain that over the next few weeks the class will be studying Native Americans. Display and discuss the Social Studies standards for the unit (in associated file).

11. Tell students that while the class studies Native Americans they will learn some new words. These words will go up on a Big Word Chart to help them learn the words and their meanings. Direct attention to the Big Word display in the classroom.

12. Define region as an area of land. Add the word region and its meaning to the Big Word display.

13. Define culture group as a group of people that live in the same region and have the same way of life. Add culture group and its meaning to the Big Word display.

14. Explain that they will be learning about different regions that Native American groups lived in and how the climate, location, and physical surroundings of each region affected the lives of the people who lived there.

15. Explain that climate, location, and physical surroundings are big words, too. They need to be added to the Big Word Chart.

16. Teach the definitions of vocabulary words.
· Define climate as the usual weather of a place. Give examples of the climate of the region where you live.
· Define location as a particular place. Give an example of the location where the students live.
· Define physical surroundings as the things found in nature and the layout of the land surrounding a particular location and give examples of the physical surroundings of the school.
· Define natural resources as valuable things found in nature and give examples (i.e., forests, oceans, animals, plants, climate, stone, etc.)

17. Add the words and their meanings to the Big Word display.

18. Ask students to think about the region or area where they live.
· Where in the U.S. is it located?
· What is the land like? Is it flat and sandy, or perhaps mountainous and rocky?
· What is the climate (the usual weather of a place or region) like where they live?
· Are there any big bodies of water nearby? Are there any forests?
· What are other natural resources (define as valuable things found in nature) in the region or area where they live?
· How do these things affect the way you live?

19. The class determines three characteristics of the physical surroundings, location, and climate of the region they live in and the teacher leads them in discussing how these characteristics affect the way they live. Examples might include:
· The climate is warm and mild. There are many opportunities for recreational sports outside.
· The climate is warm and mild. Plants grow well here.
· The climate is warm and mild. Heavy clothes are usually not necessary.
· The Gulf of Mexico is nearby. People enjoy many water sports, enjoy seafood, and many tourists come to this region.
· We have many pine trees here. Many people have jobs cutting down the pine trees and preparing them for use elsewhere.

20. Encourage students to share with their families that the class will be learning about Native Americans. Also encourage students to bring in any Native American information or items they have at home to share with the class. The teacher might want to include this request along with the Vocabulary List (in associated file) for the unit in a Parent Note (sample in associated file) or the class newsletter if one is sent home on a regular basis.

21. Students then draw a picture to represent one way the physical surroundings, location, and climate of their region affects their way of life.

22. Collect the student responses and use the pictures to formatively assess student understanding of ways the physical surroundings, location, and climate of a region affect the way of life. Possible pictures might include:
· A person involved in a water sport or other recreational sport.
· A person wearing light clothing.
· A picture of tall pine trees or other vegetation indigenous to the area.
· Tourists visiting the local amusement park.


After the class views the PowerPoint presentation, the teacher will formatively assess student knowledge and understanding during the discussion by asking the leading questions provided in steps 6-7 of the Procedures. She will use this information as a guide in planning future instruction and to provide formative feedback to students.

Additionally, the teacher uses student drawings of their home regions to formatively assess understanding of ways physical surroundings, location, and climate can affect how people live.


1. The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL:
Once you select the unit’s link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, “Associated Files.” This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).
2. The PowerPoint presentation could be downloaded from the unit extensions and printed as another option for informational text and to provide opportunities for the students to revisit it.
3. A video could be shown to introduce students to general information about Native Americans if the teacher has one at her access that covers basically the same concepts as the PowerPoint presentation. A list of Suggested Books and Videos for the unit can be found in the associated file.
4. The PowerPoint presentation could be viewed individually by students who were absent on the day it was presented in class. It could also be viewed later in the unit as a means of review.
5. Some lessons only deal with one region and its culture. Once students have a base of knowledge, they can show they know similarities and differences among selected Native American cultures from different regions and times covered in the unit. This is summatively assessed at the end of the unit.

Attached Files

This document contains student handouts and teaching materials.     File Extension: pdf

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