Beacon Lesson Plan Library

The Matrix

Laurie Ayers
Bay District Schools


This lesson is for Day 8 of the unit [Native Americans]. Students will read the class matrix and review by making comparisons of Native American culture groups from different regions and times to determine ways they were alike and different.


The student reads informational texts for specific purposes (including but not limited to performing a task, learning a new task, sequentially carrying out the steps of a procedure, locating information to answer a question).

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).


-Class matrix posted on the wall or on a bulletin board (done in previous lesson)
-Paper and pencil for exit slip activity, one of each per student


1. Download and make copies of Summative 2 (see extensions) to be administered during the designated Social Studies time on Day 9 of this unit.
2. Devise a method of dividing students into small groups of 6.


1. Review words on the Big Word display.

2. Review Native American culture group regions and physical surroundings/climate symbols for Northeast Woodlands region on the bulletin board.

3. Call four students up to the front of the room. Ask students at their desks to study the four students, paying attention to how they look. Then lead students in discussing how the students are alike and different. Model writing comparison sentences on the board for the students.

4. Tell students today they will use the matrix as an informational text to review what they have learned and to find ways the Native American culture groups were alike and different. Then they will take Summative Assessment 2 to see what they have learned.

5. Divide students into 6 small groups (These will need to be new small groups, as there were only 5 small groups previously for the Be An Expert activity.) Assign one column of the matrix (Food, Shelter, Art/Recreation, Transportation, or Physical Surroundings and Climate) to each group. Tell students they are to read the information in the columns and think of ways the Native American culture groups were alike or different (according to their topic only). Two of the topics should have multiple groups working on them and two of the topics (food and shelter) should only have one group working on each. The topics that have two groups have much information and, while there will be some overlap, there will also be new information added to the matrix.

6. Tell them you will give them 5 minutes to talk about this and at the end of the 5 minutes someone in the group will need to share one way the culture groups were alike and one way they were different.

7. At the end of 5 minutes, students from each group share their group’s ideas about ways the culture groups were alike and different. Remind students of the effective speaking strategies they have studied and encourage them to speak loud enough for everyone to hear.

8. The teacher uses the student responses as a springboard to lead the class in discussing each column on the matrix (food, shelter, art/recreation, transportation, and physical surroundings and climate) noting how the various culture groups were alike and different. Examples of possible comparisons are:
· Food column - The teacher guides students in recognizing that some groups farmed and some groups hunted or fished. Point out likenesses and differences. Guide students in understanding how each group’s means of getting food was dependent upon the physical surroundings and climate of the region and how all depended upon natural resources of each region.
· Shelter column – The teacher guides students in recognizing likenesses such as how the Northwest Coast Indians and Northeastern Woodland Indians both built their shelters out of wood because forests were plentiful in those regions. They were all alike in that all groups used the natural resources available in their regions to build their shelters. Differences include the obvious differences in kinds of shelters and how the climate of the regions influenced the type of shelter. Also, it is important to point out that some groups were nomadic and wandered around in search of food (Plains, California Intermountain), while others built villages or cities and stayed put due to an abundant food supply (Woodlands, Northwest Coast).
· Art/Recreation column – Guide students in recognizing that all Native American culture groups had some form of art or recreation. Discuss how they all appreciated and admired nature and how their artwork often involved nature. Stress how different culture groups created different forms of art based on the physical surroundings of the region. For example, the Northwest Coast Indians carved beautiful totem poles and woodcarvings. There were many forests in that region. The Southwest Indians did not carve. They created beautiful pottery out of clay because there was an abundance of clay in their region.
· Transportation column – Help students make the connection between those culture group regions that had forests and how that enabled Indians in those regions to make canoes. Point out how the Southwest and Plains regions did not have forests and therefore the people in those regions did not travel by canoe. The Plains Indians depended upon horses more than any other group because they needed them to hunt buffalo.
· Physical Surroundings and Climate column – The Indians depended upon the natural resources in each region. They all had food, but the natural resources and climate in their physical surroundings determined what they ate. This is another reason why all culture groups respected nature so highly. Assist students in realizing that people in regions with moderate climate and plenty of rain had a better food supply (Eastern Woodlands and Northwest Coast), while people in other regions were limited due to their physical surroundings and climate (Plains, Southwest). Also draw attention to how the Southwest region was desert, hot and dry versus the Woodlands having plenty of rain.

9. Throughout the discussion, the teacher provides formative feedback. Specific feedback should be both guiding (Well, let’s think about that. Did the Plains Indians live in the same type home as the Northwest Coast Indians?) and positive (That’s right! The Indians of the Southwest built adobe homes because there was a lot of clay in the desert.)

10. To wrap up the review, the teacher models how to write comparison sentences on the board, giving examples of how Native American culture groups were alike and different. Sample sentences might include:
· Indians from the Plains moved their homes. Indians of the Southwest built homes that stayed in one place.
· Indians in the Woodlands and Indians in the Northwest Coast built their homes of wood because they lived near the forest.
· Some Indians were farmers and others were hunters.
· They all respected nature.
· They all were the first Americans.
· They all used natural resources to meet their needs.

11. Before students are dismissed for the day ask them to write one way Native Americans were alike and one way they were different on a scrap sheet of paper. This will be their exit slip to leave today. Remind students to put their names on their papers. The teacher uses these exit slips as a means of formatively assessing knowledge of similarities and differences of Native American cultures from different times and regions. Feedback should be both guiding and positive. Guiding feedback might include, “Think again. Did the Plains Indians have the same type shelter as the Northwest Coast Indians?” Positive feedback might include, “Terrific! The Southwest Indians and Northeast Woodlands Indians both grew corn.”

12. Remind students that Summative Assessment 2 will be tomorrow.


Formatively assess student responses during the class discussion to guide instruction and review content. Students should read the informational text (matrix) to assist them in demonstrating knowledge of similarities and differences among select Native American cultures from different regions and times, understanding of ways climate, location, and physical surroundings affect the way people live, and knowledge of some works of art that reflect the cultural heritage of the community or country.

Students will complete exit slips upon dismissal. The teacher will use student responses to formatively assess student knowledge of similarities and differences of Native American culture groups from different regions and times. The teacher will look for evidence that students understand ways the culture groups were alike and different in the areas of food, shelter, transportation, art/recreation, and physical surroundings location, and climate.


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 teacher could compile the information from Student Note Pages displayed on the matrix on Day 8 and provide copies for students to be used as study guides.
3. Students may like to try to make a rug using yarn and a cardboard loom after reading the Indian legend of the goat in the rug.
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