The First Native American People: Mapping the Area


I had already decided to carry out an overview study of the settlement and migration of the Native Americans.  I wanted to get rid of the idea that the first peoples to populate America all lived in tepees and wore feathers.  It was to be a one week study, so I wanted it to be large and vibrant and dealt with in such a way that they would never forget the wondrous variety of the Native American people.

On Monday I had the children read through the following books and then we met up to discuss the plan for the week:

Ribbet collagenatam1

We decided that we would read through the Native American History out loud.  It had 8 chapters which meant a little under two chapters per day.  We would also be reading The Birch Bark House:

Current read alouds

I often buy books of similar ilk  to the Native American History for many of our studies but I have never read them aloud to the children.  I’m so pleased I did, it was a brilliant book and gave much more information and references than any of the other books.  I read and the children narrated.  There were 21 activities included of which we did a few.  However, in terms of meeting the need for an over view of the history of the first people of America it more than met our goal.

In order to show their migration and settlement we decided upon making a large and colourful paper mache map.  Size matters, I think, when it comes to maps.  Somehow making a large map and building models and the like on them is so helpful to understanding and retention of the information displayed.  I love watching a humble piece of card board and some paper mache mix come to life under the very able hands of my children.

First I drew a very rough outline of America with the Bering Straight at the top:


T12 followed my outline with the paper mache:


close up
close up
outline finished
outline finished

L11 painted the seas around the map:


And then all three of them divided up the land into tribes using the following page from Make It Work! Native Americans:


Once divided they painted each section a different colour, thus highlighting the different tribal areas:

working together
working together


the painted map ready for labelling
the painted map ready for labelling

Once the map had been painted the children labelled it and drew arrows to show the direction of migration.

As I am particularly focusing on T12’s writing this year, I had him do a written narration about how the Native Americans came to be in America.  Each day I have given him a different writing assignment and he is coping well.  My logic for doing this is that practice makes perfect and therefore I am expecting to see improvements daily.  We go over each piece of work daily together and we discuss any changes he might need to make which he does there and then.  I have been pleased with the quantity he is producing and the quality really is improving slowly each day:


We then discussed a topic related to the Native American culture that each child might like to focus on to illustrate how differently the tribes lived.  T12 chose to explore what they lived in; L11 chose to look at how they communicated with different tribes and the European pilgrims whilst C12 was excited to be digging into their spirituality.

All Things Beautiful


  1. I really like how they each pick a focus area – and they all picked such good ones, too! We were behind a truck the other day, that had a bumper sticker that said something about being an Indian is more than a birthright, it’s a spiritual way of life…which got us all discussing what sort of religious beliefs are attached to the tribes, even today.

    1. When we start to dig much deeper into the Ojibwe tribe we will be reading some books written by the people themselves and which goes deep into the heart of their spirituality and beliefs. I really am very much looking forward to it.

  2. I love the map! I’m thinking about strewing a Henty book the older kids way in the near future. If I do, we’re definitely making a big map to pull them into the action.

    1. We’re doing the explorers age next year and I’m trying to figure out how big I can go without the sheer size getting in the way of eating and other essential activities!

    1. We will hopefully use it for more than one week, but even if we don’t it takes such a small amount of time to do and costs very little that even if it is used only for one week it is worth it.

  3. I really want to do a map and I am going to see what we can do with the Middle Ages. T did a great job on his written narration. The individual topics sound very interesting. I am looking forward to seeing how each one goes. Looks like Native Americans are proving to be another great topic of study for your family.
    Have a lovely day, Claire.
    (Yes, we have cooled off a bit, upper 80’s and lower 90’s. Yay!)

    1. After the middle ages this is such a new and vibrant topic that I have five very willing learners on my hands- this is definitely one of my favourite topics so far.

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