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A lesson on Native American Pottery and Culture


Art, Social Studies  


3, 4  

   Subject: Social Studies, Art
Title: Native American Pottery
by Claire Gallo
Grade Level: 3/4

Note: This is one of three lesson plans on Claire’s Southwest Experience Unit. All 3 can be found together under Social Studies.

Anticipatory Set:

Teacher asks for ways that we can learn about a culture. Teacher writes student responses on the board. Teacher tells students that they will be learning about Native Americans who inhabit the Southwest. Some of these tribes include the Navajo, Hopi, Anasazi, Hohokam, Mogollan, and Mimbres. Students are then asked to locate the Southwest region on a map and tell what states make up that region. Teacher tells students that they will be learning about Native Americans today by reading about their pottery. Students are told that Native Americans decorated their pottery with pictures. These pictures told a story about what was going on in the tribe at that time. Teacher calls students to the reading circle and reads Byrd Baylor’s “When Clay Sings” to them, asking questions along the way.


Students will:

*identify various ways we learn about a culture

*describe what life may have been like for Native Americans of that region

*demonstrate the Native American use of pictographs by creating a clay pot story of their own

Instructional Input:

Teacher asks students to describe their impressions of Native American life based on the story. How did these pots tell us so much about the culture? By examining the pictures on the remains of these pots, we learn about the beliefs, customs, and everyday lives of these people.

Teacher asks why Native Americans didn’t just write down their stories like we do today. Teacher explains that Native Americans did not use the alphabet we use today. They used pictures to represent what they wanted to say. These pictures are called pictographs. Teacher passes out a pictograph dictionary to each student.


Teacher tells students a brief story and then shows them how to translate it using the pictograph dictionary. Students are then told that they will use pictographs to write a short story, imagining themselves as a tribal member. The story will then be transferred to a clay pot using black marker.

Independent Practice:

Students write their stories and teacher checks them. Students then transfer their stories to the pots.


Teacher asks students what they have learned about Native Americans of the Southwest (including tribal names and states that make up the region). Students are then asked how examining their pottery can teach us about their culture. Teacher then asks students to share their clay pot stories with the class.

     "When Clay Sings" by Byrd Baylor
     pictograph dictionary or book on pictographs
     modeling clay/clay pots
     black markers
     map of the United States

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