Theme Unit Plan: Class Potlatch



Author: Marc Sheehan

Title: Classroom Potlatch

Content Areas: Social Studies, Art

Grade: 3-5

Concepts addressed: History, Culture, Art, Writing

Objectives: The students will be able to describe the functions of a potlatch. The students will also describe the reasons why potlatches were held. The students will draw a picture of a potlatch. And finally, the students will prepare to put on a potlatch of their own at the end of the unit.

Materials: "The Indian Book" , paper, pencils, crayons, markers, "K-W-L" note sheets, butcher paper

Time: 35 minutes for initial lesson; 90 minutes for planning potlatch (30 min/day), 45 minutes for potlatch. Total time: 170 minutes over 5 days.

Introduction: This lesson will follow a "K-W-L" format: what do we know; what do we want to know, what did we learn. The lesson will open with the statement that the class will put on a potlatch at the conclusion of the unit. I will ask the class if they know anything about a potlatch. I will write the ideas down on the butcher paper under the "K": What do we know about a potlatch? I will instruct the students to do the same on their "K-W-L" sheets. Next, I will tell the class that I will read a short story about a potlatch to them; we will have to identify things we need to know from the story if our potlatch is going to be successful. (This is the "W" portion.) After the story is read, we will identify what we learned from it, a.k.a the "L" portion.

Procedure: I will read the story "The Great Feast," a story about a Tlingit (Coastal) potlatch found in "The Indian Book." The students will listen to the story, then tell me what they learned from it once the story is done. The students will write down three things they learned about potlatches. The students will also draw a picture of a potlatch ceremony. (Note: Any story about a potlatch can be used.)

Closure: The students will list the things they would need to put on a potlatch for their family members. They will come up with gifts they could give (the items and assignments already completed during the unit), the food they could serve, the speakers they may want (class members who would talk about what the students did during the unit), and any games and dances they want to include. The students will determine what activities (dances, basket-weaving, bead stringing) they would like to teach their guests during the potlatch. Committees will be formed to help plan out the potlatch. The potlatch will be held in three weeks.

Assessment: The responses from the students will be collected: were three new ideas listed? The drawings will be collected to be used in the potlatch. The committees will be evaluated periodically to see if their ideas can be implemented in the potlatch. Committee involvement will be assessed through rating scales done by the group and by myself: is the student working hard? Is the student able to work with others? Is the student contributing to the group? The potlatch itself will be assessed to see if the students are participating and making a good effort to instruct the guests in activities such as dances, basket-weaving, and bead-stringing.