The Bridge School


Exploring Early Native Americans

Targeted Grade Level 3rd Grade
Curricular Area Integrated Social Studies, Language Arts, Writing
Activity Type Teacher directed, changes by theme
Theme Exploring Early Native Americans
Summary In this lesson, students are introduced to Native Americans and their culture and lifestyle. They will research and complete a report with illustrations about a specific tribe and then share their reports with their class.



  • Vocabulary for this lesson is trellised down from 3rd to 1st grade to target student’s zone of proximal learning.
  • Lesson implemented with student meeting the following criteria:
    • Student profile: Student is an 8 year old 3rd grader with cerebral palsy, who is non-speaking. Student has pre-k reading and writing skills with listening comprehension assessed at the 1st grade level. Student uses low and high tech communication displays and is able to target 6-12 locations when scanning using a single switch.

Standards and Goals

California’s Common Core Content Standards: History for 3rd Grade

3.2 – Students describe the American Indian nations in their local region long ago and in the recent past.
1. – Describe national identities, religious beliefs, customs, and various folklore traditions.

Modifications necessary for this student’s participation and learning involves reducing complexity of content vocabulary and trellising Common Core Standards from 3rd grade to 1st grade.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects

Grade 3 Writing Standards

Text Types and Purposes

2. – Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.

  • Introduce a topic and group related information together; include illustrations when useful to aiding comprehension
  • Develop the topic with facts, definitions, and details.

Production and Distribution

6. – With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others.

Grade 1 Writing Standards

Text Types and Purposes

2. – Write informative/explanatory texts in which students name a topic, supply some facts about the topic, and provide some sense of closure

Production and Distribution

6. – With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

IEP Goal Addressed

Given supporting Social Studies material and AAC supports modified to address writing and listening comprehension skills assessed at a 1st grade level, and given 6-12 location communication displays, student will complete 5 projects by labeling photos/pictures with 80% accuracy in 4/5 consecutive trials as measured by teacher observation and portfolio evidence.

Materials & Preparation

Step by Step Communicator

Tobii 32

Cheap Talk 8

Example PRC devices

Example Dynavox devices

Example Tobii device

Instructional Plan

Phase 1: Activate Background Knowledge: Introduce Theme

Establish common knowledge across the group in class discussions.

Read books related to topic

Example of a low tech communication board with concept vocabulary.

Phase 2: Direct instruction: Establish and Provide Access to Content Vocabulary and Concepts

  • Use student’s existing communication boards (low/high tech) to discuss the basic characteristics of any society. Does the student’s existing vocabulary give opportunities to describe food, characteristics of housing (e.g. words like: home, eat, bed, etc?) If not, then determine vocabulary to be added / created to give student ability to use words in discussions, in context, to build and demonstrate comprehension.
  • Give student access and teach content specific vocabulary (names of tribes, specific names of lodging etc.) on low/high communication boards.
  • Have student listen to information about Native Americans and help them identify and appropriately utilize general and content-specific vocabulary using low/high tech communication boards.

Phase 3: Guided Practice: Engage in Interactive Discussions

Phase 4: Provide Opportunities for Independent Practice

Phase 5: Mastery: Assess Student Learning

Phase 6: Integrate Newly Mastered Vocabulary and Concepts Within Students’ Existing Communication Systems

  • Compile low tech overlays in notebooks that can be readily accessed and used.

Progress Monitoring

Student’s progress monitored by Teacher Observation and Portfolio Evidence

Teacher Observation

Teacher monitors student’s appropriate identification of letters and phonemes during class participation, and direct and guided instruction.

Portfolio Evidence


This writing lesson is an appropriate modification for students who have difficulty creating longer and more detailed written reports and it allows students to demonstrate comprehension.

This lesson provides a way for students who utilize AAC supports to:

  • Have access to new vocabulary
  • Have opportunities to practice new vocabulary
  • Create photo collages of Early Native American tribes

Student requires:

To publish the report:

  • Preprogram a SGD/VOCA (e.g. Step by Step Communicator) to accompany the student’s PowerPoint report)

Integrate Newly Mastered Vocabulary and Concepts Within Students Existing Communication Systems by:

  • Compiling low tech overlays in communication note books
  • Provide student independent access to electronic portfolios with completed reports for sharing and review

Step by Step Communicator

Tobii 32

Cheap Talk 8

Example PRC devices

Example Dynavox devices

Example Tobii device

Resources and References

Bellah, Cleo J. Native American Interdisciplinary Education. 

Sturm, J. M. (2003, September 09). Writing and AAC. The ASHA Leader