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Native Pathways to Education
Alaska Native Cultural Resources
Indigenous Knowledge Systems
Indigenous Education Worldwide

Lessons & Units

A database of lessons and units searchable by content and cultural standards, cultural region and grade level. More units will be available soon. You can use Acrobat Reader to look at the PDF version of the Cover Sheet for the Units and Self-Assessment for Cultural Standards in Practice.

Family Trees


Group 3: Josie Dayton, DeAnn Moore, Jan Cabanis, & Heather Karmun


Grade Level: Grade 4-6


Recommended length of time for unit: 3 weeks

Alaska Student Content Standards addressed:

English/Language Arts A1, A2, A4, A5, AS, D1, D3, E1, E4

History A1, A5, A6, A8, C1, C2, C3, C4, D1

Skills for a Healthy Life A1, A5, A8, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6, D6


Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools addressed

Students A2 - recount their own geneology and family history A3, A6, D1, D3, D4, E5, E8, and many more


Goal: Students will gain a greater understanding of who they are and where they come from through research into their family background, constructing a family tree, and gathering stories and pictures about their family. In the process they will also gain knowledge about cultural values, have fun and produce a family legacy (family tree, stories and photographs) they can be proud of.


Objectives: Who am I and where do I fit within a family and local community? These are questions that can guide students in understanding themselves and their importance to their community. Students will develop a sense of personal pride and understanding through establishment of family history. They will also establish ties to ancestors and culture through communication and exploration that involve collecting and recording stories from elders and community members. Students will learn how to connect family units which have been fragmented and separated. They will learn how to research family history and develop a family tree through the use of books, technology, interviews, oral tapes and personal knowledge.





Note Pad

Books on family trees

Tape recorder

Book making material (see book history and book making by group 2)





Plans and Procedures


We have chosen to have our students make a project portfolio about their families. This will include a diagram of their family tree, a self reflection of "Who am l," comparison chart of activities in their lives and their elders, conducting an interview with an elder, and a final written paper of a favorite story that was told to them. They will end with a self reflection of what they learned. This portfolio will be compiled into a book with pictures included.


Plan & Procedure


WEEK 1: Timing of this unit would be best if it were done during family times, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter.


Day 1

-Introduce thematic unit by reading from the biography series (or any book related to the unit family tree, heritage, or grandparents)

-Students will be required to fill out; Exercise 1: "Who Am I?"


Exercise 2: "My Favorite Things"

-Students will begin each day with writing in their journals. These entries will be placed in their portfolios. Daily Writing Topic: Students will take ideas from exercise 1 and 2.


Day 2

-Read from thematic book

-The students will be given a copy of the family tree and will be required to bring it home and fill out with their family.

-The class will brainstorm on where to get information for their family tree (such as the library, Internet, and school)

-Continue Daily Writing Topic: Imagine that you had spent a weekend with a grandparent. You had a terrific time! Describe what you did.

-Family tree research in school.


Day 3

-Read from thematic book

-Students will fill out their portion of "Did You Ever?"

-Explain to the student that not all students' grandparents/parents are nearby and students can have anyone in their family fill out "Did You Ever?"

-Continue to do research in the school.

-Continue Daily Writing Topic: If you can go anywhere with your Grandmother or Grandfather, where would you go. Why would you go there? How would you get there? Write about your trip.


Day 4

-Read from thematic book

-Students will brainstorm question they can ask in their interview. This interview will either be done with parents or grandparents.

-Students will learn how to write a cinquain poem. The poem will be placed as a journal entry.


Day 5

-Read book Knots on a Counting Rope by Bill Martin and John ArchambauIt.

-Explain to the students that not all stories are written down. Ask them for examples of stories they know are not written in books (oral history, family stories, etc.)

-Students will learn how to write an acrostic poem. The poem will be placed as a journal entry.

-Open discussion and brainstorming on Cultural Values

-Students will take home a recorder and interview family member over the weekend.


WEEK 2: During this week the students will be taught the writing process and all steps will be included in their portfolio. The students will be read to daily from thematic book.


Day 1

-Explain writing process

-Students will transcribe interview.


Day 2

-Students will start writing process by either fast write, bubbling, outline.


Day 3

-Students will begin essay.


Day 4

-Assign students in groups of two and have them edit each other's essay.


Day 5

-Students will write final draft.


WEEK 3: During this week, the students will have essays! stories done and these will be compiled into a book.


Day 1

-Students will learn how to make a book (Cover, contents, bibliography, etc.)


Day 2-4

-During the process of finishing the book, students will have the opportunity to give an oral presentation of their family tree. The teacher will explain that this is sharing time.

-Students will write an invitation letter to family to come in and look at the students' final product.



-When guests have arrived, the students will be encouraged to read aloud their poems, writing, or tell about their favorite part of the unit.



Assessment Practices


For our unit on Family Trees, we have chosen to have our students make a Project Portfolio about their families. The many steps included in this project provide a variety of learning opportunities for our students as well as assessment opportunities. Besides meeting several of the Alaskan Student Content and Cultural Standards, our students will gain a greater understanding of their family background and how they fit into their family and community. Each student's portfolio will be a family keepsake and the collection of stories a tribute to their elders, families and themselves.

For assessment purposes, Project Portfolios show the completion of steps over time. Assessment is made on Performance; were the steps completed and what was the quality of the work? A rubric will be established and our expectations discussed with our students at the beginning of this project. Students will also make self assessments as a tool in the learning process.

Journals: (personal communication assessment) Students will keep a daily journal as well as a list of questions they would like to ask the Elder they interview. Ideas might come from the class brainstorming session, the oral short story or personal thoughts. Students will be assessed using a pre-established rubric.


Family Tree chart: exercises "Who Am I?", and "My Favorite Things" (performance assessment) These require students to draw from their personal experiences as well as collaboration with their families.


Observation Rubric: (performance assessment) This is a teacher designed record to be used twice weekly to assess each student's listening skills, participation in the class discussions, independent work skills and collaboration and cooperation with their partner. Respect for others will be stressed.


Conducting an Interview with an Elder: (performance assessment) Students will prepare in class by brainstorming ideas for questions and tips on how to interview and listen with respect. An Elder's story may either be recorded or written. This may require more than one visit.


Cinquain poem and acrostic poem: (essay assessment). These exercises are quick-writes and hopefully will be fun and inspiring. Assessment is by rubric.


Final Paper: (essay assessment). Students will be asked to write their favorite story. This will require referring to their journals, the questions they chose to ask and collaborating with their partners. Students will be encouraged to pre-write, draft, revise, rewrite, self-edit, and then peer edit. The teacher will assist with grammar and mechanics in context as needed. Self Assessment of the final product will be made using a checklist which assigns points for ideas, organization, grammar, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions (correct spelling, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization.). The following rubric will be followed for assessment. Students will then have the opportunity to make improvements and polish their story which can raise their assessment before publishing for their book.






Each paper will be given one of three scores: Q, A, or NA. The reader will read the paper with these descriptors in mind:



Quality-can easily complete the writing process
· prewriting and then following the steps
· has no more than three minor errors (mechanics, word choice, sentence structure)
· meets all requirements




Acceptable- takes some effort to complete the writing process
· prewriting and then the following steps
· has four to seven minor errors (mechanics, word choice, sentence structure)
meets all the requirements




Not Acceptable- cannot complete process
· does not follow directions

· has more than seven errors (mechanics, word choice, sentence structure)

Wessels and Birkholz, 1994 as quoted in Barnhardt: Assessment of Learning


Brief teacher student conferences: (personal communication) during the writing process will help students with any problems that may arise or assist with grammar or writing issues.


Self reflection: (personal communication) Each student will write a self evaluation of their part in this portfolio. What were the favorite ideas that you learned? What would you change? What was your least favorite activity?


Oral Presentation of their story: (performance assessment) Each student will share their story with their classmates and families at the celebration following the completion of this project. A rubric that has been discussed in class will be used for assessment.










Briggs, Jean L.Never in Anger. Portrait of an Eskimo Family. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970

Dayton, Roger. A Biography Koyukuk. Blame: Hancock House Publishing, 1981

Huntington, Sidney. Shadows on the Koyukuk. An Alaskan Native's Life Along the River. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1994

Oquilluk, William A., and Bland Laurel L. People of Kauwerak. Legends of the Northern Eskimo. Anchorage: Alaska Pacific University Press


Solomon, Madeline. A Biography Koyukuk. Blaine: Hancock House Publishing, 1981

Wallis,Velma. Bird Girl. New York: Harper Perennial, 1994

Wallis,Velma Wallis. Two Old Woman. New York: Harper Perennial, 199?

Wilder, Edna. Once upon An Eskimo Time. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1989





Native Values for the Curriculum

Alaska Native Knowledge Network


Project Jukebox, University of Alaska, Lucinda Taylor, Oral History Office, Rasmuson Library, P.O. Box 756S0S, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99775-6808, (907) 474-6672




Who Am I?


No person would, I think, exchange their existence with any other person, however fortunate.



1. My name is__________________________________.


2. My street address is_____________________________ My town is_______________ state_______ zip_________

3. Age_____ My birthday is________________________(day, month, year)

4. Color of my eyes_______ . Color of my hair________
5. My height .My weight______________
6. My *father's name is___________________________
7. My *father's occupation is______________________
8. My *mother's name is____________________________
9. My *mother's occupation is____________________

10. I am the____________ (first, last, middle, **only) child in my family.


I like (do not like) being the child in my family because_________________________________


*Add information for stepparents as appropriate.

**Omit #~511 and 12


11. The names and ages of my **brothers are

Name Birth Date





12. The names and ages of my **sisters are Name


Birth Date





13. My paternal ***grandfather's

name is____________________

He lives in _______________


14. My paternal ***grandmother's

name is ___________________

She lives in ______________


15. My ***maternal grandfather's

name is____________________

He lives in________________


16. My ***maternal grandmother's

name is____________________

She lives in_______________




**Add the names of step-siblings as appropriate.

***If a grandparent or parent is deceased indicate that by writing "d" and the date of his/her death after his/her name. If grandparents have remarried, you may wish to write the name of their current spouses on the appropriate lines, and write "re." after their names. Include the dates of the new marriages, too.


Did you Ever?


Early Alaskans did the things listed below. Put a check or highlight the boxes next to the activities you have done. Then ask your parents and grandparents to put checks or highlight the boxes next to the activities they have done.


1. Chop firewood with axe


2. Cut wood with handsaw


3. Carry firewood


Go to bed by candlelight


5. Go to bed by kerosene lamp or lantern


6. Read by flashlight


7. Sleep outdoors without a tent


8. Live in seasonal camps


9. Make bread


10. Empty the honeybucket


11. Wash clothes with a washboard


12. Pick wild greens


13. Pick berries


14. Pluck and clean ptarmigan


15. Lived in semi-subterrain house


16. use an outhouse


17. Eat mush for breakfast


18. used cloth diapers


19. Take a bath in galvanized tub


20. Dry clothes on a clothesline, outside


21. Check snares and traps


22. Cut fish


23. Check fishnet


24. Live in a log cabin





A cinquain is a poem with five lines following this form:

Line 1

One noun which names your subject


Line 2

Two adjectives Which describe the noun

Line 3

Three action words ending with "ing" which describe the

noun Line 4

Four words expressing a feeling or another action

Line 5

One word which is another word for line 1



Kind, strong

Playing, helping, loving

Cares for his child






An acrostic is a poem in which a word or phrase is written for each letter of a word. Begin writing a grandparent acrostic by printing "GRANDMA" down the side of a piece of paper, one letter per line. Here is an example of a grandparent acrostic.


Great to be with

Ready for a hug

Always there for me

Nice to everyone

Dressed in her Sunday best

My best friend


Whouy Sze Kuinalth
"Teaching Our Many Grandchildren"
Tauhna Cauyalitahtug
(To Make a Drum)
Math Story Problems
St. Lawrence Island Rain Parka Winds and Weather Willow
Driftwood Snowshoes Moose
Plants of the Tundra Animal Classification for Yup'ik Region Rabbit Snaring
The Right Tool for the Job
Fishing Tools and Technology
Blackfish Family Tree
Medicinal Plants of the Kodiak Alutiiq Archipelago Beaver in Interior Alaska Digging and Preparing Spruce Roots
Moose in Interior Alaska Birds Around the Village Dog Salmon


Handbook for Culturally Responsive Science Curriculum by Sidney Stephens
Excerpt: "The information and insights contained in this document will be of interest to anyone involved in bringing local knowledge to bear in school curriculum. Drawing upon the efforts of many people over a period of several years, Sidney Stephens has managed to distill and synthesize the critical ingredients for making the teaching of science relevant and meaningful in culturally adaptable ways."



Go to University of AlaskaThe University of Alaska Fairbanks is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity employer, educational institution, and provider is a part of the University of Alaska system. Learn more about UA's notice of nondiscrimination.


Alaska Native Knowledge Network
University of Alaska Fairbanks
PO Box 756730
Fairbanks  AK 99775-6730
Phone (907) 474.1902
Fax (907) 474.1957
Questions or comments?
Last modified August 14, 2006