Peoples of the Arctic: Unit Outlines

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content in this issue of Beyond Penguins and Polar Bears? Not sure where to begin? We’ve created unit outlines for Grades K-2 and 3-5 using some of the resources found in the Peoples of the Arctic issue. Rather than be a rigid and prescriptive unit plan, the outlines are meant to spark your creativity and help you integrate these resources into your own particular teaching situation.

The unit outlines follow the 5E Learning Cycle model – engage, explore, explain, elaborate, evaluate.


GRADES K-2 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit
This unit is designed to provide opportunities for elementary students to identify similarities and differences between their own culture and that of Arctic peoples. Activities focus on two similar groups: the Inuit of Canada and the Inupiat of Alaska. For more information about these and other peoples of the Arctic, see Peoples under the Arctic Sky.

Teachers may wish to help students better understand the concept of culture before beginning this unit. A free lesson from Facing the Future called “Map of Myself: Identity and Culture” provides a good introduction. The lesson can be downloaded from the Facing the Future’s curriculum downloads page (scroll down to find the free lesson under Teaching Global Sustainability in the Primary Grades: A K-4 Curriculum Guide).


Standards Alignment

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage
Read Kumak’s Fish and/or Kumak’s House (both by Michael Bania, information in our virtual bookshelf) aloud and discuss the stories with students. Locate Alaska and the Arctic Circle on the map, and ask students how their lives might be similar to or different from the people who live there. Record student ideas on chart paper, or have older students journal about their ideas individually.

Explore
In this phase, use multimedia to allow students to explore Inuit and Inupiat cultures. The GoNorth! adventure learning web site has  a series of short videos from expeditions in Arctic Alaska and Nunavut . (Teachers might also want to use short snippets of videos from the Exploring Inuit Culture Online web site, although the lessons are not age appropriate for primary students.) Provide time for small group or whole class discussions after each video is viewed. What have students learned about these cultures? How are these cultures similar to and different from the students’ cultures? Record student ideas on chart paper, or have older students write about their observations and reflections.

Explain
Deepen student understanding by reading nonfiction books such as Living in the Arctic by Neil Morris and Ituko: An Inuit Child (both from our virtual bookshelf). The illustrations in Kumak’s Fish and Kumak’s House also contain valuable (and accurate) information. Students might also browse the pictures and illustrations of other books from the virtual bookshelf.

Guide students in identifying similarities and differences between their culture and those of Arctic peoples by completing a matrix similar to the one pictured below (add more criteria for comparison).Younger students will need to complete the matrix with teacher assistance as they dictate responses, while older students might be able to complete it independently. Prompt students to justify their responses with evidence from the videos or books used throughout the unit.

Note: Teachers should be aware that students’ responses for their own culture’s characteristics may vary widely. Ideally, this exercise will reflect similarities and differences that accurately represent each student’s culture and heritage.

My Culture Arctic Peoples’ Cultures
Food
Clothing

Figure 1. Sample matrix used to compare students’ culture with those of Arctic peoples. Teachers or students should add additional criteria to the matrix.

Next, students should draw a picture of themselves and a picture of an Inuit or Inupiat child. Underneath their drawing, they should write (or dictate) several sentences that identify similarities and differences. Teachers may want to incorporate a grammar mini-lesson at this point — teaching or reviewing the use of conjunctions such as “and” or “but” that may be used in student responses.

Expand
Ideally, student interests and questions drive this phase of the unit. One possibility is to study a facet of Inuit and Inupiat culture, such as arts and crafts, traditional games, or even igloos. Students may also identify similarities and differences between Arctic peoples and other Native American groups.

Assess
This unit provides opportunities for both formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Student completion of the matrix in the Explain phase will provide insight into students’ ability to identify similarities and differences, comprehension of the texts, and understanding of the culture of Arctic people. Provide support for students as needed.

Summative Assessment
Student drawings and compare/contrast statements serve as the source of summative assessment for this unit. Such work is best assessed on a teacher-created rubric.


GRADES 3-5 UNIT OUTLINE

Summary of Purpose for the Unit

This unit is designed to provide opportunities for elementary students to identify similarities and differences between their own culture and that of Arctic peoples. Activities focus on two similar groups: the Inuit of Canada and the Inupiat of Alaska. For more information about these and other peoples of the Arctic, see Peoples under the Arctic Sky.

Teachers may wish to help students better understand the concept of culture before beginning this unit. A free lesson from Facing the Future called “Map of Myself: Identity and Culture” provides a good introduction. The lesson can be downloaded from the Facing the Future’s curriculum downloads page (scroll down to find the free lesson under Teaching Global Sustainability in the Primary Grades: A K-4 Curriculum Guide).


Standards Alignment

IRA/NCTE Standards for the English Language Arts

View the standards at http://www.ncte.org/standards.

1 – Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts.

3 – Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts.

4 – Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.

5 – Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.

8 – Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

11 – Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.

12 – Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes.


Unit Outline

Engage
Storytelling is an important part of Arctic cultures. Play several stories for students, or have them listen to the story featured in our podcast episode. Locate the Arctic region (especially Canada and Arctic Alaska) on a map and ask students how their lives might be similar to or different from those of the people who live there. Record student ideas on chart paper, or have students journal about their ideas individually.

Explore
In this phase, use multimedia to allow students to explore Inuit and Inupiat culture. The GoNorth! adventure learning web site has  a series of short videos from expeditions in Arctic Alaska and Nunavut. Provide time for small group or whole class discussions after each video is viewed. What have students learned about these cultures? How are these cultures similar to and different from the students’ cultures? Record student ideas on chart paper, or have older students write about their observations and reflections.

Another source of multimedia-rich lessons for this portion of the unit is Exploring Inuit Culture Online. In these lessons, students can learn about traditional foods, language, weather and climate, hunting, and dog teams. Any or all of these lessons are a great supplement to the GoNorth! videos. Again, provide time after each lesson for student discussion and written reflection. Remind students that their objective in this unit is to identify similarities and differences between their own culture and those of Arctic peoples.

Explain
Deepen student understanding by reading nonfiction books from our virtual bookshelf. Guide students in identifying similarities and differences between their culture and those of Arctic peoples by completing a matrix similar to the one pictured below (add more criteria for comparison). Prompt students to justify their responses with evidence from the videos or books used throughout the unit.

Note: Teachers should be aware that students’ responses for their own culture’s characteristics may vary widely. Ideally, this exercise will reflect similarities and differences that accurately represent each student’s culture and heritage.

My Culture Arctic Peoples’ Cultures
Food
Clothing

Figure 1. Sample matrix used to compare students’ culture with those of Arctic peoples. Teachers or students should add additional criteria to the matrix.

Next, use the lesson plan Teaching the Compare and Contrast Essay through Modeling to introduce this form of writing to students. Guide students in writing a compare and contrast essay about their own culture and those of Arctic peoples.

Expand
Ideally, student interests and questions drive this phase of the unit. One possibility is to study a facet of Inuit and Inupiat culture, such as arts and crafts, traditional games, or even igloos. Students may also identify similarities and differences between Arctic peoples and other Native American groups.

Assess
This unit provides opportunities for formative and summative assessment.

Formative Assessment
Formative assessment is conducted throughout the unit. For example:

  • Observation of students’ participation in class activities throughout the unit will provide insight into their current understanding and engagement with the topic.
  • Student completion of the matrix in the Explain phase will provide insight into students’ ability to identify similarities and differences, comprehension of the texts, and understanding of the culture of Arctic people. Provide support for students as needed.

Summative Assessment
Compare and contrast essays serve as the source of summative assessment. Books can be assessed on a teacher-created rubric. The lesson plan Teaching the Compare and Contrast Essay through Modeling includes a rubric that can be used for this purpose.


This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Jessica at beyondpenguins@msteacher.org.

Copyright October 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.

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