Learn History and culture.


  Native American Lesson (2-3 days)

The Navajo People


Note: This lesson can be modified to focus on any culture being studied.


Academic Language Focus

  • What it means to compare and contrast two cultures

  • How to use research skills and find information based on a prompt

  • What comprises a culture and how traditions are passed on from generation to generation

  • How cultural artifacts are symbolic and meaningful to a culture

Learning Objective

After reading and researching information about the Navajo tribe, students will be able understand the culture and traditions of this tribe and make comparisons to their own culture, by researching, writing about and creating Navajo jewelry and completing a cultural comparison worksheet.



3rd Grade - 4th Grade - 5th Grade


Content Area(s)

Social Studies, Language Arts


Content Targets

History, culture study, compare and contrast, multiculturalism, traditions, symbolism, journal response (writing), listening and speaking, research skills













Lesson Materials

  • Research materials on Native Americans (Navaho): trade books, history articles, Internet, etc.

  • Turquoise, white, yellow and black construction paper

  • Scissors, white glue, tape, pencils, markers

  • Thin string

  • Toothpicks

  • A non-toxic adhesive/sealer

  • Plastic silver beads

  • Paintbrushes

  • Cultural Comparison printable

  • Navajo Jewelry printable



In a class discussion, ask students:

  • What is culture? (Possible answer: attitudes, beliefs and traditions shared by a group of people)

  • What makes up a culture? (Possible answers: food, dress, beliefs, activities, religion, etc.)

  • What is a cultural artifact? (Possible answer: something that represents a culture or has meaning to a culture)

Tell students that today they will be learning about the Navaho (Na-va-ho) people, a Southwestern Native American tribe. Explain to students that we will be learning about Navajo culture. Read a short trade book or historical article about the Navajo to spark students' interest. Create a K-W-L chart with the students, listing information that already know about the Navajo in the first column and what they want to know about the Navajo in the second column (the third column, What We Learned, can be revisited after later in the lesson or unit).




Learning About the Navaho:

Divide the class into small groups of 4-5 students. Assign each cooperative group a topic about Navaho culture: food, dress, traditions, religious beliefs/holidays, family structure, artwork, trade, land, etc.


Students can work together to research their topic using trade books, the Internet and other resources. Students will present 10 interesting facts about their topic to the class. Optional: have the audience create a running fact sheet (notebook paper) to take notes on the presentations.


Navajo Cultural Artifacts (Bead Art Project):

Once students' have learned about the Navajo, they can create a cultural artifact. Explain to students that the number four is very important in Navajo culture. To these people, four represents the number of mountains that surround their land, the number of seasons, the number of directions, etc.


Draw a direction compass on the board (North, South, East and West) and explain to students that each direction is represented by a color: North is black, South is turquoise, East is white and West is yellow. Tell students that they are going to make a direction necklace, since the Navajo created beautiful beaded jewelry. The four bead colors will represent the four directions. Tell students that they may also use silver beads (plastic ones can be bought at the store or students can use tin foil) to represent the fact that some Navajos were silversmiths because the tribe intermixed and traded with Southwestern settlers.


Pass out a copy of the beadwork directions to each student and using the materials, model how to create the necklace. Pass out materials and let students start working.



Connecting Cultures

Students who finish their jewelry can complete the Comparing Cultures graphic organizers. Students will use their knowledge and notes to write down aspects of the Navajo culture, as well as aspects of their own culture. These can be shared in a class discussion or in partners.




In grading the students' bead project, have them present the beads to you and tell you what each bead color represents.


Revisit the K-W-L chart at the end of the lesson to answers students' initial questions about the Navaho and fill in the third column to brainstorm what they have learned.






Native Americans Worksheet *

Print these worksheets for this lesson.



Jewelry Printable *

Print these worksheets for this lesson.









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