Creature Feature - Using Native American Choctaw Literature

Teaching Strategies

Day 1: Provide copies of some of the Choctaw tales listed on the Resources page of this Learning Center. Allow students to choose the tale they would like to read and summarize to the class. Give students time to read silently. Once all students have completed reading the tale, have volunteers begin summarizing their tales by giving the title and the authors’ names when known. When all students have shared, have students discuss which tales they liked best and why. Ask students to save their tales for tomorrow’s activity.

Day 2: Divide students into groups of three to four students. Have the students take their Choctaw tales to the group. Give the students five to seven minutes to discuss characteristics of the creatures in the tales. Prompt the students to talk about habitat, reproduction, physical characteristics, diet, defense features, etc.


  1. When the timer sounds, have all students form a circle.
  2. Tell students that we may know a lot about a creature, but there is always more that we can learn. Tell them they are to pretend they are the creature from their Choctaw tales. They are to dance into the center of the circle in the same movement their creature would use, whenever you hold up a card that states a characteristic that is true of their animals.
  3. Start the music and hold up a characteristic card. Allow time for students to creature dance into the circle before changing cards. Go through all characteristic cards.
  4. Discuss as a class the things students knew about their creatures and the things they did not know about their creatures.
  5. If time permits, students may begin research on their animals using either method:
  • Write one fact per card about their animal; or
  • Record facts on Creature Feature research sheet.

Day 3: Students will complete research on their Choctaw tale creatures. Encourage them to use at least seven different sources (books, Internet, encyclopedias, magazines, etc.). If computers are available, have students print one to three photos or illustrations of their creature in action. If computers are not available, have students find one of their sources with a photo or illustration of their creature in action.


Days 4-6: Research will be presented for the next three days in the form of poetry and artwork.


  1. Have students get out paper and pencil or pen, a photo or illustration of their creatures, and their research cards or Creature Feature research sheet.
  2. Give students three minutes to write three to five sentences about what their creatures are doing in the photo or illustration including the name of the creature, what it is doing, how it is doing the action, what it looks like, and where it is located. Choose a creature no one has researched and illustrate this, allowing the large group to give suggestions.
  3. Next, have the students cross out the following items in their descriptive sentences: articles (a, an, the), that, there, here, being verbs (am, is, are, was, were, be, being, and been), and conjunctions. Illustrate this with the animal chosen as the “group” example.
  4. Now have students write a description of their Choctaw tale creature using the information that is left. Suggest that verbs can be made into participles by adding "ing" to tell what the creature is doing. Model this process with the “group” creature.
  5. Explain the Japanese poetry form of haiku, which talks of nature and is three lines with syllable counts of line one – five syllables, line two – seven syllables, and line three – five syllables. Give examples with the “group” creature.
  6. Once students have done this, have them meet with a peer to check the syllable count and to help with revision. The teacher can take this opportunity to conference with each student to evaluate understanding.
  7. Next, students should type the Choctaw creature poetry in haiku form adding a graphic or student-created illustration. Print two copies. The title of the poem should contain the name of the creature.
  8. The student will create a triorama by using four squares. Click here to download and print directions for making a triorama. Square one should contain the title. Square two will contain the first line of the haiku (5 syllables). Square three will contain the second line of the haiku (7 syllables), and square four will contain the third line of the haiku (5 syllables). Glue the triangles back-to-back then glue each line to one of the triangles. Students can add photos or graphics on each triangle to illustrate the action of the line.
  9. Students present the triorama to the class.


  1. Explain that a limerick is a five-line humorous poem with the following pattern: Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme and have 8 to 10 syllables each line. Lines 3 and 4 rhyme and have 5 to 7 syllables each line.
  2. Using the same creature example as in the haiku, work as a large group to model a limerick using facts that the class knows about the creature. Write the results on a chart, board, or Smart Board.
  3. Give students time to create a limerick about their Choctaw tale creature. The limerick may contain facts from the research, OR the limerick may summarize the Choctaw tale.
  4. Peers will meet with a partner to revise. Check the syllable count and the rhyming words.
  5. Students will conference with the teacher.
  6. Students will type their creature limerick and add a graphic or illustration.
  7. Students will present limericks to the class.


                   The Bat (by Julia Faulk)

With the squirrels the bat wanted to play ball                              (10 syllables)

"But you don't look like a squirrel at all"                                     (9 syllables)

"In a game I lost my tail,"                                                          (7 syllables)

The bat teased them with a wail.                                               (7 syllables)

And in a flash he flew off with the ball.                                        (10 syllables)



Using recyclable materials, students will create  a model of the Choctaw tale creature they researched.


This bat was created by Shauna Lewis using a cocoa container, a paper plate, pipe cleaners, a ball of brown yard, part of a tissue tube, and a brown marker for color. (Photo by Penny Hardy)