Roots - A Native American History Project

Teaching Strategies

Day 1

  1. Teacher will read aloud Saltypie, A Choctaw Journey from Darkness into Light by Tim Tingle (available for sale).
  2. Have students make a jot list of memorable times in their lifetime. Have them include important things they remember about any of their relatives (2 minutes).
  3. Have volunteers share one or more items from their jot lists. Allow students to add ideas to their lists as they hear other students share.
  4. Teacher now reads the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon an excerpt from the book Where I'm From - Where Poems Come From by George Ella Lyon and Bob Hoskins (Spring, Texas: Absey & Company, 1999).
  5. Allow students to add to their lists after hearing this poem. (2 minutes)
  6. If students still need more ideas, read Momma, Where Are You From? By Marie Bradby and Chris Soentpiet.
  7. Use the remainder of class time to allow students to write a “Where I’m From” narrative poem. Teacher also models by writing a “Where I’m  From” poem.
  8. Students will complete the poem for homework if not finished in class.

Days 2-4:

  1. Allow volunteers to share their “Where I’m From” poems about their roots (family history).
  2. Supply a sample family tree for students to use in interviewing their parents and elders. Two samples can be downloaded from HERE and HERE.
  3. Discuss with students how to fill out the family tree and suggest that they may have to talk with parents, grandparents, or other relatives to find information for their family trees.
  4. Give each student a copy of an interview form. Encourage them to take a photo of the person they interview and to include it on their interview form. Click HERE to download and print a sample interview form.
  5. Allow question and answer time to ensure students understand the assignment. Decide on a time allotment for students to complete the interview. Share with students that the information may be used on a writing project that will be described the next day.
  6. Have students use a notebook or writing tablet and label eight pages. The document may take them two to three days to complete. This is a pre-writing/planning activity for narrative poetry.
  • On page one, have students make a jot list of their favorite room of their home. Have students use imagery and descriptive terms to describe this place without actually naming the room.
  • On page two: Have students think about the home where they live. Have them list everything they can about their home to give the reader a vivid description. Students will make a jot list of sights, sounds, smells, etc.
  • On page three: Have students list ideas about the outside area where they live. They can include what can be seen in their yard, the sounds on their street, the signs on their street, the number of houses, etc. When is the most active time on the street?
  • On page four: Have students think about the community where they live. What makes their community special? Why do they enjoy living in this community? Jot ideas.
  • On page five: Have students brainstorm reasons why their state is special. Have them list places of interest, characteristics of people in their state, things of beauty in their state, and other related ideas. They should not name the state, but it should be easily identified from their descriptions.
  • On page six: Have students think about the country where they live. Why are they thankful to be a part of this country? List those reasons. What are some attractions or famous landmarks of this country? Give students time to make an extensive list of ideas.
  • On page seven: Have students think about their ancestors. Were there any famous people in their family? What were some of the occupations of their ancestors? What is the bloodline of the student? Students can use information from their interviews.
  • On page 8: Have students reflect on what their goals are for their futures. Where would they like to attend college? What career will they pursue?

Day 5-6 (DRAFT):

  1. Allow students to share one item from their interview sheets (homework).
  2. Have students peruse the jot lists from the eight pages in their journals.
  3. Teacher should talk students through each page of their journals to help them transform each jot list into a stanza filled with imagery and descriptive words. Encourage them to model the “Where I’m From” poem by including the phrase “I am from” throughout their narrative poem.
  4. Sample of stanza 1: “I am from a red brick home surrounded by a chain-link fence/ I am from made-from-scratch meals filling my nostrils with pleasant/ aromas and filling my belly with pleasure.”
  5. Give students time to work on the narrative poem taking one page of their journals at a time. Point out that each page will be a different stanza of their poems. Students do not have to include all the information listed on the page. They should select the information which best describes their lives.
  6. Once students have completed the poem, have them type the poems and save to a disk or flashdrive to be used during revision and proofreading and editing of the poem.
  7. Teacher will conference with each student when he/she completes the poem.


  1. Give students the opportunity to share one of their stanzas.
  2. Students should partner with a peer to revise poems.
  3. Suggestions for revision: Did I use imagery? Can the reader “picture” the sights, “hear” the sounds, and “smell” the scents described? Can two or more sentences be combined to add to the poetic effect? (Example: Add participles, include figurative language, use vivid verbs and descriptive adjectives, etc.) Can any words be replaced by more colorful synonyms? Consult a thesaurus.
  4. Once students have met with a peer and discussed improvements, have them make the revisions to the draft on their disks or flashdrives. Print two copies.


  1. Allow volunteers share an item from their interview sheets.
  2. Put students in peer groups of three. Each student should have two copies of his/her poem, and each student should have a different color pen.
  3. Have students proofread and edit the poems of the other two students in the group. When a poem has been proofread and edited, the student should sign the bottom of the poem.
  4. Once all poems have been proofread, students should discuss the editing and consult a grammar book, handbook, dictionary, or thesaurus if necessary.
  5. Students will return to the computer to make corrections to their poems and to prepare the poems for presentation during the next class period. Graphics, borders, photos,etc. may be used.


  1. Students will present their narrative poetry.
  2. Each student will put a copy of his/her poem in a folder to be used later.
  3. Have students review their interview sheets. The interview form should be completed tonight.
  4. Teacher/student conference with interview sheets.
  5. Teacher provides a variety of books about families and memories and ancestors for students to read during this class period. (See the Resources page of this Learning Center for a few examples.) Students may take the Accelerated Reading test on the books they read if the program and tests are available.