The Twelve Core Values of the Inupiaq People - How do they fit in your Life?: A Writing Lesson

Classroom Activities

Introduce the community of Barrow Alaska. Students will need to understand its geographic position, the meaning of a tundra, and its people. I always start the discussion by showing a map of the region.  

Have students read the background information on this Learning Center, visit suggested web sites for additional information, and view the pictures and video clips that are included. Please look at the Resource list at the end of this learning center if you would like a copy of a longer video I made during my stay on the tundra.

I also give each student a list of the core values and discuss what each one means. Visit this web site for the list.

During your discussion of the Twelve Core Values, students should identify the core values that are important to them and to even tell stories about a time when the value was in the forefront in their lives. This helps them decide which value to choose and what to write about, and it helps other students by jogging their memories about situations they may want to write about.

If you are able to acquire any of the books about the Arctic and Iñupiaq culture listed in the resource section, read them to the class. I usually read them throughout the week before students work on their papers.

The assignment involves the student writing a paper about a core value. I always write an essay with the class first, and keep it up on chart paper so they can use it as a model throughout the week. I give students a day to decide which core value they wish to write about. I explain the assignment, but also give the students a copy. Here is the assignment:

Core Value Paper

You will be writing a three-paragraph paper about one of the Twelve Core Values of the Iñupiaq People.You have a list of the core values already and have been given the opportunity to think about a core value that is either strong and present in your life, or a core value that you feel you need to improve upon. You have also had the opportunity to think of specific times in your life when the core value was important in order to solve a problem.

Paragraph One: Introduction

Your first paragraph will give the reader an introduction that will state what your paper will be about. It will include:

1. A topic sentence that identifies the core value you will be writing about.

2. The meaning of core values in the Iñupiaq culture.

3. A definition of the core value that you chose.

4. A segué into the next paragraph.

Paragraph Two: A story from your life

Your second paragraph will be an example of a time in your life when you either used the chosen core value successfully, OR you would have been more successful if you had used the core value. This paragraph is a story, not a general idea. You should be specific, use dialogue, give a setting, and make sure there is a problem that needs to be solved. You may find that you end up using more than one paragraph.

Paragraph Three: Conclusion

Your third paragraph will restate the core value you chose and why it is important in your life. Your conclusion should refer to the story you told. Your clincher should be a statement about the core value that is true and lets the audience understand that it is important.

Also for the student:

Core Value Writing Checklist

First Draft

1. Choose a core value that is important in your life.

2. Skip lines - this is a first draft.

3. Write a topic sentence.

4. Define the meaning of core values in the Iñupiaq culture.

5. Define the meaning of the core value you chose.

6. Write why this is an important core value.

7. Write a story about a time this core value was present and important in your life. Try to choose a story that will interest your reader. Remember: A story is more important if a problem occurs that needs to be resolved.

8. Write a concluding paragraph.

9. Use the story we wrote in class to help guide you.

This paper has always turned out to be a paper where students can really shine. The second section, where the student tells a story from his or her life, is the part that makes the paper interesting. This should be emphasized to the students. 

After the first draft is written, students should follow the regular writing process format of revising, editing and making a final copy.

Checklists are always a good idea for students to use to make sure they have employed traits for good writing as well as editing and revising. Using a checklist also affords the opportunity for peer editing.

Checklists can be found online or in student handbooks for writing. Here is a sample of a student writing checklist. To download and print it, click here.

The Iñupiaq way of life is certainly different from the way my students live in Massachusetts. However, it is interesting to them and they enjoy learning about the Iñupiat as well as the core values. By thinking of the Iñupiaq Core Values and how they relate to their own lives, perhaps the students have an opportunity to feel closer to the children who live above the Arctic Circle.