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Creating Stories Using Pictographs
Grade Level(s): 3-5

To incorporate Native American history, culture, and philosophy into an educational program that is significant for children today. Also, students will learn about diverse cultural activities that will educate themselves and gain better understanding of Native American people.


  • Students will be able to demonstrate the Native Americans use of pictographs by creating a clay pot story of their own with 95% accuracy.
  • Students will be able to identify at least three different ways to learn about culture.


  • When Clay Sings by Byrd Baylor
  • Indian Picture Writing by Robert Hofsinde (out of print)
  • pictograph dictionary or book on pictographs
  • modeling clay/clay pots
  • black markers
  • map of the United States
  • paper


Pre-Instructional Assessment

To determine what the students know prior to instruction, the teacher will ask the students for ways that we can learn about culture. The teacher will write the students responses on the chalkboard.

The teacher will ask the students what they already know about the Native Americans. Who are the Native Americans? When did they come here? How did they get here? Was it the Native Americans who inhabited the Southwest? How do you know?

These are some of the questions that the teacher will ask to gain a better understanding of whether or not the students are on task or not on task.

Instructional Strategies
  1. The teacher will talk about the different tribes, the Navajo, Hopi, and Mimbres. The teacher then asks that the students locate the Southwest region on a map and tell what states make up the region.
  2. The teacher then tells the students that they will be learning about Native Americans and their culture by reading the Native Americans pottery.
  3. The teacher tells the students that Native Americans decorated their pottery with pictures. These pictures told a story about what was going on in the tribe at the time.
  4. The teacher calls the students over to the reading circle and reads Byrd Baylor’s “When Clay Sings."
  5. After the teacher is through reading the book, the teacher asks students to describe their impressions of Native American life based on the story. What were your initial thoughts while listening to the story? How did these pots tell us so much about their culture? Do you think it is a unique way to learn about culture?
  6. The teacher explains to the students that by examining the pictures on the remains of the pots, we will learn about the beliefs, customs, and everyday lives of these people.
  7. The teacher asks the students, “Why didn’t Native Americans just write down their stories like we do today? The teacher explains that Native Americans did not use the alphabet we use today. They used pictures to represent what they wanted to say. These pictures were called pictographs. The teacher then hands out a pictograph dictionary to each student, so that they can see what it is.

Teacher tells students a brief story and then shows them how to translate it using the pictograph dictionary.

The teacher then tells students that they will use pictographs to write a story, imagining themselves as tribal members. The students will then transfer their story to a clay pot using black marker.

Post-Instructional Assessment:

To determine if the students have mastered the lesson, each student will be able to list at least three ways to learn about culture. Students will also write their stories.

The teacher will check their stories for correct grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. They should be able to write the story with 95% accuracy.

Once the stories are returned to each individual student, the students will transfer their stories to the pots. This will demonstrate what students have learned about Native Americans and their use of pictographs by creating their own clay pot stories.

Suggested follow-up:


Students will learn about other cultures. For example, African Americans.

Students will explore African American heritage. Also, the students will read the book “Tar Beach” by Louise Hamilton and will be able to give a short report about African American heritage.

Also, the teacher could invite Native American community members (and/or parents of students) to discuss their jobs, daily lives, their culture, past times, and what it means to them to be an American Indian.


To help the students understand this information better, the teacher would teach it using slides the next time. The teacher would introduce the lesson with some slides of pictographs and pottery that Native Americans created.


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