Southwest Children's  Literature

Sun Logo

The Magic of Spider Woman

In the classroom/library:

GRADE LEVEL: 5th-Grade Reading Group
SUBJECTS: Social Studies, Language Arts, Fine Arts
OVERVIEW: Students will learn about Navajo weaving and other traditions through using their senses to experience aspects of the culture, through hearing a story told orally, engaging with a picture book version of the story, and making connections to the artifacts, story delivery method, and story theme.
PURPOSE: This lesson involves Southwest peoples who are integral to the social studies curriculum and to some of the students' prior knowledge and experiences. Students studied the Navajo in 4th-grade. This lesson serves as a bridge between the 4th and 5th grade curricula. The lesson also requires that students analyze a culture different from their own, notice their own learning styles, and reflect on the impact of personal and heritage culture on preferred learning modalities to achieve understanding.

At the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
1. Identify and describe the use of various artifacts used in weaving and other aspects of Navajo culture.
2. Illustrate (design and draw) a rug or blanket pattern.
3. Differentiate between aspects of Navajo culture and aspects of their own cultures.
4. Formulate hypotheses about the ways in which literacy is culturally determined.
5. Respond to the theme of the story.

Standards - from the TUSD Core Curriculum Web Site
Social Studies: Standard 1: History
o Understand that culture encompasses all aspects of society and know how culture is transmitted.
Language Arts
Strand 1: Reading Process
Concept 4: Vocabulary
o Acquire and use new vocabulary in relevant contexts. (5-R1-C4)
o Acquire English language vocabulary and use it in relevant contexts. (ELL-R-3)
Standard 3: Listening and Speaking
o Respond to oral and written presentations by formulating relevant feedback, expressing opinions, discerning the main idea and distinguishing fact from opinion. (WP1-E4)
o Listen actively to the ideas of others in order to acquire new knowledge. (ELL-L&S-3)
Fine Arts
Visual Art
Standard 2: Art in Content
o Use subjects, themes and symbols that demonstrate knowledge of contexts, values and aesthetics to communicate intended meaning in their artworks. (FAV2-E1)

Standards - from the AASL's Standards for the 21st Century Learner
o Read, view, and listen for information presented in any format (e.g., textual, visual, media, digital) in order to make inferences and gather meaning. (1.1.6)
o Organize knowledge so it is useful. (2.1.2)
o Respond to literature and creative expressions of ideas in various formats and genres. (4.1.3)

Children's Book:
The Magic of Spider Woman by Lois Duncan, illustrated by Shonto Begay

5th-Grade Social Studies Textbook United States: Adventures in Time and Space (McGraw-Hill)
· Hogan - p. 76 · Navajo Arts, including a weaver - p. 88-89

Adult Trade Books for Navajo Weaving References:
Navajo Weaving Way: The Path from Fleece to Rug by Noël Bennett and Tiana Bighorse
The Story of Navajo Weaving by Kate Peck Kent
Navajo Techniques for Today's Weaver by Joanne Mattera
Blanket Weaving in the Southwest by Joe Ben Wheat

Exhibits from the TUSD Educational Materials Center
E 3890: Selected American Indian Artifacts - Poster of Navajo Blanket
E 511 - Navajo Weaving Doll LP 123: Navajo Weaving - The Rug Desert Culture Area Kit - especially Navajo Rug, Sheep's Wool, Navajo Woman at Loom, The Goat in the Rug (book)

Carding Combs, Spindle, Yarn - hand and machine spun
Other Navajo rug samples
Poster - showing the colors of Dinéh weavings North (black - clouds), South (blue - sky), East (white - light of dawn), West (orange-yellow - dusk) and red for mountain mesas

Rug Design Template (pdf file)
Response Graphic Organizer (pdf file)

1. Introductory Set
Look at the artifacts. Focusing questions: What do we know about weaving? Have you ever studied the cultural traditions of the Navajo Nation? Herding sheep and weaving their wool to make blankets and rugs has long been one of the fine arts of the Dinéh, which means "The People" in the Navajo language. Pass around the handspun and the machine-made yarn. What do you notice?
2. Objectives - for both days - The students will:
1. Learn about weaving as practiced by the Dinéh through storytelling and by reading the same story in book format.
2. Design and draw a Dinéh rug or blanket.
3. Discover the Dinéh cultural information that is embedded in the story.
4. Compare how they respond to each of means of communicating the story.
5. Explore personal connections to the theme of the story.
6. Record their literacy preferences and responses on a graphic organizer and hypothesize about the cultural determinants of literacy.

Day 1:
3. Input
a. Build vocabulary: Dinéh (Navajo), mesas, hogan, weaving process: Shear sheep, clean, card, and spin wool, dye it, and weave, and Dinéh weaving colors.
b. Tell story orally: as the Dinéh might tell it. Like all indigenous/native peoples, the Dinéh traditionally used storytelling - not books - to share their history and culture.
c. Brainstorm the cultural features of the story and place them on post-its on the Dinéh weaving colors poster.
4. Modeling
Designing and drawing a rug or blanket pattern.
Model steps: research designs, design on template using a pencil, leave spirit pathway, mark colors on design (Use Dinéh weaving colors.), attach to burlap, and color with crayon to allow burlap weave to texture the work.
5. Check for Understanding
Review process and reason for colors, pathway, and coloring technique.
6. Guided Practice
Teachers will support students as they design and color their blanket/rug weavings.
7. Independent Practice - or Homework
Students who have not completed their work can do so in their free time.
8. Closure
Preview the reading of the story from the book. What differences might students expect? Shonto Begay is a member of the Dinéh nation. How will that impact the illustrations?

Day 2:
3. Input
a. Review the cultural features of the oral story, summarize the plot, and then read the book written by Lois Duncan and illustrated by Shonto Begay.
b. What was different about the story when we read it from the book?
c. Add any additional cultural features to the Dinéh weaving colors poster.
d. Discuss story modality preferences and the impact of culture on a story.
e. Discuss personal connections to the theme of balance.
4. Modeling
Complete the graphic organizer. Model steps: self-assess blanket or rug pattern (or skip if not yet completed), determine story preference, review cultural components of the story, oral or book format, and personal connection.
5. Check for Understanding
Review process of completing the organizer. When students have completed the other parts of the organizer, they can complete their blanket or rug pattern then complete the weaving questions part of the organizer. Ask students to vote anonymously with post-its on the board for their modality preference.
6. Guided Practice
Teachers will support students as complete the organizer.
7. Independent Practice - or Homework
Students who have not completed their work can do so in their free time.
8. Closure
Post the results of the modality preference question. Discuss our hypotheses for these results. Discuss publishing the students' work on the Southwest Children's Literature Web Site. Ask students if they expect to find cultural information embedded in other American Indian stories? Suggest a few titles from the folklore section and/or read Less Than Half More Than Whole (below).

The students' blanket/rug patterns, the graphic organizer, and class discussion serve as assessments for this lesson.

Students will continue this investigation into culture in their social studies lesson. Students may be inspired to offer to bring their own cultural stories and/or traditions into the classroom to share. The teachers will provide individual support to students with language or other special needs during the blanket/rug design and graphic organizer portions of this lesson.

Teachers may also read or invite students to read additional stories from the Dinéh or other Southwest native peoples. These students heard Less Than Half, More Than Whole by Kathleen and Michael Lacapa and made connections between the two stories.


to mainpage

About the Book | Book Review | Children's Voices | Lesson Plan | About the Reviewer