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Unit 1 The Birchbark House

Unit Goal:  Students read literary and informational texts about how Native Americans and global explorers laid the foundation for the United States. Students understand and express their understanding of how we learn about our past and how that impacts who we are are today by writing about character and theme development and discussing how point of view is important for constructing meaning.

About This Unit:

By the end of this unit, students will have read literary and informational texts to analyze the effect of the Europeans on the Native American way of life. The main text students will read in this unit is The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. This is the story of a year in the life of a young Ojibwa girl who, over the cycle of four full seasons, comes to a deeper understanding of life, herself, and the relationship between the two. Throughout the unit, students will build understanding of Christopher Columbus and his voyages so that they can explain how his actions affected the lives of the Native Americans. Students will explore how characters respond to challenges and how characters’ decisions impact the lives of others. At the end of this unit, students will be asked to write a literary analysis of the main events of each season of Omakayas’ life and how Omakayas grows throughout the novel.


● The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

● Ice Age, clips by Michael J. Wilson

● The First Americans: Prehistory-1600 (A History of US, Book 1), chapters three, four, nine, and 15-16 by Joy Hakim

● Pedro’s Journal by Pam Conrad

● Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491: “Who Were the First Americans?”, “Controlled Burning”, “A Changing Landscape, “A Garden Without Gardeners“, “High Risk”, and “How Many Died?” by Charles C. Mann

● Excerpt from “A Letter to the Treasurer of Spain” by Christopher Columbus

● "The Columbian Exchange"

● “Columbus” by Joaquin Miller

● “Images of Christopher Columbus and His Voyages” by The Library of Congress





Comprehension Cold Reads – weekly

In-Class Writing Assignments - one essay each 9 weeks

Group/Class Participation - 100 point grade each 9 weeks

Digital Learning Portfolio – 100 point grade each 9 weeks.  This is a culmination of our learning throughout the 9 weeks.  Students should work hard at completing all assignments to the best of their ability to earn full credit.

Extra Credit Points: Maximum 20 points earned each 9 weeks for up to 2 completed book reports.  Students have the book report options available to them in the classroom.  These will be due by the end of the 9 week period in order to obtain credit for the current grading period.





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