Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Reader Response: Pat Mora and James Welch Reader Response: Keith Gilyard and Mourning Dove Inquiry: Rudolfo Anaya and James Baldwin Inquiry: Tomás Rivera and Esmeralda Santiago Cultural Studies: Ishmael Reed and Graciela Limón Cultural Studies: N. Scott Momaday and Russell Leong Critical Pedagogy: Octavia E. Butler and Ruthanne Lum McCunn Critical Pedagogy: Abiodun Oyewole and Lawson Fusao Inada
Theory Overview Lesson Plans Teaching Strategies Authors and Literary Works Resources
Session 2 Reader Response: Keith Gilyard and Mourning Dove - Teaching Strategies

Annotating Text
Small Peer Group Discussions
Using Visual Imagery to Respond to Texts
Finding Evidence in Texts
Lodge Activity


REFLECTION - Interactive Forum

Explore two poems using four approaches.


Share your views on the discussion

Download the Session 2 Guide

Lodge Activity


The "Lodge Activity" is a powerful blend of group storytelling, literary discussion and role play. It bears some resemblance to reader's theater (a simple enactment of texts), but the Lodge activity specifically draws on Native American traditions in order to encourage students to engage in storytelling that is part of tribal culture. It is a complex teaching strategy, however, and must be handled sensitively. (To provide students with a cultural context for the activity, teachers may consider screening video program 2 - Part II, with them.) Students should be encouraged to use this classroom experience to reflect on how stories arise in clans or communities. As Native American scholar, Kathryn W. Shanley, remarks: "To set up a lodge... in a classroom, and have students serve in particular clans, enables them to see how these units would function....Using that as a teaching tool is a fine thing to do if you make it clear to the students that it's something that they should respect."

Teachers should begin by describing the totemic identities of the clans featured in the literature and discuss their places in the larger tribe. Greg Hirst, for example, does this by drawing a circle on the board in which clans' totemic animals – Salmon, Grizzly and Eagle (featured in Mourning Dove's Coyote Stories) – are linked. In this context, the teacher and students can explore together the defining characteristics of each clan's totem. (Teachers should note, however, that these are just these are just simulations of real clans. As Shanley comments: "using [clans and totems] to organize a classroom can be valuable, but you have to watch out for the pitfalls of having people over-literalize what that means.") Once students understand each clan's totem, teachers should then ask each student join a clan. Here, students should be able to choose their own clans as much as possible, but it may be necessary for teachers to guide this process so that the class is evenly divided. Teachers may also ask students to explain why they chose their particular clans; this activity helps to extend the process of reader response.

Once the class is divided into clans, teachers should ask students to assume particular roles within the clan. For example, one or two students in each group should agree to be the storytellers and one should agree to be the chief. When students have assumed these roles within their clans, teachers should ask each of the clans to tell a story about the origin of their totem's identity. (For example: How did Eagle become Eagle? How did Salmon become Salmon?) As Greg Hirst demonstrates, teachers should remind the students of the storyteller (in this case Mourning Dove), and of the main tenets of storytelling: the "how" and the "why" – how will they tell it/what are the main points of the story? Why is it important for others to hear this story? The stories should be generated piece by piece: Students may first choose a title, then a basic story outline, then a full-fledged telling of the story, then a retelling. At each stage, the clans should present their work to the class as a whole in order to get feedback.

While using this strategy, teachers should always look for ways to build drama. Greg Hirst does this by asking students to vote for the strongest or most appealing story title. By creating tension in this way, teachers can set the stage for a "trickster" student to emerge from the clans. Sometimes, teachers can tease out this "trickster" figure by presenting situations that might compel students to leave their clan. Teachers can also ask any student if he or she wants to leave the clan. If one or two students choose to break from their clans, teachers may ask these students to form a clan of their own: the clan of Coyote and his twin brother, Fox. Coyote and Fox will then be responsible for presenting their own story about their clan's totem.

The collaborative process of listening and responding spurs students to create stronger stories. Teachers should be careful, however, to make sure that students provide criticism that is constructive. One way to insure that students make appropriate comments is to make the chiefs responsible for their clan's behavior. Teachers can also encourage all students to remark on what works about the story, to summarize what it says, and to point out particular parts that are confusing. Students should revise their stories, incorporating feedback, and then present them again to the class.


The Lodge activity gives students an opportunity to experience the process of creating and telling a story in the Native American tradition. By comparing their own stories at each stage of development, students are able to gain insights about plot, character, and narrative style that can be applied to all language arts classes. Students also build interpersonal skills through their clan's structured alliances and rivalries, and build oral presentation skills through their storytelling. As teacher-educator Beverly Ann Chin suggests, storytelling through the Lodge activity "encourages students to apply all of the language arts. They are readers and writers. They are speakers and listeners. They are performers and audience. Through the storytelling experience, students respond deeply and authentically, critically and creatively to literature."

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