Example Units: The West


            The first unit to be reviewed, entitled, “Winning of the West: 1775-1850,” was developed by an adjunct, Mrs. Anderson (the names employed in this section are pseudonyms), for a bilingual fifth-and sixth-grade class in which 95 percent of the students were Mexican American.  Before discussing this unit, we will enumerate several components from Mrs. Anderson’s fist-draft unit, so that you can form your own preliminary opinions about the content:

  1. Categorization of unit content and strategies by content area

  2. Unit objectives

  3. Generalizations, main ideas, and supporting information

  4. Statement of multicultural perspective

  5. Bibliography

  6. A week-by-week schedule of unit activities

Categorization of Unit Content and Strategies

Social Studies

Mountain men/ Trappers

First Women to Travel


Land Ordinance

Northwest Ordinance


Modes of Transportation

Frontier Life

Treatment of Indians

Gold Rush

History of state annexations and statehoods


Indian Leaders


Tecumseh, Sitting Bull

Black Hawk, Stand Waite


Contemporary Indian Personalities

Will Rogers

Orville Moody

Buffy St. Marie

Jim Thorpe

Carlos Montezuma


American Leaders

Sam Houston

Daniel Boone

Jim Bridger

Lewis and Clark

George Rogers Clark

Andrew Jackson

Zebulon Pike

Davy Crockett

Stephen Austin


Language Arts


Writing Newspaper Articles

Poetry outlining, charting

Research writing

Cooperative grouping

Reading for information


Diary entries

Oral discussions


Oral presentations

Biography writing

Persuasive writing

Readers' theatre

Interviews, similes

Student will read Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare


Make covered wagons/conestoga wagons


Portraits of famous leaders and/or pioneers


Make flatboats/keelboats/forts

Build wilderness shelters

Indian Culture

Weaving, food

Clothing, cooking

Dancing, customs



Appreciation of the courage and determination of the pioneers

Understand the point of view of Indians and Mexican settlers in regard to their treatment during this period

Math/ Critical Thinking



Similarities and differences

Decision making

Time lines




Word problems

Computer programs


Survival skills in the wilderness

Endangered animals

Preservation of the environment/ecology

Animal tracks

Natural resources




"Oh! Susanna"

"Battle for New Orleans"

"Old Dan Tucker"

"John Henry"

"Wait for the Wagon"

"Sweet Betsy from Pike"

Indian songs

Physical Education

Invent a game from natural materials

Play games as described in Sign of the Beaver


Unit Objectives



  1. Students will know why different groups of pioneers traveled west.

  2. Students will know when the various states and sections of the country became a part of the United States and the history of these events.

  3. Students will know the early pioneers and leaders of the westward movement and their contribution to the history of this period.

  4. Students will realize the hardships endured by the pioneers as they traveled and then settled in new lands.

  5. Students will know the reasons the American Indians were treated unfairly.

  6. Students will know the hardships the American Indians experienced.

  7. Students will know the history of the Mexican Americans in California and in the Southwest and the impact of their culture in the United States.

  8. Students will know of various contemporary Indian and Mexican personalities.



  1. Students will be able to map the removal of the Eastern Indians.

  2. Students will be able to map the westward growth of the United States.

  3. Students will be able to map the United States at different times in its history.

  4. Students will work cooperatively and harmoniously in their groups.

  5. Students will use reference materials independently as they seek information.



  1. Students will appreciate the perseverance of the American pioneers and their determination to settle new lands.

  2. Students will appreciate the hardships and perspective of the American Indians regarding their plight during the westward expansion.

  3. Students will appreciate the attitude of the Mexican-American people when they became outnumbered in their own land.


Generalizations, Main Ideas, and Supporting Information


People with pioneer spirit will always meet challenges and endure hardships to improve their lives. 

Main Idea 1   Early pioneers traveled west in search of better farmlands and greater opportunities.


  1. Some of the first Americans to move to the Old Northwest were land speculators.

  2. Most pioneers were poor people who wanted land on which to build a home and start a farm.

  3. By 1820, two and a half million people lived between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

  4. Deserts, mountains, and rivers were explored by hardy fur trappers and mountaineers.

  5. In 1849, more than 80,000 hopeful newcomers arrived in California in search of gold.

  6. By 1835, there were 30,000 settlers in Texas.

  7. Pioneers endured many hardships and dangers in their travels and in settling the frontier. 

Main Idea 2   Mexican Americans migrated to the United States in search of jobs and opportunities.


  1. In 1910, because of political problems in their homeland, many Mexicans migrated to the United States.

  2. Today the Mexican people make up the largest Hispanic group in the United States.


Adversity breeds leadership.

Main Idea 1   A number of aggressive leaders were prominent during the westward expansion.


  1. Daniel Boone was the first White person to lead a group of settlers through the Appalachian Mountains.

  2. Thomas Jefferson was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase.

  3. Lewis and Clark and Pike were the pioneer pathfinders into the West.

  4. Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark much of their way through the unexplored areas.

  5. President Jackson ordered the removal of Indians in order to make their fertile grounds available to the White man.

  6. Jim Beckwourth was a famous mountaineer and trapper who later became a chief of the Crow tribe.

  7. Davy Crockett was a famous hunter, scout, soldier, and congressman.

  8. Kit Carson was a scout who guided some of the most important U.s. Army expeditions across great areas through which he alone knew the way.

  9. Jim Bridger led expeditions through the mountains.

  10. Stephen Austin brought 300 American families to settle in Texas.

  11. Sam Houston led the army that won Texas its independence. 


When an advanced civilization meets a less-advanced civilization, the less-advanced civilization will be assimilated or lose its national identity.

Main Idea 1   American Indians were dominated and eventually conquered by the White man.


  1. Treaties were made and then broken between the American Indians and the American government in regard to land.

  2. In 1830, Congress passed a law ordering all American Indians to move west of the Mississippi.

  3. The Cherokees were forced to leave in the middle of winter.  Their march west is known as the Trail of Tears.

  4. American Indians were defeated in various battles and consequently lost their lands.

  5. President Jackson did not support the Cherokees in their dilemma even after they had fought with him to defeat the Creeks in 1814.

  6. By 1827, most of the tribes in the Old Northwest had moved west of the Mississippi.

Main Idea 2   In the mid-1800s, it became harder for Mexican Americans in California and in the southwest to protect their rights and property. 


  1. Mexican Americans were soon outnumbered in their own land.

  2. Mexican Americans were not treated as well as English-speaking settlers in many ways.


It is human nature to want to rebel when personal interests are not being represented in government.

Main Idea   Americans who settled in Texas wanted their independence from Mexico. 


  1. Many of the Texans from the United States did not get along with the Mexican government and would not assimilate into the Roman Catholic culture of Mexico.

  2. Mexico sent troops to Texas.  Two hundred fighters held off about 5,000 Mexican soldiers for 12 days at the Alamo, a mission in San Antonio.

  3. In 1836 the Texans declared their independence from Mexico.

  4. The victory of Sam Houston’s army over Santa Ana of Mexico led to the creation of the Republic of Texas, with Sam Houston as president.

Introductory, Selected Developmental, and Culminating Activities

Introductory Activity

A time line will be charted.  After it is presented and various study prints and pictures have been previewed, students will be encouraged to ask questions for study in the unit.  Their questions will be charted.  


1775                Daniel Boone opened the Wilderness Road and made possible the first settlement of Kentucky.

1778-1779       George Rogers Clark’s campaign won the Northwest Territory for the United States.

1785                The Land Ordinance provided an orderly system for surveying and selling government lands.

1794                Victory over the Indians and a treaty with Great Britain brought peace to the Northwest Territory.

1795                Pinckney’s Treaty with Spain opened the mouth of the Mississippi River to American navigation.

1803                The Louisiana Purchase opened a vast area beyond the Mississippi River to American settlers.

1804-1806       Lewis and Clark explored the Louisiana’s Territory.

1825                The Erie Canal opened, providing improved transportation westward.

1838-1839       The Cherokee Indians were forced to migrate to Oklahoma from Georgia.

1845                The United States annexed Texas.

1846                A treaty with Great Britain added the Oregon country to the United States.

1846-1848       War with Mexico resulted in the acquisition of California and the Southwest.

1848                The discovery of gold in California inspired the gold rush.

1862                The Homestead Act promised free land to settlers in the West.

Developmental Activities (Lessons)

 Some of the activities are self-explanatory; following is a description of the others (the complete list is included in the week-by-week schedule). 

Activity No. 2   As a result of hearing about and discussing the various personalities who traveled west, children will pretend they are one of these individuals and will write creatively about their reasons for coming west.

Activity No. 7   Students will write a newspaper article on the adventures of Lewis and Clark.  The article will include a headline.  The first sentence will contain information answering questions of who, what, when, where, and why.  Remaining paragraphs will elaborate on the incident.

Activity No. 10   Using instructor curriculum materials on North American Indian personalities, children will work in their cooperative groups to prepare presentations on assigned Indian personalities.  Each cooperative group will be responsible for two to three personalities. 

Activity No. 12   After a study of the Alamo, students will present a brief tableau.

Activity No. 14   Students will imagine that they are in New York City in 1848.  They have heard of the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill and have decided to join the rush to California.  Students will be divided into three groups-each taking a different route.

            Each group will be prepared to (1) draw the route on a map provided, (2) describe the weather conditions the group members expect to face, (3) explain how they will deal with those weather conditions, and (4) tell what other dangers they expect and how they plan to deal with them.

            Also used at another time during the day will be an Interact simulation curriculum resource entitled Pioneers.  This resource consists of various simulation activities involving decision making on a wagon train.

            As settlers heading west during the 1840s, the students face problems such as floods, droughts, blocked trails, snakes, Indians, and a lack of food.  The would-be homesteaders must make numerous individual and small-group decisions.  While learning about wagon trains and pioneer life, students participate in individual and small-group decision-making.  In addition, they learn how to take notes, how to outline material, and how to write a brief research paper.

Culminating Activity  

Throughout the unit, a time line will be maintained showing important events in the westward expansion.  Charts will also be displayed illustrating the addition of land to the United States and other information learned in the unit.  Various groups will be assigned to portray these important events in a creative manner; tableaux, creative drama, choral verse, story writing, poetry, and readers’ theater will be employed.




















Introductory Activity (see description under Introductory Activity)


What types of people traveled across the frontier? Activity #1: Mapping the Old Northwest on individual maps


Activity writing. Activity #2: (see description under Activities)


Westward movement Activity #3: Chart advantages and disadvantages of settling west. Chart similarities and differences.


Daniel Boone.

Activity #4: Write poem on Daniel Boone





Frontier life. Activity #5: Chart Similarities and differences between frontier life and life today


Outline Daniel Boone's life.


Across the Mississippi. Louisiana Purchase. Lewis & Clark. Activity #6: Map the Louisiana Purchase.


More on Lewis & Clark. Activity #7: Newspaper writing (see description under Activities).


War of 1812. Review meaning of words of "Star Spangled Banner." Activity #8: Teach song-"Battle of New Orleans."






Trail of Tears. Cooperative groups. Homework: have students inquire of any prejudiced behavior toward family in history.


Jackson and the Indians. Activity #9: Map the removal of the Cherokee and other Indian groups.


Indian personalities. Activity #10 (see description under Activities).


Manifest Destiny/trappers, missionaries, pioneers, and Conestogas. Lesson plan will be provided.


Activity #11: Make Conestoga Wagon








War in Mexico.


Writing activity #13: Newspaper writing (see description under Activity #7).


Learning Center










Guest Speaker to answer interview questions. Students interview parents about ancestors moving west.







California Gold Rush.






Paint murals and portraits.








Mexican Americans in the West


Hispanic Americans today.




Practice for Culminating Activity.








Practice for culminating activity.


Culminating activity.




















Statement of Multicultural Purpose

How do I plan to create educational equity? To assure achievement and success for all, I will
organize study groups of two or three and will encourage them to use cooperative learning.
These techniques help to ensure peer support that stimulates learning. SDAIE techniques, such
as the use of pictures to help make history come alive, will be employed.

Material is also provided in Spanish. Because our social studies Spanish material is not
as comprehensive as that provided in English texts, I translate much of the material to ensure
educational equity. I also make use of tableaux, creative drama, and films to stimulate
understanding and comprehension.

How do I plan to create intergroup harmony? In forming the cooperative groups, careful
attention will be paid to ensure that there are both boys and girls in each group and mixture of
Hispanic children and the rest of our classroom population. Rewards are provided for
harmonious, cooperative behavior. All groups work together toward a total classroom reward.

How do I plan to help children recognize, value, and respect the diversity among their
Encouraging students to respect the opinion of their peers and of others has been
the main method used to teach and promote respect for others. I act as a model by listening
attentively to my students.

Compiling a chart of our similarities and differences as human beings has been an
effective strategy in realizing how we are the same and different. Through a discussion of how
boring the world would be if we ate the same foods, played the same physical education games,
dressed the same, looked the same, and spoke the same, students will learn the value of diversity.
Again, using the chart, students can appreciate the commonalities we all share.

In this unit in particular, students will have the opportunity to appreciate their differences
and commonalities as they share the results of family interviews in which they will attempt to

1. the reasons their family has settled on the central coast of California; and
2. hardships that their families have incurred and may still be experiencing in the settlement process.

How do I plan to help the children feel what the Indians felt or the Mexican Americans felt when
absorbed into mainstream U.S. culture or banished from their land and culture?
I will ask the
children to express their feelings when I move them away from a friend or when groups of
children move them and their friends away from a play area in the playground. Also, the
students should provide insights if asked how they would feel if their family was forced to move
by a group of individuals who wanted to live where the family does.

Another strategy would be to ask how they would feel if they had to stand in line for
quite a while and before reaching their goal, they were sent to the end of the line to start waiting

I plan to read accounts written by Cherokee Indians and Mexican Americans of their
feelings during this period when the "Americans" won the west.


Buggey, Joanne L., Gerald A. Danzer, Charles L. Mtsakos, and C. Frederick Risinger. America,

America! Glenview, 111.: Scott, Foresman, 1982.
Eibling, Harold. Great Names in Our Country's Story. Scramento: California State Department

of Education, 1962.
Hoover, Sharon. North American Indian Personalities. Troy, Mo.: Instructor Publications, 1980.


Life History of the United States. New York: Time, 1963.

McCracken, Harold. Winning the West. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955.

Peck, Ira, and Steven Jantzen. A Nation Conceived and Dedicated. Albany, N.Y.: Scholastic

Book Services, 1983.

Vuicich, George. United States. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1983.

World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: Field Enterprises, 1970.

Analysis of the Unit

Does the lesson content and strategies promote or impede educational equity? Overall, in
planning for this unit, Mrs. Anderson has done a very good job of providing for educational
equity. She plans to use sheltered English strategies, cooperative learning, the bilingual
capability of several other students, and her own fluency in Spanish and English to facilitate
comprehension and learning for all her students. In addition, to increase motivation, she has
selected interesting and diverse activities that should appeal to a wide range of learners (music,
arts and crafts, writing, creative dramatics, and interviewing). She has modified the unit to
include content that will be personally meaningful to many students in the class. For example, in
an attempt to relate the historical material more directly to her students' lives, interests, and
ethno cultural background, Mrs. Anderson broke out of the time boundaries other unit. In doing
so, she included twentieth-century content about the Mexican migration to the United States as
well as the contributions of contemporary Mexican-American and Native American leaders.
This addition will allow her student sot compare the nineteenth-century east-to-west
migration/emigration of mainly White Americans with the primarily south-to-north
migration/emigration of Mexican Americans. As described below, Mrs. Anderson also found a
way to make each parent or caretaker a resource for this unit through her homework assignments.

Does the lesson content and strategies make use of, or help to develop, collaborative,
empowering relationships among parents, students, and teachers?
Mrs. Anderson's plans call
for extensive use of cooperative learning with groups as heterogeneously structured as possible.
In addition, in two specific homework assignments Mrs. Anderson placed parents or caretakers
in a position to serve as important information resources for this unit. Students would interview
family members to learn whether (1) the family had experienced any prejudicial behavior and (2)
any of their ancestors had been a part of the westward movement. The latter assignment would
be more multicultural or "multiperspective" if the homework assignment included the northern
movement (of Mexican Americans and others) and the west-to-east movement of various Asian
Americans and Pacific Islanders to America, m addition, sharing the geographic perspective of
the American Indians in question-namely, that they saw themselves as the center of all things-
would be illuminating.

Analysis of the first draft of the unit suggests that it could be improved by some simple
steps designed to elicit greater parent participation. For example, a class newsletter to parents
could inform them about the upcoming interview, as well as the unit content; parents could be
invited to (1) offer any special activity, in which the students will present a variety of creative
unit-related projects. Parent involvement in the unit, if only as an audience for student
presentations, should heighten motivation and learning for some students. A different point of
view could be introduced to the unit content if at least on e parent volunteers to be a guest
lecturer, poet, artist, or dramatic actor, presenting material related to the unit.

Does the lesson content and strategies promote cultural pluralism in society or intergroup

harmony in the classroom? In terms of promoting cultural pluralism-the ability and propensity

to understand and value different cultures-a unit entitled "The Winning of the West: 1775-1850"

holds great potential. But many teachers who grew up in schools that denigrated Native

American cultures may find it difficult to present a balanced portrayal of the interaction and

clashes among the European, Mexican, and Native Americans. Even teachers like Mrs.

Anderson, who clearly intends to present accurate information regarding the way successive

American administrations unfairly treated Native Americans, may fall into the trap of comparing

"White-American" culture and "Native American" culture in ways that


1. work against attempts to understand and appreciate various American Indian cultures on

their own terms;

2. imply that American civilization, in all dimensions, was more advanced than the

culture(s) of the American Indian; and

3. obscure the diversity that was characteristic of the various American Indian tribes.



For example, in several places in the unit plan, the language suggests that in telling about the

winning of the American West, Mrs. Anderson will favor the U.S. Settlers and soldiers. Since

most American teachers and textbook writers consciously or unconsciously identify with the

White settlers and the soldiers-the victors-one might wonder whether this favoritism was both

natural and inevitable. In fact, it is neither, and it is the teacher's responsibility to provide an

accurate, balanced portrayal of both cultures, key events, and key actors-heroes and scoundrels-

on both sides of the struggle. To help achieve accuracy and balance when teaching this and

related units, we recommend the following ideas as worthy of consideration:


1. The title or theme of the unit should be examined to see whether it orients the unit toward

one or another perspective. To increase the orientation to multiperspectivism of this unit,

we would change the title to "The Expansion of the American Nation: 1775-1850."

2. The categorization of unit content should be reviewed for evidence of possible bias. For

example, under "Values" in the web, why will students have the opportunity to appreciate

the courage and determination of the pioneers but not the courage and determination of

American Indians who, against all odds, steadfastly attempted to hold onto their land and

way of life?

3. In stating unit objectives, the teacher should be more specific in describing the plight of

the American Indian. Through the media, particularly motion pictures made prior to

1980 and shared folklore, American students become aware of Indian massacres and

atrocities; rarely, however, do they hear about atrocities carried out by U.S. soldiers, such

as the sand Creek Massacre. Thus, unit objective 6 might read:

Students will leam about the forced marches, massacres, broken treaties, burned
villages, destroyed crops, and inadequate reservations the American Indians
experienced during their struggles with the "Americans."

And, where possible, when students leam of this tragic history, they should hear about it

from Native American authors as well as authors who bring a traditional Euro centric

viewpoint to the creation of their historical tale.

4. Some of the generalizations in this unit and the main ideas and facts they lead to are also

worthy of revision. The third generalization, on page 200, states: "When an advanced

civilization meets a less-advanced civilization, the less-advanced civilization will be

assimilated or lose its national identity." As structured, this generalization and its related

main ideas suggest that one civilization or culture (that of the White European) was more

advanced than, or superior to, the civilization of the American Indian and Mexican

American. A related generalization, designed to avoid the less advanced/more advanced

comparison, would read:

When cultures with different values come into conflict over land (and over other
economic and political rights), the group with the technological advantage in
weaponry will usually prevail.


Note that the word "usually" is included to indicate that this behavioral science

generalization, like most others, is tentative and nonconclusive. As Banks notes, such

generalizations "will have some exceptions," and "they often contain qualifying words."


The second generalization, "Adversity breeds leadership" (p. 199), has this main idea: "a

number of aggressive leaders were prominent during the westward expansion." It, too, is worthy

of rethinking. On the one hand, it is a bit narrow, almost a cliche like "Necessity is the mother of

invention"; on the other, it doesn't seem to be supported by the main idea or the accompanying

information. For example, Sacagawea and Lewis and dark were not "aggressive leaders" and

their exploits were not directly related to adversity or hard times. In fact, Sacagawea was not an

Indian leader. In addition, all the men who are presented as "aggressive leaders" were White

except for Jim Beckwourth, whose racial heritage was a blend of Black and White. In planning

integrated units, the generalizations, concepts, main ideas, and facts need to be logically related

and mutually supportive and the generalizations should be testable and verifiable.


A broader generalization that simultaneously meets these criteria and leads to the content

Mrs. Anderson wants to present is this: As cultures struggle to survive and thrive, various types

of leaders will typically emerge.


Main ideas supporting the validity of this generalization could incorporate information

about Mexican-American, American Indian, and White-American leaders. This would help to

increase the students' knowledge of pertinent cultural/ethnic groups and reinforce their growing

ability to analyze events with a multicultural perspective. The following main ideas would serve

these purposes:

1. The groups that came into conflict during the country's westward expansion were served
by various kinds of leaders.
2. Various types of leaders played key roles in creating opportunities for White Americans
to settle in the ever-expanding "American West."
3. Various types of leaders played key roles in the American Indians' attempt to maintain
their way of life.

These main ideas would allow Mrs. Anderson to include all the White-American leaders she
originally listed and to discuss their lives and contributions in a well-rounded manner. It would
also allow students to learn about a more diverse set of "American" leaders-namely, those who
made contributions as representatives of the Mexicans and American Indians who struggled to
maintain their way of life.

Does the lesson content help to increase students' knowledge of various cultural and ethnic
The unit's objectives, generalizations, and main ideas indicate that in addition to the
historical figures mentioned, who are mainly White, information about contemporary Native
American and Mexican-American personalities would be included. Several of the suggestions
above show how the generalizations could be modified to increase the amount of knowledge
students gain about specific nineteenth-century ethnic groups-namely, Mexican Americans and
Native Americans. But the refinement and multiculturalization of this unit could extend beyond
the generalizations and content proposed by Mrs. Anderson, and in a manner that would expand
students' knowledge of ethnic groups outside the United States.

The story of the country's westward growth is filled with significant and traumatic
conflict between the cultures that confronted each other on this part of the continent. Because of
this, the concept of cultural conflict should receive special emphasis in this unit.
Generalizations, main ideas, and facts related to this concept would provide the students with a
richer understanding of why the Whites and American Indians found it impossible to coexist
peacefully. A study of cultural conflict might also help students understand the complexity of
contemporary U.S. relationships with nations such as Iran, Iraq, and Cuba, as well as conflicts in
Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Malaysia, where the land and economic and political freedom of
indigenous rain forest tribes are rapidly being destroyed by a combination of private and
governmental forces.

Units that link the past to the present and provide students with conceptual tools to help
them understand ethnic and nation-to-nation interaction throughout history are both motivating
and educationally appropriate, particularly from the perspective of citizenship education. What
follows now is a broad generalization, a related main idea, and several facts that, together,
illustrate the type of understanding that generalizations about cultural conflict can produce.

The Generalization

When cultures with very different beliefs about religion, land ownership and usage, and government confront each other on the same land, clear communication and peaceful coexistence will often be difficult to achieve.

A Related Main Idea

Major differences between European-American cultures and American Indian cultures
made clear communication and peaceful coexistence between the two cultures difficult to

Some Related facts (or Supporting Information)

1. In European culture, it was assumed that land was a commodity that could be broken into
parts and owned by individuals; these individuals could prevent others from using the land.
2. The Indians believed that all people could use the land as long as they treated it with
respect; they thought the land was sacred and could not be sold any more than the air or 
the sea.

3. When, in exchange for gifts, American Indians gave Europeans permission to use their
lands, many did not realize that from a European viewpoint they were also giving up their
own rights to use the land forever.
4. Because of their feudalistic background, the Europeans looked for monarchs among the
Indians and assumed that Indian chiefs had absolute authority over their tribes. However,
the authority of most chiefs was limited by the tribal council. In a sense, the Indian tribes
and councils had a ratification process that the Europeans did not take into account.

Final Comments

In teaching this unit, Mrs. Anderson used an integrated approach to language arts, one
that allowed her to select whole pieces of literature (books, poems, newspaper articles, etc.) that
all her students would read simultaneously to advance their literacy skills. To add depth to this
unit and to help bring the historical period to life, Mrs. Anderson chose to have her entire class
read (in English and Spanish versions) the Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth Speare; this was an
excellent choice for her generalizations as well as the ones we have added, and the choice is
worthy of emphasis as we study how to increase the multicultural dimension of units of

The selection of written and visual materials for units is a pivotal aspect of multicultural teaching, and the content of a novel can work for or against the goals of multicultural education. In this instance the teacher's selection supports several goals of multicultural education as well as her own specific unit objectives.Sign of the Beaver highlights a pre-Revolutionary war ('1768) relationship between two teenage boys, Matthew Hallowell, the son of a White settler in Maine, and Attean, the grandson of Saknis, a Penobscot Indian chief. The development of their relationship allowed Mrs. Anderson's students to see two boys transcend the barriers created by their own cultural stereotypes to establish a relationship based on respect and mutual support. In addition, the interaction between Attean and Matthew provided an opportunity for students to gain appreciation for the substantial cultural differences that led to conflict using land, and the complexity and rewards of cross-cultural relationships. Such opportunities contribute greatly to achieving the general goals of multicultural education as well as the specific objectives of this

Finally, beyond the fine Sign of the Beaver activities included in this unit, it would be appropriate to encourage the students to conduct inquiries regarding the present-day status of the Penobscots. Did they disappear from history, or are they a part of contemporary American history? And if the latter, how are they faring? Among other things, the students will leam from sources like Academic American Encyclopedia that in the 1950s approximately 400 Penobscots joined the Passamaquoddy Indians in a successful lawsuit against Maine to recover lands originally lost through illegal state treaties in the 1790s. And in 1980, according to Lawrence Fuchs in his wonderful The American Kaleidoscope; Race, Ethnicity, and the Civic Culture (Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England, p. 215), "both the Passamaquoddy and Peobscots gained status as 'federal' tribes in 1978, and both were accorded the status of state municipalities with exclusive jurisdiction over internal tribal matters, small claims, civil matters, minor criminal offenses involving Indians, and issues of domestic relations."



        Davidman, L., & Davidman, P.T. (1997).  Teaching with a multicultural perspective: A practical guide (2nd ed.). New York: Longman Publishers.