Totem Poles
Level N 

About the Book 

Text Type: Nonfiction
Page Count: 16
Word Count: 659
 

Text Summary
What kind of tree trunk can tell a story? One that's been carved into a totem pole! In this informational book, readers will learn in what parts of the United States totem poles are found, why they are used and by whom, and how totem poles are carved. Photographs of totem poles, and of figures found on totem poles, enhance the text. 

About the Lesson

Targeted Reading Strategy

  • Ask and answer questions

Objectives

  • Identify facts and details in nonfiction text
  • Identify spellings for L blends and R blends
  • Recognize adjectives as words that describe
  • Understand and use content vocabulary

Materials

  • Book – Totem Poles (copy for each student)
  • Chalkboard or dry erase board
  • Facts & Details, L Blends & R Blends, Words That Describe, Word Search worksheets
  • Word journal (optional)

    Indicates an opportunity to use the book interactively (All activities may be completed with paper and pencil if books are not consumable.)

Vocabulary

  • Content words: carver, clan, crest, memorial, monument, mortuary pole, potlatch, totem pole

Before Reading 

Build Background

  • Ask students what they know about totem poles. Create a KWL on the board. Review or explain what each letter stands for. Fill in the first column as students tell things they know about totem poles.

Preview the Book

Introduce the Strategy: Ask and Answer Questions

  • Tell students that asking questions about a topic before reading and looking for the answers as they read will help them understand and remember what they read.
  • Show students the front and back covers of the book. Ask them to read the title and tell what they think the book will be about. Model how to ask questions using the pictures on the covers. Write the questions on the KWL.

Think aloud: I see three totem poles on the front cover and two on the back. Two of the totem poles on the front have men at the top that look happy. The two on the back cover look sort of mean. I wonder if different carvings mean different things. I'll write that question on the chart. On the front cover, one of the totem poles is taller than the others. I wonder why. I'll write that question on our chart, too.

  • Have students suggest questions they have about totem poles. Write these in the middle column of the KWL. Tell them that as they read, they will be looking for answers to the questions.
  • Show students the table of contents. Explain or review that the table of contents lists the big ideas about totem poles that are covered in the book. Tell students they can use the chapter titles to think of other questions about totem poles. Model by adding a question such as "Are totem poles made only from cedar trees?" Add students' questions to the KWL.
  • Show students the title page. Talk about the information that is written on the page (title of book, author's name).
  • Show students the remaining illustrations, photographs, and map. Point out the boxes titled "Do You Know?" and explain that these provide additional information about totem poles.
  • Show students the glossary and index. Explain the purpose of each.
  • As students read, they should use other reading strategies in addition to the targeted reading strategy presented in this section. For a review of additional reading strategies, click here.     

Introduce the Vocabulary

  • Go through each page of the book with the students. Talk about the illustrations and use the vocabulary they will encounter in the text. Ask the students to talk about what they see in each picture. Provide opportunities for students to say the new vocabulary words, talk about their meanings, and use the words in sentences.
  • Reinforce new vocabulary and word-attack strategies by pointing to an object in the picture. For example, ask students to point to the photograph of the totem pole on page 4. Ask students to say the words that tell what the picture is of and tell what sounds they hear at the beginning of each. Ask students to find the words on page 4 and explain how they know that the words are totem poles. Have students look at the picture and decide if the words totem poles make sense. Repeat with other vocabulary words if necessary. Remind the students to look at the beginning and ending sounds in words, and/or the parts within words that they recognize, to help them sound out the words.
  • Encourage the students to add the new vocabulary words to their word journals.
  • As students read, they will use a variety of word-attack strategies. For a review of additional word-attack strategies, click here.

Set the Purpose

  • Have students read the book to find facts and details that will answer their questions about totem poles.

During Reading 

Student Reading

  • Guide the Reading: Give students books and direct them to read to the end of page 9. Have students underline answers to any of the questions that are written on the KWL. Tell students to reread the pages if they finish before everyone else.
  • Model answering a question on the KWL.
  • Think aloud: I'll circle the first question on our KWL and write the answer because I found what I wanted to know. I read that totem poles are carved in different styles for different reasons. I didn't find the answer to the second question, but I think I can figure it out. I wanted to know why one totem pole was bigger than the others. I think it might be because the tree it was carved from was bigger. Or it might be because a story is told on it, and it seems like it would take more room to carve a story. I'm not going to circle the question yet. I want to keep reading to find out if my guess is correct.
  • Review the remaining questions on the KWL, circling and writing the answers as students provide the information.
  • Ask students if they had other questions as they read the pages. Add them to the KWL on the board.
  • Tell students to read the remainder of the story, looking for information that will answer the questions written on the board. 

    Tell students to make a small question mark in their books beside any word they do not understand or cannot pronounce. These can be addressed in the discussion that follows.

After Reading 

Reflect on the Reading Strategies

  • Word Attack: Ask the students what words were difficult for them. Ask how they figured out the words. Reinforce any strategies used, such as sounding out the word and verifying by context and/or picture clues. For example, have students look at the last sentence on page 5. Ask how they know the bold word is clan. Ask what sound is at the beginning of the word, and what sound it ends with. Ask what words are around, before, or after the unfamiliar word that give them a clue about the word and its meaning.
  • Comprehension: Reinforce that asking questions before and during reading, and looking for the answers while reading keeps them interested in the topic, encourages them to keep reading to find the answers to their questions, and helps them understand and remember what they have read.
  • Discuss additional strategies students used to gain meaning from the book.

Teach the Comprehension Skill: Facts and Details

  • Introduce and Model: Review or explain that many books are about one thing. Ask students what the book they just read is about (totem poles). Ask students if they think the title and covers of this book were good hints. Ask students to tell the best way to find out if the title and covers are good hints (read the book).
  • Direct the students to the table of contents. Explain that each chapter in this book tells facts and details about totem poles. Have students look at the first chapter title. Explain that this chapter told them facts and details about totem poles and what they are made from. Have students turn to page 5. Tell them to find four things the carvings on the totem poles can tell. Explain that these are as follows: to describe someone's life, to describe a special event, to tell the history of a family, to welcome visitors. Explain that finding facts and details in a book helps them understand what the book is about.
  • Check for understanding: Direct the students to page 6 in the book. Have them find three places totem poles can be found on a house (doorways, corners, poles that support the roof). Then have them find the detail that tells what totem poles on a house mean (show wealth and status). Discuss the concept of "status" (the position or rank of a person compared to other people).
  • Independent Practice: Explain the Facts and Details worksheet. Have students complete the worksheet. Discuss their responses.
  • Extend the Discussion:

    Have students use the inside cover of their book to write three facts and details they learned about totem poles.

Build Skills 

Phonics: L Blends and R Blends

  • Tell students that in some words the letter l comes after another consonant, and when it does the sound of l and the sound of the other letter are blended together.
  • Write the word clan on the board and have students find and read the sentence in which it is found on page 5. Ask students what sound they hear at the beginning of the word.
  • Tell students that in some words the letter r comes after another consonant, and when it does the sound of r and the sound of the other letter are blended together.
  • Write the word crest on the board and have students find and read the sentence in which it is found on page 8. Ask students what sound they hear at the beginning of the word.
  • Write the following words on the board: claw, black, flat, cry, break, friend. Have students read the words.
  • Explain the Phonics worksheet, go over the example provided, and instruct students to complete the worksheet. When completed, discuss their answers.

Grammar, Mechanics, and Usage: Describing Words

  • Direct students to the description of Bear on page 10. Read the phrase and ask students to tell what kind of ears Bear has. Tell them to circle round. Review or explain that this is a describing word; it tells what Bear's ears look like. Tell students that words that describe are called adjectives. Adjectives tell what kind, how many, or which one. Have them find the adjective that tells the number of teeth Bear has (many).
  • Have students look at the description for Beaver. Explain that long describes front teeth. Ask them to find the adjective that describes Beaver's tail (flat).
  • Have students look at the descriptions for the other common figures on pages 10 and 11. Ask them to circle the adjectives that describe the main feature of each. Discuss their responses.
  • Click here for a Grammar worksheet.

Vocabulary: Content Vocabulary

  • Tell students that the many of words they read in the book are used to tell about totem poles. Provide opportunities for the students to talk about difficult words such as memorial, mortuary pole, or potlatch. Provide opportunities for the students to say the new vocabulary words, talk about their meanings, and use the words in sentences.
  • Click here for a Vocabulary worksheet.

Build Fluency 

Independent Reading

  • Allow the students to read their books independently or with a partner. Partners can take turns reading parts of the book.

Home Connection

  • Give the students their books to take home to read with parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends.
  • Give the students their worksheets to take home. They can complete them with the help of their parents, caregivers, siblings, or friends.

Expand the Reading 

Writing

  • Have students use the legend on pages 8 and 9, and two or three of the figures on pages 10 and 11 to write a story that could be told on a totem pole. Provide oatmeal boxes (or other round boxes) for students to create totem poles that tell their written stories. Have students share their stories and totem poles with the group. Display the stories and totem poles and invite other classes to view them.

Social Studies Connection

  • Provide print and Internet resources for students to research the Tlingit tribe or other groups that carve totem poles. Have them find where the Tlingit live, and how and why they continue to carve totem poles today. Have a round table discussion of what students learned.

Assessment 

Monitor students to determine if they can:

  • use the reading strategy of asking and answering questions to understand nonfiction text.
  • identify facts and details in nonfiction text.
  • recognize L blends and R blends.
  • understand that adjectives are words that describe.
  • identify adjectives.
  • understand and use content vocabulary.

Comprehension Checks

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