Grade levels: 6-10

Lesson Objective: The Learner Will Be Able To
  1. Understand that cultures use oral means of conveying important information.
  2. Realize that among most First Nations, the role of storyteller and the importance of storytelling have been and are still very important parts of cultures and communities.
  3. Realize the role of oral information and stories in their own lives.
  • Computers with internet access.
  • Books of fairy tales (Grimm’s, Aesop’s fables, etc.)
  • Reference materials on First Nations oral traditions, such as:
McClellan, Catharine

1975: My Old People Say. An Ethnographic Survey of Southern Yukon Territory. 2 parts. [=National Museum of Man Publications in Ethnology, Nos. 6(1) and 6(2).] National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.

1987 A History of the Yukon Indians. Part of the Land, Part of the Water. With Lucie Birckel, Robert Bringhurst, James A. Fall, Carol McCarthy and Janice R. Sheppard. Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver

Robinson, Harry

Robinson, Harry, Edited by Wendy Wickwire:
1989: Write It on Your Heart: The Epic World of an Okanagan Storyteller Talonbooks/ Northwestern University Press. 1989.

Sturtevant, William, General Editor

1981 Handbook of North American Indians. Volume 6. Subarctic. June Helm, Volume Editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington.

*There are many great resources available. I suggest talking to your local librarian, or college or university anthropology and First Nations studies offices, or do a web-search.
Lesson Process:
1. There are some options here. The best option is to invite a local First Nations storyteller to class, to tell stories to your students. Again, discuss appropriate respectful behaviour with your class before the storyteller arrives. Storytellers are often elders, so contact the First Nation beforehand to ask about appropriate respectful behaviour towards elders, and go over this with your class before the elder arrives. Have some food to share, and some tea and juice for drinking. Be sure to offer food and tea to the elder when they come in. Make sure that everyone will be comfortable. You may have students bring cushions, and move the desks out so that everyone can sit comfortably in a circle. If the storyteller is an elder, they may require a chair. Check these things out beforehand, and have everything ready for when the storyteller arrives. Treat this as the special event it is, and encourage the students’ enthusiasm and excitement. After the storyteller has finished, thank them (a gift of thanks and a card from the class is always welcome). When they have left, or for homework, the students must write down what they can remember of the events in the story, the characters or people involved, and the lessons they feel that could be learned from the story. As soon as possible, share these writings as a class.

2. If you live in an area where you cannot invite a storyteller, you may investigate videos of storytellers. There are also some websites and some online materials you could use. Or, use Harry Robinson’s book to mimic what you can of the experience in 1. Again, make it into an event. Have food and drink. Sit comfortably. Students may even choose to close their eyes in order to free their imaginations more. Read aloud from Harry Robinson’s stories. Follow up as above, with the writing assignment and the sharing.