I Am Sacagawea Storia Teaching Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
I am only 16 years old as I trek across the country with my infant son strapped to my back. I have a river, two lakes, and four mountain peaks named after me. I am featured on the U.S. golden dollar. I am Sacagawea.
With an introduction written in the voice of Sacagawea herself, this engaging biography takes students along one of the most intrepid journeys in American history—the Lewis and Clark expedition from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean in the years 1803–1806. Sacagawea’s life story is interwoven with the history of the young nation as President Thomas Jefferson commissions Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase that stretches to the Pacific Ocean.
Informational text features include a map, a timeline, an introduction to historical figures, and numerous sidebars, all of which enhance the chronological narrative of the book. Detailed illustrations help young readers visualize Sacagawea and other historical figures, as well as, Native American culture and the geography of the journey.
Teaching the Book
At the age of 16, Sacagawea, with her baby strapped to her back, traveled 4,000 miles with the Lewis and Clark expedition, making history and becoming one of the most famous American women of all time. This captivating biography provides an opportunity for students to learn about informational text features and how to synthesize the information. Activities engage students in mapping, researching, and writing about the Lewis and Clark expedition and its courageous translator, Sacagawea.
Genre Focus: Biography
Comprehension Focus: Informational Text Features
Language Focus: Content Vocabulary and Concept Wheels
Get Ready to Read
Who is Sacagawea?
Obtain several Sacagawea dollar coins from a bank and have students pass around and examine them. Explain that the first Sacagawea gold dollar coin was minted in 2000. Its obverse, or head, shows Sacagawea carrying Jean Baptiste, her infant son who was born early in the journey of the Lewis and Clark expedition. The reverse, or tail, originally showed a soaring eagle encircled by 17 stars—one for each state in the Union at the time of the 1804 Lewis and Clark expedition. Since 2009, the reverse design has changed each year to honor Native American heritage. To show students images of the Sacagawea coins, visit the United States Mint website.
Ask students to volunteer what they already know about Sacagawea. Record their responses on the whiteboard or chart paper. Use their comments as a basis for building a knowledge network about Sacagawea that grows in its connections as students read the book.
Content Vocabulary and Concept Wheels
Introduce students to the words below that are part of Sacagawea’s story, as well as, important content-area vocabulary. Use Resource #1: Vocabulary Cards and distribute copies to students.
- continent (p. 5)
- custom (p. 14)
- tribe (p. 15)
- terrain (p. 17)
- route (p. 30)
- expedition (p. 30)
- translator (p. 42)
- ritual (p. 77)
Ask students to write down examples and the context of the words each time they appear in the text. After they read I Am Sacagawea, guide students to use their notes to fill in concept wheels for the vocabulary words.
Words to Know
Explain to students that each vocabulary word is an idea that describes a concept in history or geography. Show students how to use a concept wheel to create definitions for these vocabulary words. Fill in the example below together.
Model how to use the concept wheel with the first vocabulary word, continent. Write the word in quadrant A. Then brainstorm examples of the word continent and how the word is used in the book [Sacagawea was on one of the most important trips ever made on this continent; North America.] Write in three of these brainstorm items in quadrants B, C, and D. Then have students come up with a definition of the word based on their ideas. Encourage students to fill in concept wheels for the other vocabulary words and check their definitions against a dictionary definition.
As You Read
Reading the Book
Project the first pages of the book onto a whiteboard or screen and read them aloud to students. After reading the “Introduction” written in the voice of Sacagawea, ask students to describe Sacagawea. Then project the map on page 7, the “People You Will Meet” on pages 8–9, and the “Timeline” on pages 10–11. Discuss these text features and how they help set up the story of Sacagawea’s life.
If students are able to read I Am Sacagawea independently, help pace their reading by telling them to chunk the book into three to six reading sessions, depending on the amount of time students have to read during each session. At the end of a chunk, prompt students to work with partners to ask questions to clarify the text and to share reactions.
Big Question: Critical Thinking
Ask students to think about this question as they read. Write the question on chart paper or the whiteboard. Why is Sacagawea considered one of America’s most famous women?
Informational Text Features
Explain to students that I Am Sacagawea contains many kinds of text features. A text feature is different from the main writing in the book. The text feature may make the book easier to read or contain additional information that helps the reader understand the subject better.Examples of text features include illustrations, maps, timelines, sidebars, glossaries, and chapter titles.
Use Resource #2: Informational Text Features to model how to identify a text feature and its purpose. Project the resource on a whiteboard or pass out copies for students and fill in the organizer for the introduction.
Model: I can tell that the “Introduction” is a special text feature because it is separated from the main text. It is also written in the voice of Sacagawea, whereas the rest of the book is written in the third person. What is the purpose of the “Introduction”? I think the introduction gets readers interested in Sacagawea and helps us understand why she is important. What kind of information does it give? It gives an overview of important events in Sacagawea’s life and also gives us a feeling for the kind of person she was—brave, trustworthy, and strong.
Have students fill out the rest of Resource #2 as they read. Discuss with them how they can synthesize the text feature information with the rest of the book.
After You Read
Questions to Discuss
Lead students in a discussion of these focus story elements.
Why do you think so much is known about Sacagawea’s life during the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition and so little is known about her afterwards? (Sample answers: Lewis and Clark kept detailed journals and mentioned Sacagawea in them; no one wrote down her history when she was no longer part of the expedition.)
2. Informational Text Features
How does the sidebar text help you understand Sacagawea’s story? For example, what did you learn from “A Friendly Face” on page 92? (Sample answer: From “A Friendly Face” I learned how important Sacagawea was as a token of peace to protect the expedition.)
3. Content Words and Concept Wheels
In the book, what is an example of a route? What is an example of a route in your own life? What is the definition of a route? (Sample answers: The Lewis and Clark expedition took a route over the Rocky Mountains. We pass Washington D.C. on our route to my grandmother’s house. A route is the path between one point and another on a trip.)
Questions to Share
Encourage students to share their responses with a partner or small group.
What do you think the most difficult thing about the journey was for Sacagawea? (Answers will vary.)
What other women do you know who have been trailblazers in American history and society? (Answers will vary.)
What do you like about the way the author told the story of Sacagawea? How was it different from other history books? (Answers will vary.)
Content Area Connections
Go West With Lewis and Clark
Have students test their frontier smarts by playing an interactive game at the National Geographic Kids website. When they sign on, students become part of the Lewis and Clark expedition and are faced with important decisions to make about supplies, relationships with Indian tribes, and travel routes.
Native American $1 Coins
In 2009, the U.S. Mint began its program to honor Native American history and culture by issuing the Sacagawea dollar gold coin with a different back, or reverse side. Guide students to the U.S. Mint site to learn more about the program and how they can collect the coins.
A Dollar’s Change
Would you believe there are 294 ways to make change for a dollar? How many combinations can your students find? Give each group 2 half-dollars, 4 quarters, 10 dimes, 20 nickels, and 100 pennies. Set a time limit, and challenge students to work together to create and record coin combinations using abbreviations such as 3 Q, 2 D, 1 N. When time is up, ask each group to count the number of combinations they have recorded. Which group came up with the most? Did they use strategies such as recording combinations with one quarter, then two, and so on? What patterns do they see developing?
Make a Shoshone Teepee
Challenge students to create a model- or real-size teepee like the ones Sacagawea grew up in with the Shoshone tribe. There are various Internet sites for making a model teepee, however, more mature students will be fascinated by the idea of making a life-size teepee. Shelter Publications provides a free pattern and instructions.
Add an Informational Sidebar
I Am Sacagawea includes a number of sidebars that provide additional background and information. Ask students to skim the text and find a place to add another sidebar to the book. Then have them research the topic, take notes, and write an explanatory text sidebar that is two to four paragraphs in length. Encourage students to exchange papers to share their sidebars, or to project and read several examples on the whiteboard.
Don't Forget the Big Question
Give each student an opportunity to answer the big question. Encourage students to support their answers with details and evidence from the text. Tell students there is more than one right answer. Why is Sacagawea considered one of America’s most famous women?
A Trail Journal Entry
Ask students to imagine that they are members of the Lewis and Clark expedition, traveling westward with Sacagawea. Have them choose an event from the book to describe from their own point of view in a journal entry. Ask them to include Sacagawea and her actions in their entry, as well as, comments on her skills and courage. Distribute copies of the Big Activity: A Trail Journey Entry and have students use the page for the final draft of their journal entry.
About the Author
Grace Norwich has written many books for young readers on a variety of topics, including health, fashion, and animals. She is the author of other biographies in the I Am series including the life stories of Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, and Helen Keller. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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