Lesson Plan Navajo Culture and ELA

Navajo Culture and ELA

By Christy Hanson


Dine’ Culture Standards (3.PO2) I will develop an understanding of Dine’ way of life through Iina’. I will implement and recognize the Dine’ lifestyle. I will present the stories related to Land and Water Beings.

Dine Government (3.PO3) Executive Branch (3.PO3): I will describe the purpose of at least one subdivision. Legislative Branch (3.PO3): I will describe the Navajo Nation election process. Judicial Branch (3.PO4): I will analyze the purpose of a judicial system.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.

⏰ Time

45 minutes

📲 Technology Required

Device with web-browser – Chromebook, laptop or desktop computer, phone or tablet

📃 Summary

Students learn about Diné (Navajo) culture from multiple perspectives, first through a presentation on Navajo tribal government and its three branches (executive, legislative, and judicial) that are modeled after the federal government, as well as its security branch. Also included are four cultural laws governing Navajo leadership. A written assignment exploring roles of effective governance follows as assessment. The lesson concludes with a game, Making Camp Navajo, that discusses Diné traditions in sheep ranching and rug weaving.


Presentation on Diné Governance

Use the slide presentation, Navajo Civics, to introduce students to the history and structure of government on the Navajo Nation.

Download this map of the Navajo Nation to view its five agencies: Chinle, Eastern, Fort Defiance, Northern, and Western.

Class Discussion on Important Issues in Governance

Teachers can use the questions on Slide 26 of the presentation or edit the slides to add their own questions.

Writing Assignment

Students select one or more of the writing prompts and write an essay addressing the prompt. Teachers can use slides 27-31 for the prompts or create their own.

Play a Game

The lesson concludes with the Making Camp Navajo game. Students should play through the introduction and then the activities under the LIFE choices.

Choose Numbers, Life or Random
Choices Screen – click LIFE button
Sheep image, weaving image and girl with sheep
Life Choices – Select and Play each of these


Three types of assessment are included in this lesson. The brainstorming session provides a gauge of the understanding of the class as a whole of the types of issues that can be addressed by government. The writing assignment serves as an individual assessment of student understanding of government. Teacher reports of data collected automatically in Making Camp Navajo document student completion of the activities.

Analogies with sheep and goats


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.7.5.B Use the relationship between particular words (e.g., synonym/antonym, analogy) to better understand each of the words.

Dine’ Culture Standards (3.PO2) I will develop an understanding of Dine’ way of life through Iina’. I will implement and recognize the Dine’ lifestyle. I will present the stories related to Land and Water Beings.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals)


25 -30 minutes including game play


A device with a web-browser – PC, Mac or Chromebook – or phone or tablet.


Students play a game which teaches about raising lambs, the uses of sheep and the ratio of single to twin lambs. The lesson ends with definitions of sheep and goat vocabulary and examples of analogies with sheep and goats. Optionally, students may complete a word journal assignment.


Start with a game

Students begin by playing Making Camp Navajo. You can just copy and paste these instructions into your Google classroom or other system, or just copy and show in a projector on the board – old school rules!

You can assign your students usernames and passwords or you can send us a list and we will register your students for you. Email the list to . Your students can create their own usernames and password but we do not recommend this, mostly because they will forget what they entered.

Play Making Camp Navajo

There are three activities students should play. If you have not played before, the game will start you at the introduction. If you are a returning user, log in and click on the Life tab.

Earn page with choices of Numbers, life and random

Learn about sheep in Navajo daily life

On the LIFE page, you’ll see two photos with sheep in them. Play both of those sections.

Next, go to the numbers page and pick this option to learn a little more about sheep.

Many lambs

Now that you have read the instructions, here is the link to go to Making Camp Navajo.

Learn the vocabulary

Now that students have learned about sheep, let’s learn some sheep and goat vocabulary using this Google slides presentation. The presentation ends with two examples of analogies, then asks the students to give their own examples of analogies.


This lesson has two types of assessment. Making Camp Navajo automatically records students answer to problems in the three game activities, assessing the Diné and math standards. The analogies produced by students address the ELA standard.

Differentiated Instruction

For students who struggle with vocabulary, including English learners, you may wish to include a word journal assignment. Some teachers call it a personal dictionary. Regardless, the goal is the same, for students to record new words, give a dictionary definition and “make the word their own”. This can be done by rewriting the definition in their own words, using the word in a sentence or including an illustration of the word.

Two dictionary sites to recommend for definitions are below. An added bonus to mention to students is that they can hear words pronounced.

Since students often ask for an example, here is an example you can link in your lesson.

The personal dictionary assignment, with all links, can be found here. Feel free to copy and paste into your Google classroom or other site, or print out for your class.

Related lesson

The Navajo-Churro: America’s first domestic sheep

The Navajo-Churro: America’s First Domestic Sheep


CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

7th-8th Diné History Standards – I will understand historical/factual events, people and symbols that influence my family. Concept 1.PO2.  I will identify an event relating to important people in Diné history.


90 minutes including time for research


Vocabulary and historical events key to Navajo sheep farming are provided in a slide presentation. Students learn more about Navajo agriculture and history through a video, their own research, and a game combining math and history. Academic vocabulary is at the 7th grade level.


Navajo-Churros: America’s First Domestic Sheep

Introduce sheep farming in Navajo and southwest history with this presentation, for an editable Google slides version, go here. The same presentation as a PowerPoint is found here. Students will learn vocabulary words related to general livestock farming and specifically to sheep.

VIDEO: Irene’s Churro Lambs

YouTube video: Irene’s Churro Lambs

Research and Writing Assignments

This assignment has two parts. In the first part, students research one of these events in history to learn more about it. They locate a primary source and a secondary source with citations, and then write an objective summary. In Part B, students select two research questions of interest, from a list provided, and conduct research to find the answers. A Google doc of the assignment can be found here.

Answer key for Part B can be found here.

Differentiated Instruction: Accommodations for learners with special needs

For the assignment above, for learners with special needs, you may wish to assign only one of the two parts. Generally, we would assign Part B, finding the answers to research questions. This is also a modification for students who are English language learners.

GAME: Making Camp Navajo LIFE Module 

Students can play the three Making Camp Navajo modules for 20 minutes. The following instructions can be copied into Google classroom, pasted into a Zoom chat or given in class.

Go to Making Camp Navajo

Play through until you reach the LIFE tab and play all of the activities you find there.

These are the three activities you will play

  • Lots of Lambs
  • The Many Uses of Sheep
  • Navajo Weaving 


This lesson includes three forms of assessment

  1. Objective Summary of Research (written assignment)
  2. Research to answer questions on an event with primary/secondary sources
  3. Making Camp Navajo Gameplay

Making Camp Navajo – Student Activities completed can be seen in the Making Camp Navajo teacher reports

  1. Assessment in lamb care/lambing season. (True or False)
  2. Assessment in the Many Uses of Sheep for Navajo history. (Matching game)
  3. Students can screenshot a picture of their rug design, like below. 

Raising Sheep and Rational Numbers

📖 Standards

Dine’ Culture Standards (3.PO2) I will develop an understanding of Dine’ way of life through Iina’. I will implement and recognize the Dine’ lifestyle. I will present the stories related to Land and Water Beings.

CCSS.MATH.CONTENT.7.EE.B.3 Solve multi-step real-life and mathematical problems posed with positive and negative rational numbers in any form (whole numbers, fractions, and decimals)

⏰ Time

45 minutes

📲 Technology Required

Device with web-browser – Chromebook, laptop or desktop computer, phone or tablet

📃 Summary

Why would a Navajo sheep farmer need rational numbers? Our sheep farmer wants to build a new sheep corral. He would need to know positive and negative numbers, fractions, and decimals. This middle school lesson on rational numbers is integrated with some Navajo sheep history and is for grades 7 to 8. The examples are detailed and include word problems of rational numbers as applied to finding sheep farming profits. Operation rules are covered along with application of ratio and perimeter skills.

📚 Lesson

1. Bell ringer: Navajo Sheepherding Life

Have students watch this short spotlight video of Navajo sheepherding life in Arizona.

2. Write answers to prompts

Write a short response to it to keep in their notes for discussion during the history parts of the lesson.

  • What do you notice about the northern Arizona terrain?
  • What do traditional Navajos think of land ownership?
  • How does the grandmother, Helen, care for her animals?

3. Math Lesson on Rational Numbers

This presentation, Raising sheep and rational numbers, introduces the concept of rational numbers as anything that can be explained as a ratio. Negative numbers are illustrated both as loans a sheep farmer would take out and depth of holes in the ground that the farmer needs to consider in selecting the size of posts. Students are given rules of integer addition and subtraction to use as an aid in solving problems.

4. Play Game

Play Making Camp Navajo – Sheep Herding and Rational numbers.

Select the game with this icon

Differentiated Instruction

For students who may need a review of the basics, this video on What are Rational provides a good and entertaining refresher.

Related Lessons

Adding and subtracting decimals — Students watch two videos explaining decimal and fraction equivalence. They are then presented with a brief reminder of natural, integer and rational numbers. A slide presentation discusses adding and subtracting decimals. The lesson ends with teacher and student-generated practice problems.


There are five problems within the presentation to be worked as a class. Teachers can present the question and have students write the answers and then present the answers. Alternatively, for students working at home, each slide with questions is followed by worked answers.

Teachers can also see which standards students have attempted and how many problems they have answered correctly in the Making Camp teacher reports.