Beading on a Loom

A lesson on the traditional beading styles and patterns of Great Lakes Ojibwe nations.

Materials Needed


Art Materials


Activity Process


Many students have prior knowledge about beading. We talk about where they see beading or the uses of beading in the community (regalia, jewelery, purses). We then looked at pictures of Minnesota Ojibwe bead-work. We talked about the flaw or ghost bead that is a part of each piece. The idea of the ghost bead represents that nothing human made is perfect, so Ojibwe beaders place a bead out of pattern on purpose to celebrate our 'flaws' as humans. Students really liked this component of the bead introduction.


For the first day beading we talked about how students need to take care of, and be respectful of, their peers' supplies and space during this activity. The process of room set-up and material distribution would be different classroom to classroom. Plan accordingly.

Students are shown examples of some beading that I (the teacher) did in professional development workshops. I also show the regalia I made that I want to add beading onto.


  1. Set out the beads (organized by color) around the classroom. (Various bead supply stations seem to reduce classroom congestion).
  2. Students do a gallery walk to view all the beads.
  3. We then talk about some traditional color choices and floral patterns of the Great Lake's Ojibwe.
  4. Then, students graph a pattern onto graph paper. This pattern should show symmetry.
  5. Talk about the cost of beads and how traditional Ojibwe people used seeds and nuts for their beading and prior to Colonial contact, they used porcupine quills.
  6. Tape out marks on a table for a necklace or bracelet where students could select their cord and cut to different lengths. The stations of beads are set-up so students can select enough for the patterns onto their Styrofoam plates.
  7. Students then pick up tape and a Ziploc bag and go to their desks to bead.
  8. Students bead, knot off the necklace and applied the nail polish to the cut cord so unraveling does not compromise the piece.


Students shared their bead-work with the class. They talk about their pattern and color selection, their ghost beads and, as a class, about the process of beading. We will go into the medicine wheel and Tom Peacock's "The good Life" next.


We used a rubric for the bead-work. Students also wrote a reflection piece on their beaded project; what the pattern means, how they will use it, etc. Displays will be created for the school.

Vocabulary Words


A lot of students wear their beadwork to school and are proud of their work.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards



Social Studies