Paddle-to-the-Sea: Unit Overview

We will read Paddle-to-the-Sea, written and illustrated by Holling Clancy Holling. As a class we will read one chapter each week, a total of 27 Chapters in all. Our students will keep a journal to predict what would happen next, students will use and learn Ojibwe vocabulary, and students will compare and contrast present life and life of the past for the Ojibwe People. We will read about the Ojibwe migration story and learn how the Ojibwe came to be in this area. Our children will learn and identify that stories were passed on through oral history.Paddle to the Sea was first published in 1941. This book has varied reviews by Native Scholars and culturalists. The teacher of this lesson used some of the dated language and content to teach about racism of the past and changes in our cultural respect. Please be sure to always check with local elder and community members in your region, to ensure the use of appropriate Native materials for your classroom curriculum.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


Show students a replica of Paddle-to-the-Sea in a canoe (commissioned one made from an artist who is a wood carver.) Q:Would you like to go on a journey in a canoe? Talk about the word migration and what it means to them. Explain to our students that we are going to learn how the Ojibwe peoples came to be here in this area through the story Paddle-to-the-Sea.


Show students the map at the end of the book, and explain to them that we will be making a large version of this map (5'by12'.) Again, show wooden version of Paddle. Try to see if it can float. Students will make a chapter by chapter picture book of Paddle's adventure.


Read one Chapter per week (27 Chapters in all.) We will make a writing journal. Use small books and have them color the picture of the chapter the we read. Students will choose an animal for their clan and draw and color it on front of book. We will write Ojibwe words in the book. Make one saying or sentence in Ojibwe language and write 2 to 3 sentences of what Paddle-to-the-Sea has experienced and what will happen next.


Where do you think Paddle will be the next time we read our story? Look at the map and use the strategy Think-Pair-Share where he/she will be and what kinds of things he/she would see on this (part of) journey.


Assess picture book for accuracy, have students retell to each other the story of Paddle by using their picture book. Q:Why are we learning about Paddle?

Vocabulary Words


See the additional 'Paddle to the Sea' lesson plans, that also work with this unit.

Grade Level

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts



Social Studies