Rice Knockers: An Important Tool for Harvesting Wild Rice

This lesson was to coincide with the ricing season. Using tools is part of ricing. We want the kids to see first hand how the rice knockers are constructed and to understand why the knockers are important to the Ojibwe culture. We will also introduce the ricing song to help students learn the basic process and words for wild ricing.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


We will engage the students by asking questions relating to ricing. We will ask the students if they know of someone who has gone ricing before and test their background knowledge. We will teach the students the ricing song and listen to songs traditionally sung during the ricing season. Known as manoomin, which translates into 'the good berry' in Ojibwe, wild rice has played a major role in the lives of Ojibwe people. According to Ojibwe oral tradition, centuries ago the Ojibwe were instructed to find the place where "the food grows on the water" during their long migration from the East coast. This ultimately led them to the shores of Lake Superior and the northern inland lakes of the Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota where flowing fields of manoomin were found in abundance(Manoomin.com).


A guest woodworker and crafter will demonstrate how rice knockers are made now and explain how they were made in the past. The guest crafter has brought with him a special piece of equipment he uses to carve and sand the rice knockers. It looks like a saw horse with a seat. The students will need to keep a certain distance from the equipment. The students must act responsible in order to touch/use the equipment.The guest crafter also talks about sustainably harvesting wild rice and the proper ways and tools needed to do it responsibly. He discussed with the students the destruction of many rice lakes due to improper ricing and over-ricing, as well as pollution. It is important to use poles not paddles to push the boat along in the rice waters, paddles dig into the ground and uproot the rice. The poles touch less ground and do not cause gauges like paddles do in the lake's bottom. It is also important to harvest only the rice head- knocking it into the boat, and also some into the water for re-seeding.


  1. Engage students via questions and gain a perspective of their background knowledge
  2. Go over rules and then lead them outside to the designated area
  3. Introduce guest wood worker and crafter
  4. He will demonstrate how to make rice knockers while the students use their active listening skills
  5. Questions at the end
  6. Have the student explain one step in the process of making rice knockers and three words by reciting the ricing song (The song will also be done to show our guest our appreciation for his time.)


We will allow the students to ask questions and go up close to see some of the tools used to make the rice knockers.


  1. The teacher will make observations to assess students' knowledge by having the students verbally recite at least three words and verbally explain at least one step in the process of making rice knockers through song.
  2. Students will be able to estimate the length of the rice knocker by visual hand demonstration or verbally speaking it

Vocabulary Words


The students were engaged. They appeared surprised to see how a piece of cedar can be transformed into a pair of rice knockers. They did very well attempting and participating with the song.

Grade Levels


Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts



Social Studies