The Birchbark House: A Story about Family, Tradition and the Seasonal Round

Students will read aloud The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. Through this they will recognize the effects of stereotyping American Indian cultures and history. We will learn about the American Indian Ojibwe cultures in the 1800s and consider the impact Europeans had on the Ojibwe culture: then and now. And we will learn about how the seasons affect the Ojibwe ways of life.The book is nicely written to follow the seasons. It discusses Ojibwe activities and traditions done in a realistic fictional setting. Students can compare and contrast events from the story to events in their life today using seasons as the main theme. It is nice that the language is incorporated throughout the story and it even has a mini dictionary at the end of the book.The seven teachings (See the Seven Teachings lesson plan) can be brought in and discussed when looking at the various characters.

Materials Needed


Art Materials

Activity Process


The Birchbark House is available on Audio tape for listening aloud. Play the first chapter of the Birchbark House and pose questions about the story and plot to the students.We will also look at images from the story illuminated on the smartboard.


Along with talking about family traditions, Ojibwe cultures and language, we will also be highlighting the seasons that are strongly centered throughout the book's themes and the family's events.While we read the book we will be designing a seasonal pyramid as a way to review Ojibwe activities, foods, housing, socializing and livihoods throughout the seasonal round.The seasonal pyramid will also give students experience in creating 3 dimensional models.Before making the pyramid, have students design the 4 squares that will create the 3D model. To create the pyramid:1. Take 4 square sheets of paper and make two diagonal folds.2. Cut on one diagonal fold to the center of the square.3. Glue bottom to make 3-D triangle.4. Repeat with remaining squares.5. Glue all four triangle backs together.


  1. Students begin reading The Birch Bark House book individually and also in pairs, as well as listening to pieces of it as a class.
  2. Students begin using their writing journals to create a list of events from the story for each season using the Ojibwe words.
  3. Students will create their four season pyramid backdrop from their journal reflections.
  4. Discuss and demonstrate understanding of 3 dimensional objects versus 2 dimensional.
  5. Upon completion of each season from the story, students will choose an event to design and represent on that part of their project area.
  6. Students will label each season with words relating to events in the story for that particular season.


Students will assess their projects by reviewing the rubric. Work with a partner to share your work and then give feedback to peers. Display in a place where writing and 3-dimensional art can be safety viewed.Students will also journal on the differences and similarities in seasonal rounds then and now.


Using the attached rubric, students will self-assess their work before sharing it with the class.

Vocabulary Words


There was a wide range of reading levels in the class. Several students were not able to complete the reading in the time I had planned. I ended up reading the story aloud and then discussing it, retelling important events. A place to store the projects is also something to keep in mind as this was an on-going project. Once students were able to create some events from the story in 3-D, it seemed to motivate them to add to their projects. It took time for them to get the idea. This book could be a unit for the year. There are many lessons that can come from it. The glossary in the book is a great resource for Ojibwe language.

Grade Level

Primary Content Area

American Indian Learner Outcomes

Content Standards


Language Arts


Social Studies