salmon2Objective: Students will discover the ideas and practices behind Pacific Northwest Native American Totems.

Students will use organic shapes and reflections to create symmetry.

Students will practice reading comprehension and fluency.

Vocabulary: Totem, Pacific Northwest, Ovoid, U-Form, Split U-Form, L-Form, S-Form,  Symmetry, Reflection, Repetition

Time: 1 hour and a half

Difficulty: *****

What You Will Need:  Sharpies in Black, Red, Turquoise and Tan, Pencil, Drawing Paper cut 12X12.  The books, “Sharing Our World,” by Native Northest, and “Totem Pole,” by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith.  Printed Tracers (found here:Bear Eagle frog Orca owl Raven Salmon SeaTurtle Wolf ), and information packets (found here: Native American Art of the Pacific Northwest )

Preparing For The Project: Cut drawing paper 12 inch squares.  Print out tracers and information packets.  Read “Sharing Our World,” and “Totem Pole.”  Review the vocabulary from the unit. Pass out paper, rulers, pencils and 

Project time: Pass out 12X12 paper, and allow students to chose tracers.

  1. Have students cut out their tracers and recycle the excess.
  2. For students who plan on creating a bear, eagle, frog, owl, sea turtle, or wolf, they will fold their 12X12 paper in half.  Raven, salmon and Orca will not need to be folded.
  3. Students will place the straight edge of their tracer on the folded edge of their paper.  Students will trace the animal’s silhouette on to half of the project.  Can students guess why we would only trace half of their animals?

bearfaceowlface4. Stwolffaceudents can use the packet to help them draw half of the animals face on the artwork.  See images on the left. Why would we draw only half?   

5. Then students will add shapes for paws, feet, or fins. Suggest using some of the 5 common shapes into the designs. See images on the right. Bearprogress owlprogress salmonprogress


6. Students will then fill the rest of the negative space with the Ovoids, U-forms, Split U-forms, L-Forms and S-Forms only.  The shapes should fit together like pieces of a puzzle.  Students should look for areas where the shape might fit perfectly, even using the silhouette lines as lines for their shapes.  See images below.

20150901_093443 wolf Turtle frog salmon

7. Students will then take their work to the window or lightbowolf2x.  They will trace the opposite side of their work on the opposite side of the paper.  This is how their work will create symmetry.  Students who create a raven, orca or salmon will have to create symmetry some other way (note the salmon’s tail).  When students open their work, they should have an animal with symmetrical patterns inside.

8. Students will trace their work with sharpies.

9. Students will color in their work. They will only use the colors black, red turquoise and tan.  These colors are significant to Pacific Northwest Totems, because of the materials used to create the paint.  Black Paint was created from ash, and was used liberally in Totem art.  Red paint was created from Terra cotta clay and was the other main color used in the art.  The turquoise color was (from my understanding) created from a mineral found in sedimentary rock, and was difficult to create, and was often only used sparsely.  The tan represents the cedar wood that the totem would have been carved into.  salmon

*I generally ask the students to color with black first (note image on the right). Then allow them to move to red, tan and turquoise.

10. When students are finished coloring, they can cut their work out and mount it onto brown construction paper.


  turtle3 frog2  wolf3

Assessment:  Hang the artwork around the room.  Pair students up with another student’s work.  Ask students to find all 5 shapes in that work. Discuss their findings.  If students have access to ipads, students can take pictures of the different animals in the class.  With a photo editing program, students create a totem pole out of their favorite works. They can post a picture of their totem pole with a writing element.  Students could ask readers to respond to their post by providing their own totem or written response.  Teachers can tweet a link to student blogs for more traffic; the #commentsforkids will guide other educators to interact with your students’ writings.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s