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Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

Legend of the Indian Paintbrush

Author/Illustrator:  Tomie de Paola
Summary: Little Gopher was smaller than the other young Indian boys of his Plains tribe, and although he tried hard, he could not do what the others did. The tribe's wise shaman assures him, however, that he has a different gift.
ISBN: 0698113608

Literature Based Unit Study written by Andrea Dean

Place your story disk in Wyoming- The Indian Paintbrush is Wyoming's state flower.   If you are making a lapbook, you may want to add a small map of the United States and let your student color in Wyoming.

Wyoming's Flag 
Wyoming Flag Coloring Page

Wyoming State Outline
Wyoming State Flower Coloring Sheet: Indian Paintbrush
Wyoming State Bird and Flower Coloring Sheet

Social Studies- Human Relationships
Discuss how everyone has different gifts and talents.  If you are making a lapbook with your student, add a small box with your student's picture with a title "My Gifts and Talents."  Inside the flaps help your student make a list of their gifts and talents.  Romans 12:4-6a reminds us that we each have different gifts/functions in the body of Christ; we need to be using our gifts so the body can work as one whole.

Social Studies- Native Americans (in the Plains)
These links are highly recommended for the teacher to visit before teaching this segment

Quiz to take before you teach your student about Native Americans
What should you know about Native Americans?

After you read the story, look back through and discuss the following with your student to determine how the Native Americans in the Plains lived.  If your student is interested, you may want to do some extra research; you could make a minit book including the following to include in your lapbook:

Famous Native Americans of the Plains that your older child may want to research
    Roman Nose of the Cheyenne
    Spotted Eagle of the Blackfoot 

Social Studies/Language Arts-Oral Storytelling (Folktales and Legends)
Discuss with your student that before there were many books, people who lived together in countries, tribes, settlements, nations, etc., usually had their own collection of stories--often called myths, legends, fairy tales, fables, folk tales or folk songs--that were passed on from the older group members to the younger by story telling. These were entertaining but also carried a message. Ask the children what they think some of the messages are in The Legend of the Indian Paint Brush.   Do you have any family stories that have been passed down orally?  Share one with your student.   You may also want to spend some time reading other legends, fables, or fairy tales.  What message do they carry?

Language Arts- Vocabulary  

Different--Unlike in form, quality, amount, or nature

Legend--An unverified story handed down from earlier times

Custom--A practice followed by people of a particular group or region

Teepee--A portable dwelling of certain Native American peoples, especially on the Great Plains, consisting of a conical framework of poles covered with skins or bark

Tribe--A group of people consisting of a number of families, or clans who share a common ancestry and culture and among whom leadership is typically neither formalized nor permanent

Deed--Action or performance

Comprehension Questions
1. How do you think Little Gopher felt to be left out?  Has your student ever been left out before?  You may want to take some time to discuss why it's important to include everyone when playing games or having fun.
2. Would you like to be called Lame One? Why or why not?  (Again, you may want to use this opportunity to discuss why we shouldn't call other people names.)
3. What did the dream say that Little Gopher would do someday?
4. How did little Gopher find his paints for his art work? 
5. What scene did he want to capture and why was he having trouble finding the colors that he needed?
6. How did he finally get the colors that the needed to paint the sunset?
7. What happened to the brushes that Little Gopher left on the ground?

Language Arts/Art Connection
After you study pictographs (below), let your student try to write a story using the symbols. 


Make some bead necklaces using a needle and thread (you can also use just yarn with the end wrapped in scotch tape) Use some various patterns (you may want to decide on some before you start red, red, blue, blue, yellow, red, red, blue, blue, yellow).  You also may want to string the beginning of a pattern and then let your student complete it.   You can then reverse the roles by allowing your student to start the pattern to see if you can complete it.

Arts and Crafts

Paint pictures of sunsets.   Draw an evening scene (using the pictures in the book as a guide) with crayons and then paint over it with sunset-colored watercolors (a possible order of colors would be : [top to bottom] red, pink, orange, yellow, blue and purple). Encourage a lot of water (but not too much--paper will rip), because this blends the paints together and creates a soft sunset image on the paper.

Indian Pictographs
Pictographs More Pictographs
How would we communicate with one another if we didn't have an alphabet?  The Native Americans decided that they would write in symbols-- a pictograph is simply that, a
picture representing a word or idea
After viewing and discussing some pictographs (from the link above), let your student practice making some of the Native American pictographs.   Can your student design some original ones for some modern day things?

Using brown construction paper, roll it into a cone shape.  Trim bottom to sit flat.  Cut a diagonal line and bend to make a flap.  Glue toothpicks in the top to represent the poles used.

Indian Vest
Make an Indian Vest out of a paper grocery bag.  Paint the vest with Indian symbols (see pictographs above).  


Botany: Wildflowers
Discuss different wildflowers that grow in your area.  If it's spring or summer, go outside and take a walk picking wildflowers as you go.  If you have a nature guide, look up the names of the flowers you find.

Biomes: Prairies
The word prairie is derived from a French word and was the word the French trappers gave the sea of grass they encountered in the central part of the United States.  This area of land has very few trees.  This area of land is also known as The Great Plains
The North American prairies consist of three areas:  the tallgrass, the mixed-grass, and the shortgrass areas.   It is the eastern half of the North American prairies that contain the tallgrass, and the western half that contain the shortgrass.  The shortgrass areas are also called steppes.  In the middle of the prairie, these two kinds of grasses mix and so it is called the mixed-grass prairie.  The tall grasses can be as tall as nine or ten feet....that might be taller than your ceiling!  The short grasses only get about 18 inches tall.  And the roots of both types of grasses can be even longer than they are tall!  This helps the plants to survive drought (periods of no rain), summer heat, winter cold, and prairie fires. 
The soil of the grasslands is particularly fertile (rich and able to grow things well), so much of the grasslands have become farmland.  The prairies have become known as the "breadbasket of the world."  Why?
Because of all the farmland today, many animals that used to roam the prairies in large herds have either moved elsewhere or have almost become extinct.  The prairies used to be home to large herds of deer, antelope, and bison.  Today the North American prairies are also home to prairie dogs, prairie chickens, and foxes.

Make a model of the Great Plains
Place dirt in the bottom of a large rectangle cake/lasagna pan (or 10 gal. aquarium).  Plant a tall growing grass on the right, a shorter growing grass on the left and mix them in the middle.  Cover and water gently and allow to grow.   (For a quicker model, you could dig up tall grasses and plant on the right.  Dig up short grasses and plant on the left.  And dig up a medium size grass or find a patch of mixed grasses and plant in the middle.)   A child could then give a talk before friends and family on about what he/she has learned about prairies. 
Prairie Web links to explore:
Map of the North American Prairie
Prairie Animal Printouts


Bible Story
Daniel Interpreting the King's Dream (Daniel 2)


Library List
Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola
Knots on a Counting Rope by
John Archambault

Indian Picture Writing by Robert Hofsinde
If You're Not from the Prairie by David Bouchard
by Peter Murray
Prairie:  a North American Guide by Suzanne Winckler
America's Prairies
by Frank J. Staub
A Field Guide to the North American Prairie
(a Peterson Field Guide) by Stephen R. Jones
Native Tribes of Plains and Prairies
by Michael Johnson
books in the American Girl series
More Than Moccasins: A Kids Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life by Laurie Carlson


Pressing Juice from Plants Activity (Printable Chart) *GREAT site!!

An older child might enjoy this game


Just For Fun
Check the Reading Rainbow Schedule as this book airs every once in awhile as well as a go-along, Knots on a Counting Rope.

Recipe: Succotash
Dried Lima Beans
Dried Corn
Meat Drippings or broth
Carrots and Celery

Take your time to do this right. Put all ingredients except the corn into a pot and begin to cook them over a low heat. Simmer until beans start to swell and become tender. Add corn. Cook until corn and beans are done.  Source

Make a Dream Catcher