How to Create a Student-Made Totem Pole

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
My name is Michelle from Teaching Ideas for Those Who Love Teaching. I am grateful and truly honored to be guest blogging for Rachel Lynette.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.

Every year, when we study Native Americans, my second graders create a totem pole. They’re really easy to make, and here are the steps.

1. We create the totem poles after studying Native Americans of the Northwest Coast. Usually, we’ve seen actual totem poles at the Field Museum of Natural History here in Chicago. If you can’t visit actual totem poles, then pull up online examples for your students to see. Observe the images of nature carved into the totem poles. Have students name the animals and other elements of nature they see.

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
2. Incorporate symmetry into the lesson, and have your students observe how the left and right sides of the carvings are the same. Let your students know that they will be using art to create their own symmetric images of nature.

 

3. Give students a brown sheet of 12” by 18” construction paper. You can have each student create their own image, or you can have students work in pairs. It really depends on how many totem poles you plan on creating and the number of students in your class. Then, let your kids have their paint and brushes. Schedule enough time for students to be creative and enjoy themselves. If you want, you can keep sample images of symmetry or nature on display while students paint. Walk around and make sure that students’ images are symmetrical. If they’re not, then give them pointers to help them become more symmetric.

4. When students are done, let their art work dry.

 

5. Have students bring in brown paper grocery bags, or just collect them at your own grocery store. You’ll need about six for each totem pole that you want to create.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
6. Open up each bag, and if they have paper handles, then cut those off with a pair of scissors. Also check to see if bags have been doubled. If so, then remove the inside bag.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
7. Now, place one opened bag so that it gently rests just inside of the top of the other one.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
8. Take your stapler and staple them together sideways, at each of the four corners where the bags come together.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
9. Place your bags on the bulletin board, which will display your totem poles, and carefully side staple the backs of the bags to the board itself.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
10. Now, take the finished art projects your students made. Carefully staple the top and bottom of the art projects to the front of each bag. Make sure you cover any writing that may have been on the grocery bags.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
Take a step back and look at your finished totem pole. Add any other papers or creations from Northwest Coast Native Americans to the bulletin board. I like for my students to write papers about the animal or element of nature they chose to paint. These papers go nicely beside the class totem pole.

 

Having students create their own totem poles is an authentic and fun way to have them demonstrate their understanding of a Native American unit! Our guest blogger shares 10 steps for doing a student-made totem pole in this blog post.
I hope you and your students have fun creating these totem poles. Click here if you’d like to see my full Native American Unit. Enjoy!

Teaching Ideas for Those Who Love TeachingMichelle lives in Chicago, IL and is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher. She has been teaching for 15 years. She is also a teacher blogger and Teacher Pay Teachers author. In her spare time, she enjoys yoga and spending time with family and friends. You can connect with Michelle on her blog, Facebook page, or TpT store.

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