Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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1. Native Voices   

1. Native Voices

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
- Video
- Author
- Context
- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Author Activities

Black Elk and John G. Neihardt - Teaching Tips

Back Back to Black Elk and John G. Neihardt Activities
  • Have your students pair up and interview one another about their lives. Then have them write an "autobiography" for their partner. Follow this up by having the interviewee write a short comment on his or her "autobiography." This activity illustrates the point that there is always a selection process in autobiography and also shows how the choice is lost when one is no longer the writer of the work.

  • In the oral tradition, repetition is crucial both for ceremonial reasons and because it aids in the process of memorization (which is how oral texts are preserved). In contrast, in written texts, we can turn back to earlier information if we need it; hence, repetition is less necessary. Ask students to pay attention in Black Elk Speaks both to what gets repeated and to how many times the reptition occurs. (In the Bible, the numbers 3, 4, and 7 are important. What numbers are important for Black Elk and why? What are their religious associations?) For many oral cultures, words have a great power to harm, heal, and create (think of the opening of the Bible, for example—originally an oral text.) Thus, to repeat words is to wield a certain power. What kind of power does language have in Black Elk Speaks? In addition to its ceremonial uses, repetition is also a crucial way of providing narrative cohesion in oral narratives. Repeating aspects of a story enables items to be linked in the minds of the listeners: what events and ideas does Black Elk link in his text and with what effect?

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