Abenaki Indians: A Jigsaw Activity

Grades: 7-8

Subjects: Social Studies

Concepts: Abenaki

Skills: Cooperative learning, social skills, research

Materials: Handouts: Introductory Activity, Jigsaw Guide on life and customs, Quiz

Time: 4 to 5 class periods

Focus Questions

  • What were the daily life and customs of the Abenaki Indians during the colonial period?
  • What is the daily life and customs of the Abenaki Indians today?

Instructional Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Collaborate with their peers to research the Abenaki way of life using a variety of social studies related resources.
  • Describe how Native American life changed due to European contact in the 16-18th centuries.
  • Compare Abenaki and European colonial life.
  • Summarize present day Abenaki culture and economy.
  • Present and teach their information in a small group setting.

Rationale and Background
Connection to the NH Framework Proficiencies

Introductory Activity

What’s in a Name?

In order to generate some excitement on the topic of studying the Abenaki, begin the lesson by asking the class “Where do names come from?” Ask students if they know what their individual names mean and if they were named in honor of a family member or something else.

  1. Tell students that many of the names in the New England area and in the United States come from the native languages that were here before colonists arrived. Students are familiar with many of those Indian terms probably without even knowing it.
  2. Distribute the Handout: Abenaki Jigsaw: an Introductory Activity. Announce “hello!” to students in Abenaki and have students pick out which words on the handout they already know (it will most likely be most of the words). Then go through each term to show students the Indian origin.
  3. For students in New Hampshire, the Abenaki Indians who were part of the Algonquian language family contributed many names to the places and geographic features of the area.
  4. After students have learned the origins of some local names, say “Adio!” which means goodbye in Abenaki and announce that the class will be investigating further the Abenaki life and culture of the colonial period.

Instructional Resources or Materials

Instructional Procedure

A Jigsaw

Explain to students that the class will be learning about the Abenaki through a cooperative learning activity called the “Jigsaw”. Use the visual analogy of a jigsaw puzzle to describe for students how the lesson works.

Pieces Connected

Students will begin in Home Teams of four people each. Picture four pieces of a jigsaw puzzle connected together. Every Home Team learns the same body of information. Tell students that by the end of the lesson everyone will be responsible for the answers to all of the questions. When students are in their Home Teams, distribute the Handout: Abenaki Jigsaw Guide. Each student picks one area to research. The choice are: Abenaki (I) History, (II) Daily Life, (III) Customs, and (IV) Economy.

Pieces Apart

Once students have selected their area to research, the puzzle “breaks apart” and students meet with their Expert Teams made up of all the other students in the class who selected that area. For example, all the students who chose section I. Abenaki History will meet with all other students who chose section I. The next step is for each Expert Team to research the answers to the questions on the Guide. For accountability, students should divide up the work evenly. Give students time to access the school library, the Internet or classroom books so that they can research their topics. Provide guidance in dividing up the work. Take steps to ensure that all members of each Expert Team are confident in their understanding of the material. One cooperative learning technique is to have every member of the group take on a role so that everyone is on task. For example, potential student roles are: facilitator, recorder, researcher, summarizer. Also, students can be responsible for one or more questions in their category. Accountability is key for successful collaboration. Remind students that everyone will be responsible for the answers to all questions by the end of the lesson.

Pieces Connected Again

Once the research is completed, have students return to their original Home Teams. Ask that they take turns teaching each other the information. This is an excellent opportunity to teach small group social skills such as being attentive, note-taking and eye contact.

Circulate among students during the research and teaching phases to ensure that everyone is on task and accurate.

Concluding Discussion

To conclude the lesson and check for understanding, conduct a whole class discussion and review of the information students discovered. Reinforce the purpose of the lesson which is to emphasize the role of distinct groups in our nation’s history. Through their research students should see the important contribution the Abenaki made to life in this country during the colonial period and beyond. The Abenaki stand as an example of the multilayered fabric of United States history, culture and economy. Spark students’ thinking by asking them the role of other groups in building American history and culture. End by giving the class a quiz on the material.


Informal assessment based on participation during the Introductory Activity

Completion of the questions on the handout Abenaki Jigsaw Guide

Quiz based on Introductory Activity and Jigsaw Guide

Curriculum Modifications/Extension