Native American Musical Instruments Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about Native American instruments with this lesson plan. Students will read a text lesson that explains common North American instruments and their uses, engage in discussion, then dig more deeply into content.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe how percussion, woodwind and voice are used as musical instruments in Native American music
  • explain the symbolism of Native American musical instruments


1 hour for the lesson, plus 2 or 3 periods for the activity


Key Vocabulary

  • Powwow drum
  • Polyphony
  • Throat singing

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.1

Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, attending to such features as the date and origin of the information.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.3

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary describing political, social, or economic aspects of history/social science.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4

Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5

Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest.

Warm-Up and Preparation

  • Divide students into small groups and ask: What music do you consider representative of your cultural group? Why?
  • Give groups several minutes to discuss and answer questions, then have them share and discuss as a whole class.
    • Do all students agree?
    • What types of variation are there?
    • Has this type of music represented their cultural group for a long time, or just recently? Why?
  • Ask students to consider music that represents other cultural groups, such as the Irish and Spanish.
  • Play a short sample of Native American music and ask students to identify, then have them share how they recognized the music.
    • What instruments did they hear?
    • Why did students identify the instruments as Native American?
  • Tell students they will be learning about Native American musical instruments and allow them to share prior knowledge, if applicable.

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