Unit 1: Before Chicago

During this 4-week unit, students will explore the early history of the area that became known as Chicago and how it became a settlement. They will investigate the Native American tribes that were its inhabitants and the explorers that were sent from other countries to claim the land. Students will learn how these early settlements developed and grew into the city of Chicago.


Before students begin exploring Native Americans and early settlers in Chicago, they will participate in a differentiated informational text studythat focuses on historical information about the following Native American groups: Nez Perce, Pueblos, Iroquois, and Cheyenne. The text level for each Native American group is different. Groups of students will focus on one group of natives, and work collaboratively to connect their learning to other groups of natives, learning more deeply about history and culture of Native Americans. There are three key concepts students will discover during this text study:

  1. The homelands of native people have influenced their food, clothing, and shelter.

  2. The stories and arts of native people were an expression of culture and a way of passing on values. 

  3. Early trade was a way of exchanging both goods and ideas.

During this text study, student learning will focus on the following areas of literacy development:

  • Comprehension Strategy - Asking Questions

  • Visual Literacy - Comparison Chart

  • Vocabulary Acquisition - Content Words in Context


After students have become an "expert" on one of the previously listed Native American groups, and developed an understanding of the key concepts about Native Americans, they then will apply their learning to Native American tribes who inhabited the Chicago area. Students will choose to study one of the following Native American groups that lived in the Chicago area: Potawatomi, Ottawa, Chippewa, Winnebago (Ho-Chunk), Sauk/Fox, Ogibwa, Miami. They will work collaboratively with their classmates to create a mini-project that demonstrates their learning.  


Finally, this unit of study will end with students participating in a collaborative explorer inquiry study that centers around four key explorers/settlers of early Chicago: Louis Joliet, Jean Baptiste Point Du Sable, and Robert Cavelier de La Salle and Jacques Marquette. In their inquiry groups students will dive deeper into the following essential questions: 


  • Why were explorers sent to the area that later became Chicago?

  • What features of the area made it a good place to settle?

  • What was the importance of the early Chicago settlements?

  • What were the factors that led to the growth of Chicago?


Students will create a culminating project of their choice to share their learning with the class.  


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