After reading Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code, work as a class to create an “I Am” poem. Challenge students to share their ideas about how they think Chester would complete each part of this structured poem that typically begins I am, I wonder, I feel, I hear, etc. Then challenge students to create their own anonymous “I Am” poems that describe their special, unique qualities and express the way they feel, what they hope, think, dream, etc. Share poems by reading them aloud to the class, highlighting how each student’s unique identity makes the community richer and more diverse.
How is your school similar or different from the boarding school that Chester and other American Indians attended?
How would it feel to have your name changed, your hair cut, and your own clothes taken away?
How would it feel to be forced to speak a language that wasn’t yours?
What do you think life was like for families with children at the boarding school?
Why do you think the boarding schools wanted to eliminate American Indian languages and cultures?
Why is it important to understand and value other cultures?
Albert Whitman & Company’s Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code Teacher’s Guide
Native Knowledge 360° from the National Museum of the American Indian
I am Poem project from inspirED
Native Words, Native Warriors from the National Museum of the American Indian
Reading Is Fundamental support materials
The Unbreakable Code by Sarah Hoagland Hunter
Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers, Volume One by Arigon Starr
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson
Tallchief: America’s Prima Ballerina by Maria Tallchief, Rosemary Wells
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
Danza! Amalia Hernández and El Ballet Folklórico México by Duncan Tonatiuh
Silent Days, Silent Dreams by Allen Say
Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path by Joseph Bruchac and S.D. Nelson
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris BartonMore