Last updated: August 4, 2015
A Key Into the Language Of America
- Grade Level:
- Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
- Social Studies
- Lesson Duration:
- 90 Minutes
- Common Core Standards:
- 6-8.RH.1, 6-8.RH.2, 6-8.RH.4, 6-8.RH.5, 6-8.RH.6
- State Standards:
- Rhode Island Grade Span Expectation C&G 5 (7-8): 1a and 1b Students demonstrate an understanding of the many ways Earth’s people are interconnected.
- Thinking Skills:
- Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.
This lesson plan introduces students to "A Key into the Language of America" and provides a glimpse into the complex relationship Williams had with the Narragansett and gives a first-hand account of 17th-century native culture. By the end of the lesson, students will be able to answer the question:
How did Roger Williams’ A Key into the Language of America foster understanding of daily life, work, and
relationships between the Native Americans and colonists?
In the 17th century, as Europeans explored and settled the New World, reports of “savages” made their way through Europe. Some Europeans had read one or more of the small number of books written about this new wilderness across the Atlantic. In 1643, Roger Williams wrote and published A Key into the Language of America, the most comprehensive ethnographic survey produced, to date, about the native peoples of New England. The Key continues to be used today as an anthropological study of 17th century American Indian culture, a phrase book of the Narragansett language, and a commentary on 17th American Indian life during the early colonial period.
Williams’ relationship with the Narragansett was more respectful than the typical relationships between Native Americans and colonists, but still complex. When he published his Key into the Language of America, he hoped it would “. . . unlock some rarities concerning the natives themselves, not yet discovered . . .”, and improve communication between the Europeans and Native Americans.
This lesson plan introduces students to A Key into the Language of America and provides a glimpse into the complex relationship Williams had with the Narragansett and gives a first-hand account of 17th century native culture.
*Make a copy for each student of page 1 "To the Reader", "What does the Key unlock?" graphic organizer, and the "Book Review" assessment.
*Make four copies of each chapter so that each member of the six groups has his or her own copy.
Make four copies of each chapter to distribute to each group.
Make one copy for each student.
Make one copy for each student.
*Ask students: what is the job of a "key"? If students say, "to lock or unlock a door", then ask follow up questions including "What about an answer key?" or a "map key"? What do these all have in commmon?
*Explain that today the students will be looking at a key that isn't used to open doors, but instead to open up a relationship between the 17th-century Native Americans of New England and colonists. Explain that first they will be reading Roger Williams' introduction to the key to understand his purpose and perspective.
Discovering Williams' Purpose: 20 minutes
1. Hand out a copy to each student of page 1"To the Reader" .
2. Tell students: Williams’ relationship with the Narragansett was more respectful than the typical relationships between Native Americans and colonists, but still complex. When he published his Key into the Language of America, he hoped it would “. . . unlock some rarities concerning the natives themselves, not yet discovered . . .”, and improve communication between the Europeans and Native Americans.
3. Read aloud page 1 "To the Reader". Ask students to just listen the first time they read page 1.
4. Ask students to get with a partner. With their partner, ask the students to read the passage a second time. The second reading, students should underline any unfamiliar words and write what they think is the definition of each unfamiliar term. Encourage use of dictionaries to assist.
5. Ask each pair to get together with another pair to share any unfamiliar terms and possible definitions. As a class, debrief and make sure all students understand basic academic vocabulary.
6. As a group of four, the students will read the passage a third time. The third time, students will identify one sentence or phrase that shows Roger Williams’ purpose for writing the "Key". Discuss as a class.
7. As a class, brainstorm and discuss current day examples of sources that accomplished what Roger Williams was trying to do. (Wikipedia, Urban Dictionary, etc.)
8. Although Roger Williams was respectful of the Native American culture, he used terms in To the Reader, which would be derogatory if used today. Ask students to identify the term(s) that are surprise them or seem politically incorrect. Discuss as a class if Williams intentionally used these words as insults or not.
Exploring the Key: 40 minutes
1. Divide the class into six groups (possibly the same groups of four from the previous activity) and assign each group one of the following sections:
|Title of Chapter||Transcribed Pages|
|Of Persons/Parts of Body||7-9|
|Of their Coyne||10-13|
|Of Buying and Selling||14-18|
|Of the Sea||19-21|
|Of Eating and Entertainment||22-25|
2. Hand out a copy of the "What does the Key unlock?" graphic organizer to each student. Ask each group to read the selection and answer the following questions on the graphic organizer:
- What surprised you about your section?
- Give an example and describe a “key” from your reading that would have been helpful to the English. This key can be a term, idea, phrase, or advice.
- What insight did your section reveal about the Native Americans?
- As a colonist, how might you have used these insights?
3. Jigsaw the Students: Assign each member of the group a letter. For example, in group one there will be an A, B, C, and D. Then, all of the A's, B's, C's, and D's get together. Within these groups, they will share findings and complete the "What does the Key Unlock?" graphic organizer.
Assess Understanding: 25 Minutes
1. Students will use the graphic organizer to write a book review of the Roger Williams' "Key to the Languages of America". (Note: Look at the assessment section for materials.)
Language - the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the use of words in a structured and conventional way.
Dialect - a particular forms of a language unique to a specific region or social group.
Converse - Communicate or be in a conversation.
Civility - Being polite and courteous in speech or behavior.
Original - first or earliest.
Descent - the family or nationality background of a person.
Observation (abbreviated within source as Obs) - a comment based on something one has seen, heard, or noticed.
Assessment MaterialsBook Review of Roger Williams "Key to Language of Americas"
Students will write a book review that would have been published in the 17th century and read by settlers. The book review should include a description of how the "Key" could be used to improve daily life, work, and relationships between the Native Americans and colonists.
Supports for Struggling Learners
*Teacher-chosen heterogenous pairs and groups for analysis of text
*Highlighted or annotated chapters for struggling readers
*Challenge students to write a book review from the perspective of the Native Americans. How would the Native American tribes feel about the "Key"?
Roger Williams National Memorial https://www.nps.gov/rowi/index.htm