Navajo Code Talkers Lesson Plan for Students

Wf1170873 Navajo Code Talkers Lesson Plan Hero Image Opt2

The Navajo Code Talkers are often regarded as a “Secret Weapon” that helped the Allied Forces win World War II. But today, the traditional Navajo language is in danger of dying out. Several years ago, Disney and the Navajo Nation Museum teamed up to help keep it alive with a Navajo language edition of “Finding Nemo.” Let's take a look at why Native American languages are dying out and how we can preserve them.

Opening Activity:

Play this audio recording of the Pledge of Allegiance for students. Do not display any video or images. (Note: External link)

  • Think-pair-share: Ask students to guess what language is being spoken.
  • Introductory questions: Is anyone familiar with Native American languages? Has anyone in class attended a traditional Native American festival or celebration or visited a museum dedicated to Native American history and culture? What did you see, do, and learn?

Words in the News: 

Oral tradition (noun): Information, traditional stories, and songs passed down through the generations by word of mouth rather than in writing.

Discuss:

Have students read the following news articles online:

Then, have the students answer the following questions in complete sentences.

  • Why was it hard to cast the part of Nemo in the Navajo edition of “Finding Nemo”?
  • What was the purpose of creating a Navajo language version of “Finding Nemo”?
  • What are some general reasons for preserving the Navajo language?

Write:

Students should respond to the following writing prompt: Is it important to preserve languages that people no longer use in their daily lives? Why or why not? Support your argument with details from the articles, online research, and your own ideas.

Media Literacy:

Have students read and analyze this primary source document from the U.S. National Archives, then answer the following questions:

  • What is the date of this document? Where was it written?
  • Who wrote this document? Who received it?
  • What is the main idea of the document? Provide two quotes from the document that help support the main idea.
  • Why do you think this document was written?

Closing Activity:

Ask students the following question and have them share their thoughts on an exit ticket:

  • Other than movies, what are some ways to interest kids and teens in learning and preserving traditional languages? Share an idea.

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