Exploring Homes

Lesson Plan


This lesson focuses on the words used to describe different types of homes, using the Lakota Tipi as a starting point. Children synthesize images and accompanying words by playing a matching game.

Intended Age Group

Early childhood (ages 3-5)

Length of Lesson

One 30 minute lesson

Standards Area

Language Arts


Students will be able to:

  • practice saying different types of words used for home;
  • create a poem as a group; and
  • relate a variety homes from other parts of the world to their own home.


  1. Begin with spelling and writing the word "tipi" on the board or present it on a large index card. Talk about how the word "tipi" is spelled two different ways: teepee or tipi.
  2. Show the image of the Lakota Tipi. Using information from the About the Art section, point out details from the story depicted on the outside of Tipi and describe the materials used to make it.
  3. Prompt a discussion about what types of homes the children live in. Have each child share what their home looks like. Show images of other types of homes.
  4. Carefully pronounce the words for these homes (e.g., wigwam, cabin, tent, apartment, brick house, adobe house, wood house, grass house). Ask children to share what they notice about these other homes. What do they think it would be like on the inside? Do any of these homes look like your home?
  5. Post the images of the homes on the board along with the coinciding words. Clearly pronounce each word as you place it next to the image.
  6. Split the children into small groups to play a matching game. Explain that each group will be given a set of the same photos and words that are on the board and they will try to match the correct words to the images. Remind them that they can refer to the pairs on the board.
  7. If time allows, children can illustrate their home or a home they would like to live in.


  • Images of many types of homes and words to describe those homes (e.g. wigwam, cabin, tent, apartment, brick house, adobe house, wood house, grass house). You will need one set of images and words to be posted on the board and 4–5 smaller sets for students to use to play a matching game in small groups.
  • A small tipi for the classroom is a nice prop, but not necessary.
  • About the Art section on the Lakota Tipi (included with the lesson plan)
  • One color copy of the tipi for every four students, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen


CO Standards

  • Visual Arts
    • Observe and Learn to Comprehend
    • Relate and Connect to Transfer
  • Language Arts
    • Oral Expression and Listening
    • Reading for All Purposes

21st Century Skills

  • Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking & Reasoning
  • Information Literacy
  • Invention
  • Self-Direction

About the Art



about 1880

Attributed to Standing Bear

Who Made It?

This tipi was made by a Lakota artist. The Lakota people lived on the Great Plains, an area roughly between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River, from Texas up to southern Canada. Many, but not all, of the tribes who lived on the Great Plains used tipis as their primary form of residence. In most tribes, women were generally both the makers and the owners of the tipis, although men sometimes provided assistance in their construction. They were often made from the skins of buffalo that the men hunted. Women tanned the skins and then sewed them into a pattern to create a semi-circular one-piece covering. The name “Standing Bear” is written on the Denver Art Museum’s tipi, but we are not sure whether this is the name of the artist or possibly the identity of one of the figures depicted. It was not a Lakota custom for artists to sign tipis.

What Inspired It?

The tribes who lived on the Great Plains moved frequently as they hunted for food and required homes that could be erected quickly and transported easily. The earliest tipis were relatively small but increased in size after Europeans introduced horses to the area, which allowed tribes to carry larger and heavier loads. The materials used to construct tipis were dictated by what was readily available. The tipi covering, for example, was originally made from buffalo hide. The decimation of buffalo herds in the mid- to late-1800s, along with the availability of trade goods, caused a shift to tipis made of canvas. Later, with the building of western-style housing on reservations, tipis as a primary dwelling completely disappeared.

The construction of tipis varied slightly among the different tribes. Generally, three or four foundation poles are tied together near the top while they are lying on the ground. The tripod is then lifted upright and the poles are spread at the base. Additional poles are added to create an oval floor plan. The cover is then attached to the top of a pole and spread across the frame. The two edges of the cover overlap and are secured with wooden pegs. Smoke flaps are controlled by the use of two longer poles. During the hot summer weather, the sides could be rolled up to allow air to flow in and out of the tipi. Extra warmth was gained in the winters by banking snow outside the tipi. An inner layer was also added to the tipi and grass was used as insulation between the two layers. The Denver Art Museum tipi may have been used as a decorative outer cover for another smaller cover, since it lacks evidence of smoke at the top.

The images painted onto the tipi cover probably represent battle scenes. The establishment of reservations ended the nomadic and warrior lifestyle of the Lakota. Military exploits of earlier years became more significant for the Lakota and artists kept the stories alive through their drawings. Enemy tribes, such as the Crow and the Pawnee, are painted in great detail, allowing the viewer to recognize them by their distinctive clothing and hairstyles. Tipis like this one now serve as a historical record of the lives of those who created it.



This tipi is made of canvas, with wooden poles for support. Canvas was more readily available than the traditional buffalo hide (buffalo were becoming increasingly rare) and it made the tipi much lighter and easier to transport.

Narrative Painting
Narrative Painting

This style of painting, referred to as narrative painting, depicts a military scene. Military paintings were done exclusively by men, while women painted abstract patterns. By the late 1800s, Lakota drawings began taking on more realistic proportions. Paintings were not typically painted in chronological order. Images were arranged according to the artist’s preference, recording the essence of an event and not the specifics of time or place.


Red, green, and yellow horses circle the tipi. Artists often painted horses in a more decorative manner, in colors not normally attributed to the animal. In Lakota society, horses were an important symbol of power and wealth. Artists frequently depicted them as trophies secured in battle or as the prized possession of a rider.

Enemy Tribes
Enemy Tribes

Warriors from the Pawnee and Crow tribes are recognized by their distinctive hairstyles and clothing. The Pawnee warrior is shown wearing high fashioned black moccasins.

Funding for lesson plans provided by a grant from the Morgridge Family Foundation. Additional funding provided by the William Randolph Hearst Endowment for Education Programs, and Xcel Energy Foundation. We thank our colleagues at the University of Denver Morgridge College of Education.