Lesson Plan

Schools Built on Secrets: Understanding Boarding Schools for Native Americans


Through first-person narratives, students are introduced to federally run boarding schools, institutions created to force the assimilation of Native American children into white society.

Students will learn about the existence of these schools, their prevalence across North America, and the effect these institutions had on young people. The larger goal of this lesson is to develop empathy and to consider how the boarding school experience continues to affect Native American communities today.

Content Advisory:

Prior to watching the video, please facilitate a classroom discussion about ways to express feelings that may come up from the video. If there are Native American students in your classroom, understand that the information in the video may be new to them. Consider seeking out Native American colleagues, caregivers or community members for advice about how to support these students.


Students will:

  • Identify how boarding schools are one component of a larger assimilation policy of the federal government.
  • Develop explanations as to why these institutions existed.
  • Generate and identify investigable and researchable questions.
  • Identify textual evidence to support claims made by speakers.
  • English Language Arts
  • Civics & Government
  • Civics and Government
  • Human Rights
  • U.S. History
  • Indigenous History
For Teachers

Essential Questions

  • What are federally run boarding schools?
  • Why were Native American children forced to attend these institutions?
  • How do boarding schools fit into the U.S. government’s assimilation policy?
  • In what ways are Native Americans overcoming the impact of boarding schools?

Additional Resources

Transcript for "Forced into Federal Boarding Schools as Children, Native Americans Confront the Past"Retro Report 
See the Lesson Plan google document for book list
‘War Against the Children’The New York Times 

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g. how the language evokes a sense of time and place; how it sets a formal or informal tone).

Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of views represented in the sources.

Examine the origins, purposes, and impact of constitutions, laws, treaties, and international agreements.

Describe the roles of political, civil, and economic organizations in shaping people’s lives.

Apply civic virtues and democratic principles in school and community

Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.

Questions? Tips? Concerns? Reach out to our Director of Education, David Olson: dolson@retroreport.com