LESSON PLAN TITLE:: Understanding & Creating a Lakota Winter Count
DEVELOPED BY:: Alan L. Neville, Ed.D., Northern State University, Aberdeen, South Dakota
SUBJECT AREA: Social Studies; South Dakota History; Art
TOPIC: Lakota Winter Count
GRADE LEVEL: Upper Elementary
TIME FRAME: One class period, about 50 minutes
  • Students will know what a winter count is, what types of materials is could have been made of, and what a pictograph is.
  • Students will create their own winter count based on their lives, with one pictograph representing each year.
  • Students will verbally explain their own winter count to the class, relating each pictograph to significant events that have occurred in their lives.
PREREQUISITES: Students have conducted an Internet search of "winter count" and are generally familiar with what a winter count may have looked like, what it could have been made of, and the concept of a pictograph representing one year, from first snowfall to first snowfall.

Fourth Grade History Standards:

   3. Trace the history of South Dakota...impact of the gold rush;

   controversy over statehood; and Indian Wars and reservation life.

Third & Fourth Grade Visual Arts Standards:

   Standard Three: Students will understand the relationship

   between visual arts and history, culture, and society.

      1. Describe how selected works of art have recorded and

      preserved history.

      2. Describe the functions and uses of visual arts in a variety of

      cultures and societies.

Retrieved from:


ASSESSMENT: Completed winter count and oral presentation.
TECHNOLOGY TO BE USED: Internet research: search under "winter count," some notable Lakota winter counts are the "Big Missouri Winter Count" and "Lone Dog's Winter Count."
OTHER MATERIALS: Brown paper grocery sacks (your local grocery store should provide these to you for free if you let them know about your educational project); colored markers, colors, map pencils; yarn.

Cheney, R. C. (1998). Sioux winter count: A 131-year calendar of   events. Happy Camp, CA: Naturegraph.

McCoy, R. (2002). Dakota resources: "A people without history is like wind on the buffalo grass": Lakota winter counts. South Dakota History, 32(1), 65-86.

Springer, P. (2005, March 6). Standing Rock man reviving tribal tradition of 'winter count.' Aberdeen American News, 2.



1. Review "what is a winter count?"

2. Discuss "what types of materials could a winter count be made of?"

3. Explain "what is a pictograph?" What are some examples of Lakota pictographs based on your Internet research? (Logical-Mathematical Intelligence)

4. Give each student a brown paper grocery sack and let them create their own winter count based on their life story, one picture for each year of their life; some years may be omitted. (Intrapersonal and Visual-Spatial Intelligences)

5. Have each student explain their winter count. This part of the lesson may require additional time or another class period to complete. (Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence)

6. For homework or an additional class, have students write out a timeline explaining their own winter count. (Intrapersonal and Verbal-Linguistic Intelligences)

ATTACHMENTS: Kira's Winter Count; Winter Count Rubric