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Long Night Moon Free Unit Study

Long Night Moon

Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator:  Mark Siegel
ISBN: 0689854269
Summary: A lilting text with wispy pictures of how the moon changes throughout the year. Poetic descriptions of the seasons and the Native American names of each month’s moon are described.

Unit Study Prepared by Michelle Armstrong; Native American Lessons by Helena Gosline; additional lessons by Ami and Celia

Bible:  Creation
Discuss the creation account in Genesis 1-2 with special focus on Day 4 (sun, moon, and stars).

Bible:  Seasons
Ecclesiastes 3 (discuss how there are seasons in nature and in life)

See memory verse and copywork in Science section

Social Studies: Traditions
What traditions does your family share each season?  Do you have a celebration each month? 
You could make a mini-book together of each month and what holiday (or birthdays/anniversaries) you celebrate including a list of your traditions for that special day.

Social Studies:  Northeastern Woodland Native Americans



(Known as the “Five Civilized Tribes”. These tribes included the Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, & Seneca.)

Location ~ Northeastern part of the US known as the woodlands. This includes all 5 Great Lakes as well as the Finger Lakes and the Saint Lawrence River.

Food ~ Corn, beans, squash, maple syrup, fish, deer, moose, acorns.

Shelter ~ Long houses

Clothing ~ Deerskin breechcloths, fringed dresses, moccasins

Men VS Women ~ The women ran things around the home. The elder women were the ones in charge. The men cleared the land, hunted, fished and fought in wars. They lived in clans. The clan mother headed each clan and selected the men that would be on the council. When they married the man would join the women’s clan.


The Great Lake Tribes


(Delaware, Powhatan, Massachuset, and Cree)

Location ~ beside the Great Lakes

Food ~ clams, oysters, lobsters, mussels, wild birds and game, nuts, greens, & berries

Shelter ~ wigwams

Clothing ~ wore little clothing except in winter – made from elk and deerskin.


Location ~ North Carolina, they tried to settle further North but the Iroquois would not let them.

Food ~ Corn, squash, beans, deer, turtles, pumpkin, melons, sunflower

Shelter ~ Winter – Round homes
Summer – Rectangle Homes
(Domed houses)

Clothing ~ Deerskin, moccasins, and rabbit fur decorated with porcupine quills.

Men VS Women ~ They lived in a village. The village had two chiefs. The white chief (Peace) and the Red Chief (war). The white chief and the Village council made decisions for the village. During peace time the red chief just prepared for war. Women could be on the council if chosen.


Location ~ Northern Great Lakes Region

Food ~ Maple syrup, bread, rice, squash, pumpkins, potatoes, wild fruit, fish, corn, deer, beaver, muskrat, raccoon, elk

Shelter ~ Wigwam - Round building with a round top

Clothing ~ Deerskin leggings, shirts, and dresses. In winter used fur to make clothes. Moccasins

Men VS Women ~ They lived in clans. When they got married they would live with the wife’s family for a year then move into their own wigwam. When a baby was born it belonged to its mother clan.


Location ~ Northeast in what is now New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

Food ~ corn, maple sugar, clams, oysters, lobsters, mussels, wild birds, moose, caribou, beaver, otter, nuts, greens, & berries

Shelter ~ wigwams

Clothing ~ wore little clothing except in winter – made from elk and deerskin.


Possible read aloud books:

Note:   Helena has not read all of these books, so you may want to pre-read them.

Soft Rain by Cornelia Cornelissen

Indian Shoes by Cynthia Smith

Aunt Mary, Tell Me a Story by Mary Chiltosky

Seven Clans of the Cherokee Society by Reed

If You Lived With The Cherokees by Peter Roop

Trail of Tears by Joseph Bruchac (Step Into Reading)

The First Strawberries by Joseph Bruchac

          Only the Names Remain by Alex Bealer

Guests by Michael Dorris

Houses of Bark by Bonnie Shemie.

The Star Maiden by Barbara Juster Esbensen

Grandfather Bear:  A Story Told in Cree

The Path of the Quiet Elk:  A Native American Alphabet Book
by Virginia A Stroud

How Turtle's Back was Cracked:  A Traditional Cherokee Tale retold by Gayle Ross

The Story of the Milky Way:  A Cherokee Tale  by Joseph Bruchac

Language Arts:  Vocabulary

Moon – a satellite that orbits a planet

Month – a set of days to measure time that follows closely the period of the moon’s revolution. Approximately 30 days or four weeks

Year – a set of months to measure time. There are twelve months in a year

Hope – to expect with confidence

Path – a worn area that leads from one place to another

Wait - to remain in place in readiness or expectation of something

Language Arts:  Introduction to Cursive Writing
Since the font of this book is in cursive, you may want to introduce your younger student to cursive writing.   You may be able to inspire your older student to use her best cursive for one of the writing assignments this week.

Language Arts:  Discussion
Discuss what the current season is, then discuss what "your breath" is like this season.
Discuss what it is like when "clouds beat their drums". What does that mean?
This book makes the seasons in a year seem like a visitor; waiting, then here, then leaving again. Also seems to come & go each day. Discuss the "ebb&flow" or dynamics of this book.
Discuss other aspects of Rylant's poetry.
Which moon described by Rylant is your favorite?  Your student's favorite?  Why?

Language Arts:  Creative Writing (name the moons!)
After you have read this story a few times and your student understands that Native Americans gave the moons different names as we give months different names, encourage your student to create her own names for each month's moon.  This is a simple writing assignment that will promote creative thinking.  Your student may want to make a small booklet to write each of her moon names along with an illustration of each moon.

Language Arts:  Creative Writing Extension-  Poetry Writing
If your student wants to delve further in to creative writing, encourage her to write a poem (short descriptive phrases) for one, some, or all of her moon names (from lesson above).   Note that Rylant doesn't use fancy words or a lot of words-- just simple words with power when put together.  Again, she may want to make a small booklet to write her moon name/moon poem along with an illustration of that moon.


Science:  The Moon and Moon Phases
Despite various legends and myths, the moon is not made of cheese or anything soft; there also isn't any life on the moon!  It's a big ball of rock -- a dry, dusty place lacking air and water.   The surface of the moon is rocky with hills and huge holes (craters).  These craters are caused by rocks floating through space that crash into the moon. 

As the moon moves around Earth, the Sun lights up different parts of the moon making it seem like the moon changes shape.  However, the moon's shape is always the same.  
New Moon-- This is when the Sun shines behind the Moon, we can't see the "light" side
Crescent Moon-- This is when you can only see part of the Moon
Full Moon-- This is when the Sun lights up one entire side of the Moon

To demonstrate the concept of the Sun lighting up parts of the Moon, we've made cookies.  Using a circle cutter, cut your favorite sugar cookie dough (Pillsbury Ready to bake, anyone?) and tell your student that the circle represents the Moon.  Bake the cookies.  Now, frost the cookies to demonstrate the three moon phases mentioned above.  Discuss the following with your student--
Does the moon change?  ('s always the same shape)
Does the way the sun lights up the moon change? (Yes)
What are the three phases we learned (and point to each cookie that represents that stage)?  New Moon (no frosting), Crescent Moon (partly frosted in a crescent shape), Full Moon (fully frosted-yum!).

You may also want to Introduce your student to waxing and waning.

Phases of the Moon Demonstration

Here is more information on the Moon from Enchanted Learning:
General Description of the Moon
Inside the Moon
Phases of the Moon
Go out every evening (that you are studying this book) and observe the moon.  If you have a telescope, look through it at the moon.  You could also take pictures of the moon.   You may want to continue tracking and charting what the moon looks like for an entire month.  

Extend your Moon Study-- Hands of a Child Moon Project Pack


Constellation:  Orion
If you look at the first two page spread of the December pages, in the middle of the spread (at the seam of the book) is the constellation Orion.   It is in the same place on the next spread as well.   It can best be seen on the back cover of the dust jacket.  You can also see it here.  Review with your student what a constellation is.

Orion is probably the most easily spotted constellation of the winter sky.  It's shape (two bright stars on top, three bright stars close together in the middle, and then two bright stars on the bottom) make it easy to identify.  In the days of long ago, people made up stories about the constellations they saw in the sky.  The ancient Greeks told the story that Orion was a mighty hunter and when he died, the Greek goddess Artemis placed him into the heavens.  The two top stars are his shoulders, the three in the middle form his belt, and the two at the bottom are his feet.  

Go outside one night in winter and locate Orion.  Can your student point out the stars that make up the shoulders, belt, and feet?   If the night is very clear and there are no nearby lights to detract, you may see more stars that belong to the constellation, the ones that form the club Orion holds on the left and the shield or animal skin he holds on the right and the scabbard that hangs down from his belt.

Memory Verse/Copy work:  
Amos 5:8
Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name.

(Note:  the seven stars  mentioned here is probably referring to a star cluster called Pleiades, or The Seven Sisters.)

If you have a membership to Enchanted Learning, you may wish to print out the Orion dot-to-dot activity page.

Constellation and Orion Pictures
If you place your mouse over the picture and it hold it there a second, it will outline the constellations for you so you can see them better!  

Science:  Seasons
Go through the book with your student noting the pictures are near the same tree-- sometimes right under, sometimes right beside, and sometimes beside it but further away.  Discuss how the tree changes through the seasons. 
If you have an opportunity, take a picture of one tree in your neighborhood or favorite park (or observe and enter in a nature journal/notebook) then go back in the next month or season and take another picture of it.  Do this for each month/season through the rest of the year.


Applied Math: Calendar Skills
If your student doesn't know the months of the year, this would be a great time to learn them!

Applied Math:  Counting
This book has oodles for your student to count.  Find something different on each page to count:  how many stars or birds in the sky, how many footprints, how many skunks/rabbits/lightning bugs, electric poles, etc.  

Applied Math:  Dozen
Introduce or review the concept of one dozen.  There are twelve months in our year, there are twelve full moons shown within the pages of our story (if you only count the pages concerning the months and not the pages at the beginning and the end with the mother and child close up in the gazebo).  Twelve of anything is also called a dozen.  


Art:  Mixed Medium
Illustrations are rendered in charcoal, pencil, and pastel on Arches paper and digital color.  Encourage your student to make a picture using mixed mediums (include charcoal, pencil, and pastels if you have them on hand).   If your student is making a book with illustrations (see creative writing lessons) encourage her to fashion her illustrations with these mediums.

If you don't have pastels on hand, you may want to substitute with chalk. 

Your student may also enjoy drawing with pastels (or chalk) on different materials and blending the colors together using fingers or a napkin or whatever else you can think of to blend with (q-tips work nicely, too). 

Art: Attention to Detail
The illustrations are described as "wonderfully atmospheric."    The more you study the illustrations, the more you see.   What does your student see if he really looks at the pictures?  Some discoveries may include the wolf in the clouds, hibernating bears, squirrels in the trees, raccoons in the field, bunny rabbits, skunks, bugs going up the tree, birds, etc.

Cumulative Activity (Math, Language Arts, Science, Art)
1. Brainstorm (pre-writing activity) Discuss the four seasons with your child.  Make a column or area on a piece of paper (can be scrap since this is your pre-writing) for each season.  Write down words, phrases, etc. for each season.  Also include the months that are contained in each season.
2. Divide a poster board into fourths by drawing a large t (that looks like +).   You could discuss fractions after you draw the t (fourths).  Discuss the four seasons and have your student write the months of each season in he corresponding quadrant.  Write the name for each moon (as mentioned in the book) beside the correct month.
3. Write the other phrases and words from your pre-writing in the appropriate quadrant
4. Optional:  have your student draw or paste pictures (cut-outs from magazines work well) that correspond with each season in the correct quadrant.   

Just For Fun:  Listening to Music
Listen to Native American Music (check your local library for ideas)
Listen to Vivaldi's Four Seasons (Can your student determine which piece of the music depicts which season?  How does she know?)

Just for Fun:  P.E.
Make up a dance for each season (you could do this as you listen to Vivaldi-- see above)
Walk like the animals in the pictures

Native American Moon Names

Library List

Tasha Tudor’s Around the Year and

A Time to Keep: the Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays

Nightlight: a Book About the Moon, Dana Meachen Rau

The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons (may contain evolutionary content)

Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn Mansfield Branley

Earthwise’s Seasons by Jim Pipe

Nature in the Neighborhood  by Gordon Morrison