The Night Chanter Project

By Franc Leo, April 11, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Four or five fifty-minute class periods


The “Night Chanter” project is based on a chant or prayer of native North American origin. Students will create sketches and designs inspired by selected portions of the chant. These designs will be put together in a mural arranged in the chant’s sequence. One of the basic tools in this project is the Design Process Chart. By using the graph, a routine is established for students to follow so that there will be order and coherence in the development of the students’ work. The chart can be used as a reference for describing the evolution of the design process, consisting of five steps: Identify, Imagine, Develop, Execute, and Evaluate.

National Standards

Standard 2. Using knowledge of structures and functions Achievement Standard, Proficient: •      Students demonstrate the ability to form and defend judgments about the characteristics and structures to accomplish commercial, personal, communal, or other purposes of art •      Students evaluate the effectiveness of artworks in terms of organizational structures and functions •      Students create artworks that use organizational principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems Achievement Standard, Advanced: •      Students demonstrate the ability to compare two or more perspectives about the use of organizational principles and functions in artwork and to defend personal evaluations of these perspectives •      Students create multiple solutions to specific visual arts problems that demonstrate competence in producing effective relationships between structural choices and artistic functions Standard 3. Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas Achievement Standard, Proficient: •      Students reflect on how artworks differ visually, spatially, temporally, and functionally, and describe how these are related to history and culture •      Students apply subjects, symbols, and ideas in their artworks and use the skills gained to solve problems in daily life Achievement Standard, Advanced: •      Students describe the origins of specific images and ideas and explain why they are of value in their artwork and in the work of others •      Students evaluate and defend the validity of sources for content and the manner in which subject matter, symbols, and images are used in the students' works and in significant works by others

Common Core Standards

Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.3 Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.2 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English capitalization, punctuation, and spelling when writing.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.


Students will be able to:
  • identify the goals of the project
  • create possible solutions to the challenges
  • evolve their ideas to the point of completion
  • produce sketches and designs of their solutions
  • assess their proposal and grade the quality of the solutions proposed
  • work individually and in teams on their designs and mural sketching
  • focus on the Design Process
  • formulate ideas based on a written composition into illustrated sketches, projects, and designs based on personal and exterior ideas, descriptions, impressions, and perspectives


  • A portion of Momaday’s book “House Made of Dawn—The Night Chanter”
  • The Design Process chart developed by the Design Department from CHAD
  • examples of initial sketches (attached)


Each individual needs the following supplies:
  • 1 copy of the chant in “House Made of Dawn—The Night Chanter” by M. Scott Momaday
  • 6 big format pieces of paper (for initial sketches)
  • 3 medium-format pieces of paper (for final 3 sketches)
  • sketchbook / design book
  • a pencil
  • colored pencils
  • 1 roll of white paper for mural (for the entire class, not individuals)


Design Process Descriptive Memory Design Presentation Mural Critique


The “Night Chanter” is a Native American prayer designed to express respect and memories. It is inspired by a man who is narrating his personal experiences relating to the plains, weather, family, friends, their horses, different towns, homes, and surroundings. In this activity, each student will illustrate a personal vision or idea that is based on this chant or prayer. The initial sketches must encompass the chant as a whole, rather than focusing on individual elements. After this individual interpretation of the entire chant, each student will choose three sections of the chant to study closely to create detailed designs and sketches. The individual designs, once finished, will be put together in groups that share the same themes. These groups are organized in a sequence that follows the chants descriptive nature.
1. Organize the class in a manner that is conducive to students working individually. 2. Advise students that they will be creating designs inspired from “The Night Chanter” that will be combined to make a mural. The “Night Chanter” is a Native American prayer designed to express respect and memories. It is inspired by a man who is narrating his personal experiences relating to the plains, weather, family, friends, their horses, different towns, homes, and surroundings. 3. Tell the students that their first designs will be based on the chant as a whole. They will hear the chant twice and then immediately sketch a design reflective of the chant as a whole. 4. Read the selection aloud solemnly two times straight, with a one minute interval between readings. 5. Have each student quickly sketch a design representing what they have heard. 6. Then, read the chant again slowly so that each student can choose any three sections or themes they would like to create designs for. 7. The students should spend fifteen minutes working on each individual initial sketch (forty-five minutes total) without hearing another reading of the chant. Encourage them to capitalize on the ideas that first came to mind when they originally heard the chant. 8. After the forty-five minutes, read the chant again. 9. Students must make three variations of each sketch according to the themes/sections they selected (total of nine sketches). They may switch selections only once. 10. Record the themes/sections each student chooses in order to assure that the mural will have a balanced illustration of the chant. 11. For the last 15 minutes of the class, students can look over their copies of the chant in order to add details and influence their designs. 12. Each student should then present their sketches to the class for critique. The students should explain the steps they took in developing their project and explain any difficulties encountered along with their solutions. The designs presented (sketches) should reflect the use of the Design Process chart in all its stages. Though the students have created nine sketches, they must choose their strongest piece from each of their selections for the mural. 13. Divide the class into groups of two and allow the students time to enhance their personal interpretations and variations of the illustrations utilizing the information they were given in the critique. In their groups both group members should make suggestions and help their team member utilize the design process in order to enhance their sketches. 14. Each student must then write about the personal ideas involved in their design in a comprehensible way (a Descriptive Memory composition). This writing must contain at least two paragraphs per graphic selection. 15. As a class, make selections of the sketches for the mural. Compositions are put together to explain each element of the chant that should be included in the final mural. 16. The class should work together as a team to piece together the compositions in the mural to effectively convey the themes and ideas in the chant.


Students can be assessed on whether the sketches reflect the topic and whether the final designs reflect originality and quality for the final mural design.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Different themes can be addressed depending on the projects aim: heroes, sacrifice, love, brotherhood, friendship, transportation, life, death, peace, chemistry, patriotism, war, etc. The various themes will influence what graphics the students use in their sketches and their personal experiences will be reflected in how they choose to depict the theme. The final mural project can be transferred to a bigger scale and be worked on as a sculpture for practically any place.

Teacher Reflection

The students were very successful. This was not the first time that they were exposed to the Design Process graph. They followed the Design Process procedures and related them to their project throughout. They presented their work to the class in an organized way and their final sketches and mural design were very creative. It would be helpful if the students revisited collage and mural design, as well as the use of different formats for a single project. It was helpful to compare this small-scale project to real-life, street-size, center-park projects. This gives a different scale and approach to the designs that are presented. Next time I do this project, I will work with different materials for the last part of the project. Once the sketch is done and the final presentation is approved, different materials will be introduced to produce a similar design. This can show that different materials can be used for the same projects with similar, good, or better results.

Leave a reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.