English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Characters
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Protagonist
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Role of the Female Protagonist

    Role of the Female Protagonist


    In this lesson, students will read and annotate the short story “A Warrior's Daughter” and consider the female protagonist's roles in her society. They'll also reflect on their own roles and how those roles change.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Plan to put students in small groups for research and presentations.

    Roles Quick Write

    • Let students know that their roles may be different in different venues — that is, at home, at school, in the community — and how they identify themselves may often be related to how other people view them.
    • Be prepared for this topic to lead to highly emotional responses from some students. Create a safe environment for students to share their experiences without judgment, and encourage peers to put themselves in others' shoes.
      • SWD: Be aware that some students’ roles can be frequently defined by others based only on their disabilities, whether physical or mental. Encourage these students to explore the roles of all kinds that they play in their own lives and the full range of their identities.


    Think about the roles that you play in your life. Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and ideas using the following questions.

    • What are your responsibilities?
    • How do you identify yourself (son/daughter, friend, student, etc.)?
    • How do your roles change at different times and in different places?

    Open Notebook

    A Warrior's Daughter

    • Depending on students' reading ability, have them at least read the first half of the story.
    • Let students know if you want them to note specific story elements as they annotate.

    Work Time

    Begin reading and annotating Zitkala-Sa’s “A Warrior’s Daughter.”

    With your partner, discuss the following questions and take notes on your ideas.

    • What roles does Tusee take on during the story?
    • Did any of Tusee’s roles surprise you? Why?
    • What elements in the story, particularly in the setting, are unusual?
    • In what ways does the setting contribute to the story?

    Open Notebook

    Divergent Questions

    • To improve understanding, share a few divergent questions about a text or video with which the class is already familiar.
      • ELL: Have a student look up the word divergent, and discuss the literal definition and how the word is being used in this context. What are other things that diverge?
    • Have students share their question with a partner, and circulate among them to make sure they understand the concept.
      • SWD: Students may need help evolving their questions to be more divergent. Encourage students to refine their questions by modeling using the Think Aloud method.
    • If time allows, share a few student examples.
    • Have students share their divergent questions with you and select a few for them to answer for homework. If feasible, you could have students share their questions with the whole class and let them decide which ones to answer.

    Work Time

    A divergent question invites creative thinking and has many possible answers. It often asks the thinker to imagine a different scenario, predict a possible outcome, or consider alternatives.

    For example, the question “What might have happened if Benjamin Franklin had not been involved in writing the United States Constitution?” has many possible answers.

    • For practice, try drafting two divergent questions about “A Warrior’s Daughter.”

    Open Notebook

    Share your question with a partner.

    Dakota Sioux Words

    • Give students a few minutes to look for words independently.
    • Then facilitate a discussion in which the class creates a complete list of the Dakota Sioux words used in “A Warrior's Daughter.”
    • Create a chart on the board to capture student findings, leaving room to add definitions later.

    Work Time

    • Take a few minutes to highlight all the Dakota Sioux words you see in “A Warrior’s Daughter.”

    Work with the rest of the class to make a complete list of the Dakota Sioux words used in the story.

    Dakota Word Definitions

    • Divide up your class into small groups, and assign each group to research one or more of the Dakota words in “A Warrior's Daughter.”
    • Students can conduct research in at least two different ways.
      • ✓ Make educated guesses about definitions based on clues in the reading.
      • ✓ Refer to a paper or online dictionary, such as the New Lakota Dictionary .
    • If it's appropriate for your class, find the New Lakota Dictionary online and share it with your students. Explain that because the Dakota and Lakota languages are very closely related, the Lakota dictionary is an excellent resource.
    • If you do not have Internet access, you may wish to distribute copies of the paper version of the New Lakota Dictionary or photocopy selections to share with the class.
    • ELL: This is a great place for these students to share their techniques for learning the definitions of new words in unfamiliar languages. Encourage them to share any insight that they might have with their peers.
    • If you have time, have students do a little research on the Sioux people (e.g., Where do they live? What is their history? What was the traditional role of women in their culture?).
    • When students have finished searching for definitions, lead a discussion about the terms. Return to the list of words the class created and help them attempt to define each one.

    Work Time

    Working with the group your teacher assigns, do the following.

    • Investigate the word(s) your group has been assigned to define.
    • Come up with a definition for each word, if possible. If you cannot find a definition, work together to provide an educated guess.
    • Discuss why you think the author chooses not to translate your assigned word(s) into English.

    Open Notebook

    Share your group’s definition(s) and ideas with the class.

    A Warrior's Daughter and Question

    • Depending on students' reading ability, have them at least read the first half of the story.
    • Let students know if you want them to note specific story elements as they annotate.


    • Finish reading and annotating “A Warrior’s Daughter.”
    • Attempt to answer one of the divergent questions you wrote in class.

    Open Notebook

    Submit your answer to your teacher.