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Getting Started With This Guide  
Study Guide Summary  
Outline of the Study Guide  
Study Unit I Defining Terms  
Study Unit II Fieldwork Basics  
Study Unit III Discovering the Obvious: Our Lives as "The Folk"  
Study Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor  
Study Unit V Oral Traditions--Swapping Stories  
Study Unit VI Louisiana's Musical Landscape  
Study Unit VII Material Culture-The Stuff of Life  
Study Unit VIII The Worlds of Work and Play  
Study Unit IX The Seasonal Round and Life Cycles  
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Educator's Guide Glossary  
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Educator's Opportunities For Professional Development  
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Unit IV Outline

Introduction - The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor (this page)

Lesson 1: Louisiana's Major Folk Regions

Lesson 2 Geography, Ecology, and Folklife

Lesson 3 Sense of Place

Unit IV Resources





Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor
Lesson 1 Louisiana's Major Folk Regions

It is trite to say that Louisiana is culturally diverse. The truth is that few people realize the degree of complexity and variation in the cultures of the state. . . . Scholars divide the state into three major cultural regions, New Orleans, South Louisiana, and North Louisiana, each of which contains groups whose cultures remain distinct from that of the larger region.

--Maida Owens, East Baton Rouge Parish, from
"Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview"

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies

Purpose of Lesson

Fourth graders will study the three major folk regions of the state. Eighth graders have the option to break the regions down into smaller folk regions or use the concept of three regions: North Louisiana, South Louisiana, and New Orleans.


Lesson Objectives/Louisiana Content Standards, Benchmarks, and Foundation Skills

1. Students become aware of their community's and their region's unique sense of place and compare and contrast their region with other regions of the state.

G-1B-E4 Defining and differentiating regions by using physical characteristics, such as climate and land forms, and by using human characteristics, such as economic activity and language. (1, 3, 4)

G-1C-E3 Describing and explaining the characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations. (1, 3, 4)

G-1D-E2 Describing how humans adapt to variations in the physical environment. (1, 2, 3, 4)

G-1B-M4 Describing and explaining how personal interests, culture, and technology affect peoples' perceptions and uses of places and regions. (1, 2, 3, 4)

H-1A-M3 Analyzing the impact that specific individuals, ideas, events, and decisions had on the course of history. (1, 2, 3, 4)

2. Students identify some of the markers that define regionality.

G-1B-M3 Identifying criteria used to define regions and explaining how and why regions change. (1, 2, 3, 4)

G-1A-M2 Interpreting and developing maps, globes, graphs, charts, models, and databases to analyze spatial distributions and patterns. (1, 2, 3, 4)

E-1B-M7 Describing historical and economic factors that have contributed to the development and growth of the national, state, and local economies. (1, 3, 4, 5)

H-1D-M1 Describing the contributions of people, events, movements, and ideas that have been significant in the history of Louisiana. (1, 3, 4)

H-1D-M6 Examining folklore and describing how cultural elements have shaped our state and local heritage. (1, 3, 4)

H-1D-M4 Locating and describing Louisiana's geographic features and examining their impact on people past and present. (1, 3, 4)

ELA-1-M4 Interpreting texts with supportive explanations to generate connections to real-life situations and other texts (e.g., business, technical, scientific). (1, 2, 4, 5)

3. Students use the Internet to study Louisiana folklife and create their own Louisiana folk region exhibit or computer slide show.

G-1A-M3 Organizing and displaying information about the location of geographic features and places by using mental mapping skills. (1, 2, 3, 4)

G-1B-M1 Explaining and analyzing both the physical and human phenomena associated with specific places, including precipitation and settlement patterns. (1, 2, 3, 4)

G-1B-M4 Describing and explaining how personal interests, culture, and technology affect people's perceptions and uses of places and regions. (1, 2, 3, 4)

ELA-1-M1 Using knowledge of word meaning and developing basic and technical vocabulary using various strategies (e.g., context clues, affixes, etymology, dictionary). (1, 4)

E-1A-M5 Giving examples of how skills and knowledge increase productivity and career opportunities. (1, 3, 4, 5)

ELA-5-M1 Recognizing and using organizational features of printed text, other media, and electronic information (e.g., parts of a text, alphabetizing, captions, legends, microprint, laser discs, hypertext, CD-ROM, pull-down menus, keyword searches, icons, passwords, entry menu features). (1, 3, 4)

4. Students develop a regional culture exchange project with students in another region of the state.

ELA-2-M2 Using language, concepts, and ideas that show an awareness of the intended audience and/or purpose (e.g., classroom, real-life, workplace) in developing complex compositions. (1, 2, 4)

ELA-2-M6 Writing as a response to texts and life experiences (e.g., letters, journals, lists). (1, 2, 4)

ELA-3-M3 Demonstrating standard English structure and usage. (1, 4, 5)

ELA-5-M4 Using available technology to produce, revise, and publish a variety of works. (1, 3, 4)



State and parish maps; portfolio folders. If your students will be doing fieldwork, you may need digital cameras, audio recorders, or video recorders in addition to notepads and pencils as well as appropriate fieldwork forms. Print out and duplicate any worksheets or rubrics that you will be using.

Time Required

2-5 class periods


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

Louisiana Voices Venn Diagram

Creole State Exhibit

Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery

Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies

Adaptation Strategies

Louisiana Indians in the 21st Century

Louisiana Folklife Bibliography

Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview, by Maida Owens from Swapping Stories

Ernest J. Gaines: Louisiana Stories

River of Song, Part 4, Louisiana, PBS-Smithsonian video and audio series

River of Song Teacher's Guide

Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana -- The Stories

Online Maps and Map Activities

Borders/Fronteras, Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS: Download maps and satellite images. Good for older students.

Read about ActiveCGM maps

Louisiana Folk Regions Map: Three Major Subregions

Louisiana Folk Regions Maps: Nine Major Subregions, Ethnic Group Locales, Native American Locales

So Much More Than Just a Map: Perspectives on Louisiana and the New World

Info Louisiana: Maps and Geographical Information (with Parishes): Provides links to other map resources.

More Map Resources

Student Worksheets

Cultural Perspectives

Material Culture Worksheet

Prove It Worksheet

Defining a Cultural Region Worksheet

Brainstorming a Regional Culture Exchange

Assessment Tools

Prove It Worksheet - Pre-test and post-test

Rubric for Portfolios - if using for unit, begin assessing with this lesson or use as a lesson assessment

Louisiana Voices Venn Diagram


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


1. Portfolios - hard copy Sense of Place Portfolios and/or Digital Portfolios

2. Prove It Worksheets


1. Prove It Worksheets
2. Regional culture exchange with another class
3. Rubric for Portfolios


1. Digital files of cultural artifacts copied from the Internet
2. Cultural regions map
3. Prove It Worksheets
4. Defining a Cultural Region Worksheets
5. Portfolios - hard copy Sense of Place Portfolio and/or Digital Portfolios


Background Information for the Teacher

Although gross generalizations may be made from this rather simplistic breakdown of the state into three regions, enough characteristics of regionality prevail in each region that students will be able to comprehend the differences and place their own communities in the context of one folk region. Maida Owens describes the regions of the state in Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview, from Swapping Stories. Using that overview, maps, articles, and images from sources listed in Technology Options above, this lesson asks students to group various folk traditions by region. Also see a shorter overview in Nicholas R. Spitzer's essay, The Creole State: An Introduction.

In brief, North Louisiana is predominantly Protestant, English speaking, British American and African American. It is divided into two main areas: Upland South and Lowland South. Primarily Scotch-Irish Baptists and Methodists settled the Upland South hill country and Florida Parishes on small farms, while English and Scottish Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians settled the Lowlands on plantations, which required a large slave population. Today more African Americans live in the Lowland South parishes of North Louisiana than in the Upland South parishes. The Lowland culture exists along the Red River as well as the Mississippi River and shares features with the Delta culture of Mississippi and Arkansas, just as Upland South culture dominates the Florida Parishes as well as the north central Hill Parishes. Several Native American tribal groups live in North Louisiana, and other ethnic groups may be found as well.

South Louisiana features the diverse French-speaking groups of Cajuns and Black Creoles who are predominantly Roman Catholic and live on prairies and along bayous. Pockets of other ethnic groups dot South Louisiana such as Germans, Isleños (see Unit V Lesson 6), English, and Native Americans (see Unit IV Resources, Unit V Lesson 5 and Unit VIII Lesson 2 for Native American resources).

New Orleans' cultural gumbo is complexly diverse, featuring people from many ethnic groups who have arrived in different waves of immigration from around the globe, Irish to West African, French to Spanish, Italian to Vietnamese, Caribbean to Latin American. Roman Catholics are the more prominent religious affiliation, but virtually every Protestant denomination is present as well. The traditional music and culture of the city have deeply influenced American folk and popular cultures, spawning significant influences on jazz, rhythm & blues, and rock & roll.

Urban areas of all regions differ from rural or suburban. Yet, no matter where we live, folklife and regionality intertwine. The boxed list of cultural perspectives, or lenses, through which to view regionality provides students ideas of how to begin investigating regionality and choices of what interests them. Each lesson in this unit asks students to return to this list and flesh out these perspectives. Choose three or four for younger students to focus on. Older students can choose perspectives that interest them in addition to some you choose. By dividing into groups, students could cover all the perspectives. Students can use the Cultural Perspectives handout.

Cultural Perspectives on Place and Event

Language and dialect (What languages or dialects are spoken at the event or in the place?)

Foodways (What events take place in which food or food preparation is important? What are the places where local produce is sold, the local food hang-out, a locally owned restaurant?)

Music and dance (Where do people go to hear music or go dancing? What events in everyday life or special events include music or dance? Think, for example, about lullabies, campfires, playground songs, school fight songs, weddings, birthdays.)

Geography, ecology, and environment (Where is the place located? What is the population? Climate? What are some of the important landforms like rivers, ponds, swamps, springs? What plants and animals are found in the area? What are the important man-made features in the place, such as roads, bridges, dams, canals, reservoirs, malls? How do these affect the plants and animals?)

Landscape and land use (Where are the parks, the playgrounds, the farms, businesses, industries, neighborhoods, and towns?)

Soundscape (What does the place or event sound like? Are they natural sounds or human-made sounds?)

Religions (What religions are practiced? Where are religious activities held? What events are associated with places of worship or religious beliefs? What are the places in the community where religious activity occurs?)

Crafts, decorative arts, and material culture (Fish traps, poles, nets, decoys? Objects related to hunting such as traps, bird calls, blinds? Do you know any woodcarvers or people who are active in textile arts such as crochet, embroidery, knitting, or quilting? Are there any blacksmiths in your area? How are local buildings constructed and decorated: ironwork, brickwork, terra cotta, murals, etc.? How are gravestones decorated in local cemeteries? How are crafts used within events or how do they contribute to a distinctive sense of place? How are they learned and the skills passed on? Are there places where material culture is particularly evident?)

Customs, celebrations, and festivals (What are the major events? Is there a festival, homecoming or reunion, fair, pageant, parade, or procession? What about events associated with the cycle of life such as birth, coming of age, marriage, death? What are the places where these events traditionally occur?)

Seasonal Round (What events always occur at a particular season of the year? Where do these activities occur?)

Oral narrative genres (Are there jokes, stories, tall tales, legends, riddles, proverbs, folktales, and anecdotes? Are there events or place where you can hear these narratives? Are there narratives about local places or events? What about stories of important events in local history, or how national events affected people in the community?)

Family names and formal and informal place names (How did places in the area get their names?)

Ethnic and other folk groups (Who takes part in the event? Whose place is it?)

Occupations and occupational folklife (What are the work-related skills: the knowledge, customs, traditions, stories, jokes, music, and lore of different jobs or occupations?)

Settlement history and pattern(Who founded or discovered or named the place? Who started the event? Where did some current ethnic groups in town come from? Where did they/do they live? What brought them here? What did/do they do for a living?)

Adapted with permission from FolkWriting, Diane Howard and Laurie Sommers et al., Valdosta State University, 2002, http://www.valdosta.edu/folkwriting/.

To Prepare

Read Louisiana's Traditional Cultures: An Overview and survey some of the Louisiana Folklife Resources to find and print appropriate excerpts, and bookmark some that will interest students.

Using the websites listed in Unit VI Lesson 1 Music Around the State: Sound and Place, choose music from each of the three major regions to play while students view maps and discuss regional markers.

Choose music from each of three major regions to play while students view maps and discuss regional markers. Study regional and parish maps and consider which elements on the boxed list of cultural perspectives you might want to use. If undertaking a regional culture exchange with a class in another region, establish contact with a teacher and plan your lessons together. Study Brainstorming a Regional Culture Exchange.

For assessment, decide if you want to use hard copy or digital portfolios (see Technology Option in Step 1 below to set up) for assessment. If you are using this whole unit, the portfolios should cover all three lessons, and you can assess them at the end of each lesson. If using hard copy portfolios, provide a place and routine for keeping them and call them Sense of Place Portfolios. These will contain examples of student work that indicate progress, improvement, accomplishments, or special challenges. They may include student writing samples, interviews, letters, journals, maps, drawings, projects, photographs, diagrams, video, audio, computer disks, or research reports. They provide long-term records of student achievement and provide evidence that learning has gone beyond factual knowledge. As students progress through the unit, they can add to the hard copy or digital portfolios. Students can self-evaluate the quality and completeness of their portfolios during or at the end of this lesson by using the Rubric for Portfolios to evaluate their own work. If using Venn diagrams, Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.

If your students will be doing fieldwork or the mapping lesson, you may want to use the Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS online maps.


4th Grade and 8th Grade Activities

1. Introduce students to the three folk regions of the state using a map and describing basic cultural characteristics of each region. Discuss your own region and what students find distinctive about living there. Use wall maps and online maps such as the Louisiana Folk Regions Map: Three Major Subregions. Students may read the introduction to the Creole State Exhibit, which describes the general folk regions of the state. Again, these descriptions simplify complex cultural issues, which students may uncover in their research. For example, someone in Monroe might make boudin, and towns all around the state are now organizing Mardi Gras celebrations. These regions indicate general tendencies but individuals do not necessarily conform to borders and maps.

Technology Option: Students can prepare the groundwork for lesson or unit Digital Portfolios on the computer. To help students store and organize images and text files they will download from the Internet, teach them to make and label folders on the computer. Have students each make one "Portfolio" folder with their names on it, and three other folders named for the cultural regions, which are placed inside their Portfolio folders. Students can store the images they copy from the Internet as well as other digital files they develop or accumulate in the appropriate folders. When ready to complete their final hard copy Sense of Place Portfolios, they may choose from the data they've stored in their Digital Portfolios as well as the other products they have created.

2. As a pre-test, ask students to fill out the Prove It Worksheet identifying the three major folk regions of the state where the different folklife traditions would be found. After completing the lesson, they will fill it out again for the Summative Evaluation.

Technology Option: Using mind mapping software, brainstorm what students already know about each of the three major regions of Louisiana. Set up the following categories: folk beliefs, festivals foodways, landscape, music, occupations, and religion. This is a good pre-test to determine how much students know. At the end of the unit, ask students to return to their map and add new information they've learned.

3. Ask students to use the Mapping Material Culture Worksheet individually or in small groups to locate and download images of material culture artifacts from the Creole State Exhibit according to folklife regions. Remind them to save the images in appropriate folders in their "Digital Portfolios" on the computer. Answers for the worksheet can be found on the Mapping Material Culture Answer Sheet (PDF Version).

4. Ask students to choose one perspective from the boxed list of cultural perspectives above and investigate how it contributes to defining each of the three folk regions of the state. Use the Cultural Perspectives handout. For example, how do occupations or folk crafts differ in each region? How do dialects, language, or foodways differ? Students may listen to stories in Swapping Stories to hear accents from around the state and use the Creole State Exhibit to research their chosen cultural perspectives. Eighth graders should choose to read one of the Louisiana Folklife Articles in Technology Connections above on regions, cultural groups, folklife traditions, or occupations of Louisiana. Students may use the Defining a Cultural Region Worksheet for easy access to all these webpages. Students may display results in an exhibit, presentation, or computer slide show using articles, music, and images from their research.

5. Use printed maps or print out online maps and ask students to cluster parishes into the three major folk regions by drawing lines around the clusters. Discuss why students included certain parishes. They may illustrate the clusters with images from the Creole State Exhibit, computer clip art, or drawings.

Technology Option: Students can create a large map with images copied from the Creole State Exhibit.

6. Ask students to complete the Prove It Worksheet as a post-test. Then they must work in pairs or small groups to compare their answers. Encourage them to exclaim "Prove It!" any time they don't agree with another student's answer. Then students must furnish the "proof" they have collected--what someone said in an interview, a picture from a webpage, information in an article or on a map. Activities such as this help to introduce students to the critical reading skills of analyzing and evaluating information, as well as the issues of documenting sources, researching and recording accurately, and verifying facts.

7. Use Louisiana, Part 4 of the River of Song PBS Smithsonian video and online teacher's guide to study traditional music in parishes along the Mississippi River, including New Orleans.

8. Contact a class in another region to establish a regional culture exchange, asking students to share, compare, and contrast their research on their own regions. Students could collect current slang, clothing styles, hairstyles, music, and dance as well as the other culltural perspectives from the boxed list of regional perspectives listed above or on the Brainstorming a Regional Cultural Exchange. In addition to broad regional differences, students may discover urban, rural, ethnic, religious, and economic differences. Pairing a rural North Louisiana class with a Baton Rouge class, for example, will introduce both groups to new ways of looking at the world. Students should plan together how best to present their findings.

9. Use the Rubric for Portfolios to assess the quality of students' hard copy Sense of Place and/or Digital Portfolios and assign points.

10. If you want students to use these resources and they are written above their reading level, use Adaptation Strategies to build lessons around them.


4th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. Write a diary entry from the point of view of someone from another region of Louisiana. What clues such as dialect, occupation, celebrations, place names, and other perspectives from the boxed list of cultural perspectives will you offer?

2. Write or give a short oral report on another region of Louisiana that you would like to visit and describe how it might differ from your community. Use information from the resources listed in Technology Connections above, including the online Louisiana maps.

3. Identifying community and regional cultural borders challenges us to use all our senses. What we see hear, taste, feel, and smell informs us that we are crossing cultural borders. Use the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Borders/Fronteras to learn about the US-Mexico border.

4. Create a game of regional characteristics based on a popular board game or TV game show. For example, students could place markers on a large state map in response to spinning a wheel or drawing index cards naming things associated with the three folklife regions of the state. Half the class might create the game, designing game cards using computer software and images from the Creole State Exhibit or making a game wheel. The other half of the class could divide into teams to play the game. The team with the most tokens on the map wins.


8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. Research at least two of the nine folk sub-regions of Louisiana: the Upper Mississippi Delta, North Central Louisiana Hill Country, Red River Valley, Neutral Strip, Western Acadiana, Eastern Acadiana, Lower Mississippi River Road, Florida Parishes, or Greater New Orleans. Read more about the regions of Louisiana. Find information in your school library, public library, and on the Internet starting with Louisiana Folklife Articles listed above in Technology Connections. Also see Unit IV Resources, and the Louisiana Folklife Bibliography.

2. Read regional literature and list elements that define the region as they read, for example language or dialect, geographic references, foodways, occupations, and so on. Read Gaines' Fifteen Narrators: Narrative Style and Storytelling Techniques in A Gathering of Old Men and Louisiana Foodways in Ernest Gaines' A Lesson Before Dying. Explore the Ernest J. Gaines: Louisiana Stories website. Read the works of Gaines and other regional writers such as Kate Chopin or Arna Bontemps then write about their strong sense of place or draw a conceptual map of one of their stories (see Unit IV Lesson 3 for instructions.)

3. Find traditional folk artists from each of the three major folk regions of Louisiana in Louisiana Folk Artist Biographies and choose one from each region to add to your portfolios.

4. Use the website So Much More Than Just a Map: Perspectives on Louisiana and the New World from an exhibit at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans to study cultural assumptions, maps as history, art of maps, and more.


Unit IV Resources

Unit IV Outline


National Endowment for
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