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Louisiana Voices Educator's Guide  
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 Opportunities For Professional Development  
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Unit IV Outline

Introduction - The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor

Lesson 1: Louisiana's Major Folk Regions

Lesson 2 Geography, Ecology, and Folklife

Lesson 3 Sense of Place (this page)

Unit IV Resources





Unit IV The State of Our Lives: Being a Louisiana Neighbor
Lesson 3 Sense of Place

[Working in North Louisiana swamp country as a "woods cowboy" wearing rubber boots with spurs and working with Indian-bred Catahoula herding dogs was tough.] A woods cowboy is a man that can go in these thickets here. . . . They take these range cattle, most people say "wild cattle," they're not used to bein' handled. They live here in these woods. . . you don't put 'em up in a pasture and feed 'em. And they can make it, cause if the grass gets short I have seen them old cows rare up just like a goat and get that moss down out of them trees and eat it. . . . They got to be tough to keep away the coyotes, cats, and wolves and stuff.

--Brownie Ford, Caldwell Parish

Grade Levels


Curriculum Areas

English Language Arts, Social Studies

Purpose of Lesson

After studying the major folk regions of Louisiana and the relationship between folklife, geography, and ecology, students give deeper thought to what makes their own community unique, what their "sense of place" is. Not only are our communities and neighborhoods unique, so are our perspectives of where we live. In addition to geographic mapping of their communities, students develop conceptual maps of their sense of place.


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

1. Students discover the concept of sense of place and actively explore their own sense of place through observation and fieldwork research.

G-1B-E1 Describing and comparing the physical characteristics of places, including land forms, bodies of water, soils, vegetation, and climate. (1, 3, 4)

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-1A-M1 Identifying and describing the characteristics, functions, and applications of various types of maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies. (1, 2, 3, 4)

2. Students map a space in their own neighborhood or community.

G-1A-E3 Constructing maps, graphs, charts, and diagrams to describe geographical information and to solve problems. (1, 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)

VA-CE-E2 Explore and discuss techniques and technologies for visual expression and communication.

VA-CE-E5 Draw on imagination, individual experience, and group activities to generate ideas for visual expression.

3. Students develop conceptual maps of their own neighborhood or community.

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

VA-CE-M3 Use the elements and principles of design and art vocabulary to visually express and describe individual ideas.

VA-CE-M6 Understand and visually express relationships among visual arts, other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.

4. Students study literature about sense of place and write essays and poetry about their own sense of place.

ELA-1-M3 Reading, comprehending, and responding to written, spoken, and visual texts in extended passages. (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)

ELA-2-M1 Writing a composition that clearly implies a central idea with supporting details in a logical, sequential order. (1, 4)

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


Time Required

2-5 class periods



Materials for creating sense of place maps. See Unit IV Lesson 1 for instructions on creating Sense of Place Portfolios or Digital Portfolios. 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.

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


Technology Connections

Internet Resources

Creole State Exhibit

Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery

Adaptation Strategies

Northeast Louisiana's Delta Region

Louisiana Folklife Bibliography

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

Native American Organizations in Louisiana

Atlas: The Louisiana Statewide GIS

Ernest J. Gaines: Louisiana Stories

Essays of Place, Montana Heritage Project

Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana -- The Stories

River of Words

Student Worksheets

Cultural Perspectives Handout

Spirit of Place Worksheet

Assessment Tools

Things I've Learned Worksheet

Rubric for Portfolios


Evaluation Tools/Opportunities


1. Hard copy Sense of Place Portfolios and/or Digital Portfolios
2. "Sense of Place" photographs
3. Conceptual maps of a literary work


1. Things I've Learned Worksheets
2. "Spirit of Place" essays or poems
3. Rubric for Portfolios--scored by teacher


1. Sound collages
2. Neighborhood or community maps
3. Community Story Map
4. Community brochures
5. Walking tour audio product
6. "Sense of Place" photography exhibit


Background Information for the Teacher

Sense of place is a major theme in literature, writing, and social studies. Helping students gain a sense of place in their own community and region deepens their connection to community and opens them to the notion that everyone has a unique sense of place. We all experience a place differently. If any students are new to your community, their sense of place may be strongly associated with another place. While they will get to know your community well during this lesson and the others in this unit, allowing them to reflect on another place for some activities below will enrich the lesson for all.


To Prepare

Create or bring in a map of your community that students can copy or trace to use as the base to designate major roads and landmarks. Examine, print out, and bookmark online maps listed in Technology Options above. Think about how you define the sense of place where you live now and in other places you have lived. What literature has given you a deep sense of place? Think of examples of unique places to share with students. Create a conceptual map of a real place or a literary setting that has been special to you, marking places where events happened where people important to you or local characters lived, gathering places, and so on. Read some of the Louisiana Folklife Articles listed in Internet Resources to heighten your awareness of how sense of place varies from region to region in the state. Print appropriate excerpts and bookmark for students. Print appropriate excerpts. Review questions about community in the Spirit of Place Worksheet. Elementary school teachers may want to choose some of the questions or allow students to choose. Review Unit IV Resources to find useful materials for your students. Remind students to file materials they find or develop in their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders, and if you have created a portfolio checklist, to check off the completed items. If using Venn diagrams, Louisiana Voices Venn Diagram shows how to use them for comparisons.


4th and 8th Grade Activities


1. Share a story about your own sense of place from childhood or today with students to introduce the concept of sense of place. If you've created a map to illustrate your sense of place, also share that with students. Brainstorm with them the various elements, or cultural perspectives, that contribute to sense of place, including the boxed list below. 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/.

Remind students to file materials they find or develop in their Sense of Place Portfolio or Digital Portfolio folders, and if you have created a portfolio checklist, to check off the completed items. Students can also self-evaluate the quality and completeness of their portfolios during and at the end of this final lesson of the unit by using the Rubric for Portfolios.

2. Next, focus on some cultural perspectives from the boxed list above and deepen students' discussion through prompts. Why do these perspectives help define regional culture? How do they define sense of place? Ask students to write a quick list of things in just a few minutes that they think define their own neighborhood or community. As homework, ask students to choose and then observe in detail an area for which they would like to create a sense of place map and essay. Students may work individually or in teams.

3. Discuss soundscape as a perspective, using some of the exercises to heighten listening skills in Unit II to make students more aware of listening. See also Unit VI. Send them on a sound scavenger hunt in their neighborhoods with notebooks or tape recorders. Or, as a class, discuss different parts of your community or region and what they might hear, for example, sounds of nature, language and dialect, traditional music, transportation, and businesses. How do sounds change through the day and night? Through the seasonal round? See Unit V Lesson 2 for activities on regional dialects. Students could share their recordings, asking classmates to guess what part of the community they're overhearing, and edit their tapes into a class community sound collage. If they've written down sounds rather than recording them, ask them to arrange the words on individual, neighborhood, or class poster collages that they decorate with drawings and downloaded images from the Creole State Exhibit and Louisiana Folklife Photo Gallery.

Technology Option: With students listen to Swapping Stories and ask them to record people in the community who have regional accents to add to the class sound collage.

4. Ask students to collect formal and informal place names in their community. For example, insiders might know a neighborhood by a special name, or residents may give directions such as, "Turn left at the corner where the cotton gin used to be." Keep a class master list of local place names. Who are streets named for? Buildings? What are names that cultural insiders pronounce differently from cultural outsiders? For example, residents of Vienna, Louisiana, call their town Veye-in-a. New Orleans residents refer to Burgundy Street as BurGUNdy Street. Students may write a short essay or poem on what local place names say about your community. Or, they could arrange community place names in a pattern on drawing paper or using word processing software. Consider using place names to outline the border of a community map on which students collaborate (see Steps 5 and 7 below).

5. How people refer to directions varies regionally. In New Orleans, east, west, north, south are generally not used. People think something is uptown (up river), downtown (down river), front of town (toward the river), back of town or lakeside (away from the river toward Lake Pontchartrain). Along Bayou Lafourche, bayouside is the area between the bayou and the road. The front is the area along the bayou, and back is away from the bayou. In North Louisiana, directions are more specific to place. For example, Bayou DeLoutre is an important cultural divide in Union Parish. People either live on this side or the other and locally that's referred to as "cross Loutre," as in "they're from across Bayou DeLoutre." Ask students to consider what directions are specific to their community and add examples to their maps or to the class Community Story Map in Step 8.

6. Have students draw or trace the outline map of a neighborhood or community and designate major roads, landscape features, and landmarks. Next, they should add "personality features" to the map, such as places associated with local events or characters, distinctive neighborhoods, formal and informal boundaries, various kinds of gathering places, important landmarks. Eighth graders will be able to fill in more details than 4th graders. Find information on websites such as those listed in Technology Connections above.

7. Ask students first to read and then complete the Spirit of Place Worksheet. As a class discuss questions you and students have never thought about before. They should use responses to write an essay or poem on their sense of place. With elementary students, you may want to choose some questions for them or have them choose some.

8. As a culminating activity, create a large, collaborative Community Story Map by combining students' individual neighborhood maps, by working as a class on a big map or use a drawing program. Ask students to think about this sentence: "Sense of place is a story happening many times." Not only do many stories help create a sense of place, many different people's stories overlap and layer sense of place. Students' research and fieldwork throughout this unit will have yielded a lot of information about the personality of neighborhoods, formal and informal place names, geography, ecology, landscape, landmarks, boundaries, and people students have collected stories about. Ask students to look at their Sense of Place Portfolios or Digital Portfolios and consider the questions below as well as on the Spirit of Place Worksheet in conceptualizing and creating their class Community Story Map.

A. What interesting stories have emerged from your neighborhood or community? Where did these stories occur?

B. What are some places that insiders know by informal names, for example, "four corners," "this side of the bayou," "where the cotton gin used to be"

C. What are the "invisible" boundaries of your neighborhood or community? How do you know when you've left one neighborhood and entered another?

D. Where have historical events occurred? Where have famous, infamous, interesting, or talented people lived? Where did any local legends take place?

E. Where do varying socio-economic, religious, or ethnic groups live?

F. What kinds of places border your neighborhood or community? How do residents, landscape, religion, and occupations differ from where you live?

Work with students to decide how to illustrate and design this Community Story Map. Invite other classes and parents to view the map and have student docents describe the process of creating the map and the stories the map tells.

Have students complete the Things I've Learned Worksheet, then share responses with others in small groups.

9. A community or neighborhood walking tour is another good culminating activity. Students may design a brochure with their photos, text, and a map indicating special places and landmarks. They might also create an audio recording that takes the listener on a walking tour of a neighborhood, including sounds, interviews, traditional music, and student voice-overs.

10. See articles on Louisiana's Regional and Cultural Groups. 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. What stories have you read that express a strong sense of place? How do those places compare with yours? Write a paragraph or use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast.

2. What would you photograph to express your sense of place? If possible, take photographs and choose one or two to mount in an exhibit. The school visual art specialist may be able to help with mounting. One option is to make a drawing of your photograph and mount the photograph and the drawing side by side. If using a digital camera, mount an online exhibit of class photos.

3. Visit the River of Words website to view poetry and artwork about places by students around the world. Write and illusrate your own sense of place poem.


8th Grade Explorations and Extensions

1. William Faulkner set much of his fiction in the imaginary Yoknapatawpha County of Mississippi. Remember Christopher Robin's map that illustrates the inside covers of Winnie the Pooh books, or the importance of maps in The Lord of the Rings? Create a map illustrating the sense of place for a work of fiction you have read, including places where characters lived and events occurred, landmarks, boundaries, and so on (see The Language of the Land in Lesson Resources below). Such a conceptual map does not have to have exact boundaries but may be loosely represented like a web or diagram. Read about a Louisiana author's deep sense of place in Ernest J. Gaines: Louisiana Stories.

Technology Option: Use Inspiration software to make a conceptual map and include pictures, drawings, or downloaded images.

2. Read some of the Essays of Place, by Montana Heritage Project students in the Summer 1999 Montana Heritage Bulletin. Write a short essay comparing one of these western essays with a Louisiana sense of place essay written by you or one of your classmates in Step 6 above.

3. Research how a main street or highway in your region has changed over the years. Where do people shop and socialize today? Where did they gather in previous times? What do people in your community remember about a main shopping district in earlier days? If conducting significant fieldwork, review Unit II Classroom Applications of Fieldwork Basics. Make a class scrapbook of maps, photos, mementos, and interviews about the role of a particular street or highway in your community's memory and history.


Unit IV Resources

Unit IV Outline


National Endowment for
            the Arts.

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