Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

The Spiro Mounds Builders

Oklahoma History

Chelsee Wilson | Published: November 11th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course Oklahoma History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 120 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 class period(s)


This lesson focuses on the accomplishments and culture of the Spiro Mounds builders and their impact on Oklahoma history. Students will take notes as they watch an interview with a Spiro Mounds archaeologist and read about pre-contact cultures before completing a Two-Minute Paper to summarize what they've learned.

Essential Question(s)

What are the significant symbols and icons of civilizations/cultures? How can we know about the past if we were not there? 



Students participate in an Always, Sometimes, or Never True activity to assess prior knowledge.


Students watch a short video about the Spiro Mounds while working on a graphic organizer.


Students read articles about pre-contact cultures and finish their graphic organizer.


Students write a Two-Minute Paper using their knowledge of pre-contact cultures.


Students re-evaluate and revise their Always, Sometimes, or Never True responses.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Always, Sometimes, or Never True handout (attached, one per student)

  • GRAPES graphic organizer (attached, one per student)

  • Internet access (to view the Jigsaw documents linked below)

  • Paper

  • Pens/pencils

  • Dry erase markers (optional)

  • Dry erase pockets (optional)


Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the instruction. Display slide 5 and tell students that they are going to participate in an Always, Sometimes, or Never True activity to analyze some statements about indigenous, pre-contact cultures in Oklahoma.

Pass out the Always, Sometimes, or Never True handouts to students and ask them to mark each statement as always, sometimes, or never true. Next to each designation, students should write a short reason for their decision. Once students have labeled and justified each statement, have them discuss their reasoning with an Elbow Partner. Then, ask for 2–3 volunteers to share out their thoughts for each statement with the whole class.


Display slide 6 and pass out a copy of the GRAPES Graphic Organizer to each student. They can use this handout to organize the information about a civilization into six major areas of focus. Some questions associated with each area are listed below, but students are not limited to just these questions.

  • Geography—Where was the civilization located? What were/are the major geographic features of the region?

  • Religion—Was the civilization polytheistic or monotheistic? Who or what did they worship? What were their places of worship called?

  • Arts—What kinds of items did they create? Were there common themes?

  • Politics—Who ruled? Were there key political figures?

  • Economics—Did the civilization trade with others? What did they trade? Did they pay taxes?

  • Social—Was there a hierarchy? How did members of the civilization interact with one another?

Move to slide 7. Have students watch an Oklahoma News Report video about the Spiro Mounds: “OETA Story on Highway 9: Spiro Mounds.”

As students watch and listen to the archaeologist in the video, have them add relevant information about the Spiro Mounds to their GRAPES handouts.

After the video ends, ask students to share out any particularly interesting information from the video and explain how and why they categorized that information on their GRAPES handouts.


Display slide 8. Ask students to keep their GRAPES handouts with them as you arrange them into groups of four and assign each group member a number from 1 to 4.

Direct students to the readings in the Jigsaw Documents attachment and lead a Jigsaw learning activity. Each student is responsible for becoming an expert on one of the documents in the packet, based on their assigned number.

  1. Spiro Mounts Hold Mystery by Bonnie Spears (The Oklahoman)

  2. Spiro Mounds Excavations Visits To Resume in Eastern Oklahoma by Max Nichols (The Oklahoman)

  3. The Treasure of the Spiro Mounds by M.J. Alexander (405 Magazine)

  4. Spiro Started Upward Spiral in 700 A.D. by Teddye Snell (Tahlequah Daily Press)

As students read their assigned documents, ask them to add information that fits into the six categories of the GRAPES handouts. On the back of their GRAPES handouts, ask them to write down a brief summary of their article.

When students have completed reading and writing their summaries, display slide 9 and have them summarize their document and highlight any important information to other members of their group. As one group member shares out, the rest of the members should be writing down that information in their handouts.

When all students have shared out with group members, ask students to share out the important information they found in the articles with the whole class, and go over the GRAPES responses to ensure that all groups found the key information.


Ask students to get out a blank sheet of paper. Show slide 10 and read the prompt: "Why is it important to preserve historical sites such as the Spiro Mounds?" or "What can we learn from the preservation of pre-contact cultures like that found at the Spiro Mounds?" Students will write a Two-Minute Paper responding to this prompt.


Display slide 11 and ask students to return to their Always, Sometimes, or Never True handouts from the beginning of the lesson. Tell students to review their original labels and make any changes they deem necessary to their labels or their reasoning. Allow students to share out their changes to the class.

Have students turn in their GRAPES handouts and/or their Two-Minute Papers for a formative assessment.