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JMU Elementary Education Program

Courtney Williams
Elizabeth Packer, Clymore Elementary School
March 19 and 20, 2:00-2:45pm
Submitted: March 11, 2018

Sundiata: The Lion King of Mali and Poster Activity

This lesson will be taught towards the beginning of the unit, but not as an introductory lesson. This
lesson will be taught after students have already learned about the griot story-tellers of Mali, and about
the oral history they told. This lesson builds on that, as the book I will read to them is told in the style
of the griots, so it is a creative and appropriate way to teach the students about the history of Sundiata.
I also know that they have done similar activities to the poster activity in other classes (specifically
science), so they are familiar with the expectations and format. They also enjoyed that activity in
science class, which is why I decided to do something similar in Social Studies as well. I think this is a
good lesson to teach the topic because it begins with a good picture book that I think they will be
interested in, and then is hands on with the poster activity, which actively engages them with the
learning. This lesson is developmentally appropriate in accordance with Piaget’s theory of cognitive
development, because the students are constructing their own knowledge of what is important within
the story.
Huitt, W., & Hummel, J. (2003). Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Educational Psychology Interactive.
Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [4/25/2018]

Understand Know – what are the facts, rules, Do – what are the specific thinking
Students will understand that Mali specific data the students will gain behaviors students will be able to do
had great kings, one of which was through this lesson? (These “knows” through this lesson? (These will also
Sundiata. Students will understand must be assessed in your lesson.) be assessed in your lesson.)
what makes a great leader, and why Students will know that… Students will…
Sundiata was one. -Sundiata was born with significant -create a poster that highlights the
physical disabilities, but overcame most important facts of Sundiata’s
them as he grew older. life
-Sundiata’s brother got to be king,
and he was mean to Sundiata’s
family, so they fled.
-Sundiata was taken in by other
-Sundiata was called back to defeat
the evil sorcerer and win back Mali,
and he was successful.
-Sundiata was a kind, great ruler for
the rest of his life.

• At the beginning of the lesson, I will give students four categories to be taking notes on: Before Sundiata
was born/was a baby, Sundiata’s childhood, after his father died, and during and after the battle. Students will
be given a graphic organizer and will write in each category themselves. Then, during the story, they will write
important facts and details about each category. Good answers will include:
• Before Sundiata was born/when he was a baby: Father was the king of Mali; Mother was
crippled but had great wisdom and courage; Father’s first wife was jealous of Sundiata and his
mother; Sundiata was born with a disability that left him unable to walk or talk
• Childhood: Prophecy that Sundiata would be a great leader in time; Sundiata’s father gives
him his own griot who becomes his best friend; Sundiata is able to talk; Sundiata’s father makes
Sundiata his heir
• After his father dies: Sundiata is not made king, his step-brother is; Sundiata begins to walk;
Father’s first wife tries to tempt Sundiata into getting angry at some witches so they can kill him,
but he doesn’t and the witches say he has a kind heart; The woman sends Sundiata’s best friend
and griot away to the evil sorcerer’s kingdom; Sundiata, his mother, and the rest of their family
flee Mali because they are afraid of the king and his mother; They travel around, many people
will not give them a place to stay because they are afraid; Finally, the king Mema takes them in,
and sees that Sundiata is a good leader, so he makes Sundiata his heir, teaching him how to be a
king; Messengers from Mali come to Sundiata and ask him to come home to defend against the
evil sorcerer; His half-brother and his mother have ran away
• During and after the battle: The king of Mema gives Sundiata half of his army; Sundiata
stopped at every kingdom that had helped him and borrowed more soldiers; The armies fought
for a whole day; Sundiata’s griot comes and finds him; He gives Sundiata a special arrow that
will defeat the sorcerer; Sundiata goes and finds the sorcerer and shoots him with the arrow; The
sorcerer becomes a part of the cave and is never seen again; Sundiata becomes the king of Mali,
and the kings that helped him before become a part of his kingdom; Sundiata declares that
Malians will not interfere with each other’s lives, and that there is no place for hatred in Mali,
because everyone is welcome.
• At the beginning of the lesson, I will ask students to think about what makes a leader a great leader. I will
ask them to share 1 word that they think answers that question, and ask them to share. I will make a list of
these qualities on the board, and tell students to think about them as we are reading the story. Good
characteristics would include: Nice, brave, kind, generous, brave, strong, understanding, etc. Then, at the end
of the book, I will ask students what qualities from our original list were also seen in Sundiata. Characteristics
would include: Kind, brave, strong, patient, loyal, etc.
• After the discussion of the book and Sundiata, students will create a poster about why Sundiata was a great
king. They will have to include at least one detail from each category on the graphic organizer, as well as a
word from our great leader list. They will also draw one important event from the story, such as when he stood
up on his own, when he won the battle, or talking to Mali about hatred. This poster will clearly show why
Sundiata was a great leader.


VA History and Social Science SOL 3.2: The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing
its oral tradition (storytelling), government (kings), and economic development (trade).

Essential understandings: Mali was ruled by rich and powerful kings.

Essential questions: What do we know about the leaders of the empire of Mali?
Essential knowledge: The kings of Mali were rich and powerful men who controlled trade in West Africa. Mali
became one of the largest and wealthiest empires in the region and was an important trade center.
Essential skills: Collect and record information.

Wisniewski, D. (1992). Sundiata: lion king of Mali. New York: Clarion Books.
I will provide
Graphic organizer-I will provide
Pencils-students will bring to class
Large construction paper-I will provide
Crayons, colored pencils, markers, etc.-already in classroom
• Engage- I will have students come over to the carpet where I will sit in the chair, not showing the
book. I will ask students to think about what makes someone a great leader, whether that is a king,
principal, friend, etc. After letting them think for a few moments, I will ask them to share “one-word
characteristics about great leaders”. I will offer the example of “Kind” and write it on the white board.
I will have students share their words, too, encouraging everyone to share one word. If there are
repeats, I can put tally marks next to the word.
• Implementation of the lesson:
1. I will tell students that we are going to read a book about a great leader who has many of the
characteristics we have listed on the board. This leader was one of the great kings of Mali, named
Sundiata. We are going to read a book about Sundiata that is written like a griot would tell a story.
2. I will tell the students that later, we are going to make posters about Sundiata, so there are some things
they need to pay attention to in the story. I will pass out the graphic organizers and have them write our
categories together in each bubble.
3. I will read the book, stopping on pages 4, 8, and 18 to let students know that we are finished with each
section, and give them an opportunity to ask clarifying questions. “Okay, now we have finished the section
about before Sundiata was born, so you shouldn’t write anything else in that bubble. Does anyone have
any questions about what happened in this section?”
4. After the book is over and students have asked any questions that they have, I will ask them for examples
of times Sundiata displayed the same characteristics that we brainstormed together on the board at the
beginning. I will ask students for more examples that they can think of. Example: Sundiata was kind when
he helped the witches gather the herbs from his mother’s garden, even though they were stealing, instead
of getting mad at them.
5. I will give the students the following directions: “Now, you are going to make a poster about why Sundiata
was a great king. You need to either show in pictures or words at least one fact from each of the sections
from our graphic organizer, and draw a picture of one important event in the story. I will leave the book up
at the front if you want to come look at it again.” I will also write these directions on the board.
6. Students will go back to their seats and work on their posters while I walk around to monitor and answer
• Closure
I will ask for volunteers to share their posters. For the end, I will tell students “Next time you are in Social
Studies, you are going to learn about another important king of Mali, but don’t forget all of the things that
you put on your poster about the great king, Sundiata. You can keep your poster to help you remember,
but please turn in your graphic organizer on the back table before you leave.”

By having the book read aloud to the students, it will help the struggling readers and ELL students be able to
understand the information better than if they were reading it to themselves. I also tried to keep my ELL
students in mind when planning the poster part of the activity, which is why I am going to let them draw
pictures to show their facts if they want, instead of making them write the facts. I also will not make them
write complete sentences on their graphic organizers. Students who finish early can add more facts, details,
color, etc. to their posters until it is time to share. If students are struggling with the graphic organizer portion,
I can offer to let them work in groups or pairs instead of working individually.

Students could say they didn’t hear any facts during the story, so I will direct them back to the book at the
front of the room. Students could be talkative during the story, so I will remind them that we are doing the
poster after the story so they need to pay attention.
J. Graphic organizer on next page:


Sundiata: The Lion King of Mali

1. Before Sundiata was 2. Childhood:
born/when he was a
3. After Sundiata’s 4.During and after the
father dies: battle:
C) Sundiata was the first king to unite all of the ancient empire of Mali in West Africa. Everything we
know about him is based on the oral tradition of stories being passed down by the griots (or storytellers) and
the oral tradition found in Africa, therefore not much is known concretely. When he was born, he was sickly
and crippled, so many people wrote him off as not being fit to rule. He became a leader of a nearby village,
and when he was ready, he decided to challenge a neighboring ruler named Sumanguru. He defeated him and
his people, and created the empire of Mali. He extended his control over vast parts of Africa and was known
as a successful and beloved ruler.
The most important understandings of this topic are those listed above, especially the fact that
Sundiata was the great king who united Mali. The SOL doesn’t even list Sundiata by name, just states that
students will learn about the ancient kingdom of Mali, so you could really go anywhere with this topic, but
that is where my teacher wanted me to take it. There are other details listed in the picture book that she
wanted me to use, but they are not necessarily facts, but the interpretation listed in the story.

Sundiata Keita (n.d.). In Encyclopedia Britannica online. Retrieved from

D) The assessment I had my students do showed me that they understood the main points of the story
well, but they could have used more direction. They did understand that Sundiata was the king that united
Mali, and that he was renowned as a great king. I also think that, based on our discussion, they understood
what being a “great” leader is. Moving forward, I think they have a handle on the Sundiata part of Mali, and
are ready to move onto the next leader. This is in alignment with how Mrs. Packer structures the unit, and
she had planned to have Nikki teach the next lesson the next day on a new topic. I think that having the
posters they created around the room to keep it in their minds, and then come back to it in the study guide
before the test.

E) VA History and Social Science SOL 3.2: The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by
describing its oral tradition (storytelling), government (kings), and economic development (trade).

As you can see, the Virginia SOLs don’t even mention Sundiata by name. Because of this, the teachers are left to
interpret them on their own. In Augusta County, it has been determined that students will learn about two different
kings of Mali, including Sundiata, and what his major accomplishments were. I feel like it is important for students to
make the connection between the oral tradition (storytelling) and government (kings), so I used the picture book that I
did because it is written in the style of the griots (storytellers). This was also in alignment with what Mrs. Packer
suggested I do, so I knew it was going in the correct direction. I tied this lesson to social understanding, because not
only did I have the students learn key facts, we also had extensive discussion about what makes a leader great, and
what characteristics Sundiata displayed that made him fall into this category. They had to give specific examples from
the story, and they also talked about other leaders that could be considered great.

G) Originally when we met, we came up with the idea of having the students create a video timeline. While I really
loved that idea, I was worried about time, and my CT agreed that since the students have never used that technology
and were not used to that kind of thing, it would not be possible in the time. In a perfect world, I would have spread out
the lesson over 2 days, but because I was not teaching in my own classroom, and Nikki also had to teach Social Studies
during immersion week, it was not possible to split it up. Therefore, I came up with the idea of the students creating
the posters. They were still creating something, and I have seen them do similar activities in science and really enjoyed
it, so I thought that could be applicable here as well.
I liked this activity because it was student centered. I helped facilitate the discussion about leaders, but it was
their discussion, I did not participate. I also wanted them to have complete creative control over the poster, so they
would be able to create something that was meaningful to them. If I were teaching this lesson in the future, I would
give it more time, like I said before, to have the students create the videos, because I think they would be even more
excited and engaged about the technology. I do think that my procedures aligned with my objectives and assessments.

H) This experience made me think of myself as a teacher differently because it showed me that sometimes you have
really good ideas, but not enough time to fully execute them. If your school mandates how much time you spend on
each subject every day, you are constantly restricted by time. You may have to decide how much time to devote to
reading vs. writing, or social studies vs. science. Because of these choices (made by you or others), you will have to
modify your lessons beyond what you know they have the potential to be. This is something I am slightly worried
about, but I also see how students can learn successfully even when you have to settle for a lesson that isn’t your first
idea. My kids really enjoyed this lesson and learned what they needed to, and that is what’s important in the end.
As a social studies teacher specifically, this lesson showed me that even the little things that aren’t made a
huge deal by the SOLs can be interesting and worthwhile to dive deeper into. Students also were more active and
engaged than they normally are, because they were working with hands on ways to create a product they were proud
of. Normally, they do a lot of worksheets and whole group activities, so the idea that they would be working
independently or with a partner was exciting. They also enjoyed looking at the other posters around them, and were
proud to show theirs off to others. The classroom atmosphere was different, and felt like what I want to create in my
future classroom.