Ishi, the last tribal American Indian – Rhinegold Publishing

Ishi, the last tribal American Indian


Of all the schemes I have taught over the last 15 years, this one remains my favourite for a number of reasons. I tend to teach it as the first scheme in Year 8 and students always seem to respond to and fall in love with the character of Ishi, such is the power of his story. It is easy enough to modify the scheme according to your school’s form of assessment, and it could also be adapted for Paper 1 of the Edexcel GCSE Drama course.

It develops students’ non-verbal skills and is therefore readily accessible to both the most and the least able students. I always use an accompanying soundtrack with the practical tasks, as this adds atmosphere and mood and encourages students to produce some really impressive work. The scheme itself can cover up to seven lessons but, for the purposes of this article, I have not divided it into distinct lessons, so as to allow you to work with the material as it best suits your students.

There is a plethora of information about Ishi available on the internet which, when I first developed this scheme during my PGCE, was not so readily accessible. Research over the last 15 years has allowed me to develop this scheme into something very personal and I would suggest that before embarking on it you take some time to learn something about Ishi and his story. As a teacher, he has been my greatest ally over the years and helped me ‘break in’ some rather difficult and disillusioned students.

Learning objectives:

  • To learn about the life of Ishi, the last tribal American Indian
  • To think empathetically and sympathetically 
  • To learn how to suspend disbelief
  • To develop and enhance non-verbal communication skills

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