Chapter 10: The Rocky Mountains

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Donelle Stevens, 4th grade teacher, MJ Christensen Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: This chapter has the party going over the continental divide and choosing whether to stay on the Oregon Trail or to take the Hasting's cutoff.

Chapter Themes: Continental Divide, measurement, writing letters home

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Write a letter home
      • Students will be writing a letter home to their best friends that they left behind.
      • SW write organized friendly letters, formal letters, thank you letters, and invitations in an appropriate format for a specific audience and purpose.; SW use the analytic writing traits: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions
        • (4) 5.3
        • (4) 6.2
    • Flip books
      • Students will make a flip book to compare and contrast the Hastings cutoff with the Oregon Trail
      • SW use information to comprehend text: titles, table of contents, chapter headings, glossaries, indexes, appendixes, diagrams, charts, maps. SW use the writing process: pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing, publishing
        • (4) 4.1
        • (4) 5.8
  • Mathematics
    • Just how far is it?
      • Students will take their findings from the Social Studies (ie: being the distances of the Hasting's cutoff and the Oregon trail from their current point in the story) and figure out how long it would be in miles, feet, inches, meters, kilometers, and yards.
      • SW measure, compare, and convert length in inches, feet, yards, and miles to the nearest fractional part. SW measure compare and convert length in metric units.
        • (4) 3.3
        • (4) 3.4
    • How long does it take?
      • Using their distance information, students will go out and run/walk a mile and time themselves. Students will need to stay in their teams. Students will then calculate how long it would take to walk certain distances along the trail or how long the same trip would have taken them.
      • SW use elapsed time in quarter-hour increments, beginning on the quarter-hour, to determine start, end, and elapsed time. SW recognize the number of weeks in a year, days in a year , and days in a month.
        • (4) 3.9
        • (4) 3.10
  • Social Studies
    • What's that Landmark?
      • Students will make a game about the different landmarks that the party encountered on their journey.
      • SW incorporate a visual display into a report about a geographic topic. SW locate and summarize geographic information from a variety of geographic sources.
        • (4) 3.43
        • (4) 3.42
    • How far?
      • Students will use a map and string to figure out the difference between the two routes.
      • SW evaluate geographic information and select a method for display. SW use scales on maps to determine distances portrayed.
        • (4) 3.41
        • (4) 3.45
  • Science
    • Where does it lead?
      • Students will look at maps of the US and discover which way rivers would flow.
      • SW identify observable patterns to organize items and ideas and make predictions. SW understand that features on the Earth's surface are constantly changed by a combination of slow and rapid processes.
        • (4) 1.7
        • E5C
    • Physical maps of clay
      • Students will chose which trail they would take and design a physical map with clay marking the route with string.
      • SW understand the relationship between the Earth's atmosphere, topography, weather, and climate. SW compare their model with what it represents.
        • E8A
        • (4) 1.7
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

The Continental Divide is the major crest of our continent that divides the way the water flows also known as a 'watershed'. This crest runs along the top of the Rocky Mountains from Alaska clear down to the Mexican border in New Mexico. Any rivers on the west side of the Rocky Mountains flows to the Pacific Ocean. Any rivers to the east side of the Rocky Mountains flows to the Hudson River, Atlantic Ocean, or the Mississippi River. The Rocky Mountains made westward expansion nearly impossible for the weary pioneers. Glacier, Yellowstone, and the Rocky Mountain National parks are all located within the Continental Divide.

Additional Resources



Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

I like the flip book comparison idea between the two trails. How will you prepare the students and where will they gather the research needed to adequately describe both options?

What a terrific idea to have students time themselves as they walk and run. This would be a nice activity to do during physical activity week (if your school has one), or an activity with which you could collaborate with the PE teacher. You could also bring in the science of muscles and health. Could they walk faster or slower considering they were used to walking everywhere and considering they were carrying so much. It might also be nice to bring in the type of clothing they were wearing, the weather, and a discussion of whether the land was level, at a gradient, or rocky/covered with difficult to pass debris.

Franks said...

I like the math idea of measurement. It is a meaningful/purposeful way to teach or re-teach the concept of converting distances. It is a hard concept for fourth graders to comprehend/retain for metric and customary forms of measurement. You found a great way to extent the activity for teach the concept through movement :)