Chapter 19: Sutter's Fort

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Robert Mitchell and Christine Anderson, 5th grade teacher, Thompson Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview:

The Reed family arrives in Sacramento at Fort Sutter. Their entire family is reunited. Mrs. Reed discovers Patty’s doll and is happy that Patty had a “friend” with her. The doll discusses how she stayed with Patty for the rest of her days and looks back at all they have gone through.

Chapter Themes:


Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1 Biography
      • Students will research and write a biography about one of the people from the story. Students will present the biography as the character they researched.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.4.1 Write informative papers with clear focus using a variety of sources.
        • 9.4.3 Give organized presentations that demonstrate a clear viewpoint.
    • Activity Idea 2 Foldable
      • Students will create a 3-part foldable where they choose and defend the most heroic person in the story, the biggest mistake made by the family, and the best decision made by the family.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.4.2 Make inferences about character trains; make predictions about conflicts and resolutions.
        • 2.4.3 Apply strategies of summarizing, paraphrasing, and drawing conclusions to aid comprehension.
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1 Packing the Wagons
      • Students will be given a list of supplies available to pioneers traveling West as well as a weight limit for the wagon. Students must decide which items and how many of each to take to ensure their survival on the journey. Wagons should come as close as possible to the maximum weight limit without going over.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.4.8 Generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers in practical situations.
        • 1.4.7 Multiply and divide multi-digit numbers by one-digit whole numbers with regrouping, including monetary amounts as decimals.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title
      • Given a budget, students must determine the cost of the items they packed into their wagon.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.4.4 Determine totals for monetary amounts in practical situations.
        • 3.4.4 Use money notations to add and subtract given monetary amounts.
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1 Timeline
      • Students will create a timeline of the major events from the story Patty Reed’s Doll.

      • Standards Addressed

        • 4.4.1 Record events on a graphic organizer, such as a calendar or timeline.
        • 3.4.14 Create timelines that show people and events in sequence using days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries.
    • Activity Idea 2 Publishing the Timelines
      • Students will publish their timelines, adding appropriate clip-art for the events listed, using Inspirations software
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.4.1 Record events on a graphic organizer, such as a calendar or timeline.
        • 3.4.14 Create timelines that show people and events in sequence using days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries.
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1 Pioneer Journal
      • In a science journal, students will sketch the plants and animals they saw on their journey West and describe them in detail.
      • Standards Addressed
        • N.5.A.1 Explain how science notebook entries can be used to develop, communicate, and justify explanations and predictions.
        • 4.1.3 Create and use labeled illustrations, graphs, and charts to convey ideas, record observations, and make predictions.
    • Activity Idea 2 1800's Technology
      • Students will choose what they considered to be the most important piece of technology from the 1800s. After researching the technology, students will create an advertisement for that piece of technology, including a description and an illustration.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.1.9 Compare the advantages and disadvantages of using technology.
        • 4.4.4 Draw conclusions about text and support them with evidence.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

As the surviving members of the Donner Party were rescued, news of the tragedy spread like wildfire through the entire country. Every diary entry and interview with anyone who seemed to know anything about the ordeal was published for eager audiences to read. Despite the gruesome details that arose, most of the survivors were accepted into the population of California and went on to have long, successful lives. Out of the 87 members of the Donner Party only 46 of them survived.

Patty Reed's entire family survived the Donner Party disaster. Patty's father, James, settled his family in the town of San Jose where he made his money from real estate and gold. Patty went on to share her memories with many different writers. She managed to save many family documents and artifacts, among which was her doll. Later, in 1946, these items were donated to Sutter's Fort. On Christmas Day 1856, Patty married a man named Frank Lewis. Mr. Lewis died in 1876, leaving Patty with several children to raise. She was able to support her family by running a boarding house in Santa Cruz. She was 93 years old when she died.

After news of the Donner Party spread, Hastings cut-off was abandoned. Emigration to California decreased until gold was discovered in Sutter's Creek. By 1849 people were flocking to California to find their fortune in gold. Many of these "forty-niners" dug through dirt and sifted through the streams very near where the Donners, Reeds, Breens and Graves had suffered that fateful winter. As time went on, more and more people used the Donner Pass and the lake eventually became a tourist attraction. Gradually the Donner Party story became just another part of history.

Additional Resources

  • The Perilous Journey of the Donner Party by Marian Calabro


Donelle said...

I like your idea in the Language arts section about voting an MVP and doing a foldable about it. I also like the idea about making a commercial for the 1800's technology which brings the students to blooms higher level thinking. On your activity for publishing your timelines...Kid Picks is a great program and easy for children to maneuver around.

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

I like your ideas, but feel many of your math and science activities would be better suited to earlier in the book or could be done as projects throughout the book.

I really like the idea of the foldable and time line at the end of the book. Though these could happen earlier in the book (especially the time line), situating the lesson here requires they distinguish important from relatively less important events. Perhaps they could keep a time line throughout their reading and then narrow their time line down to ten of the most important events from the story after they finish reading. They could use Tom Snyder's TimeLiner to develop their final products and then have students debate about why some chose certain events and other students chose others.