Chapter 2: The First Night

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Rich Foster, 4th Grade Teacher, Rose Warren Empowerment School, Clark County School District


Chapter Overview: The first night out begins on the trail westward. The family talks of how they made Grandma "cozy" in her palace car. A newspaper editor is going to write about the happenings along the way. When they stop just outside of Springfield, they make a huge campfire and sing songs and tell stories about California and all its beauty. The atmosphere is full of excitement about their journey.

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts

Role Playing

On the first night out the family camped just a few miles outside of Springfield. The students will form circles and make a pretend campfire. They will make up stories about what they think they will encounter on their journey.

Standards Addressed

-10.4.2 Ask and answer questions with relevant details to clarify ideas

-9.4.3 Give organized presentations that demonstrate and clarify

Different Perspective Activity

TSW write a paper taking on the perspective of an object in the covered wagon. This object will take on a life just like Patty Reed's doll. It must show emotion and response to all the happeningson the journey.

Standards Addressed

-3.4.2 Make inferences about character traits; make prediictions about conflicts and resolutions

-6.4.2 Organize ideas through activities that require sequencing and classifying skills

  • Mathematics

Tracking Distances

Students will use a map of the journey with mile markers on the trail provided to them by the teacher. They must predict how far they will go traveling through different terrain. TSW be given a key that explains the correlation of terrain to miles travelled. Example: Plains-10 miles a day, mountains -2 miles a day, river crossing- 3 miles a day, mud-4 miles a day.

Standards Addressed

-3.4.2 Measure length

-1.4.7 Add and subtract multi-digit numbers

Elapsed Time

TSW use a clock to calculate the elapsed time per 1/4 mile, 1/2 mile, and full mile. An enrichment activity would be to calculate speed over the differnt terrains. TSW would be teacher guided through this activity. They would create a bar graph representing the data collected.

Standards Addressed

-5.4.3 Interpret data

-3.4.6 Use elapsed time

  • Social Studies

Geographical mapping

Students will map out a route westward using the map in the book. They will use a compass rose and label major topographical features. Then, they will hold discussions describing lush grasses, rivers, mountains.

Standards Addressed

-4.3.1 Idenify and use a compass rose to locate places on a map

-4.3.9 Locate major rivers and mountains in the US

Indian Tribes

TSW use a historical map of the US around 1800-1860 locating and researching Indian tribes. They'll use library books and the internet finding facts about the Cheerokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole communities in the early to mid 1800's.

Standards Addressed

-(4) 4.4 Desribing experiences of pioneers moving west

- 4.3.3 Gather geographic information from electronic sources

  • Science


Using the map from the social studies lesson, students will explain why climate played such an important role to the journey. TSW describe the differnet weather and differnt elevations explaining the weather cycle. They will the internet, farmer's almanc and books to research climate in the differnet ares of the country.

Standards Addressed

-4.3.2 Investigate and desribe the water cycle, including the role of the sun

-N5A3 Draw conclusions from scientific evidence( the Farmer's Almanac)

Plants and Food

They will identify which plants will grow in different regions. TSW research the plats to find out which types are edible and which types to avoid. Students must keep in mind the time of year the journey began and how long they traveled because certain plants grow at different times of the year.

-11.4.4:Organize and record information

-4.1.2 Use science notebooks to justify descriptions and explanations

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Using books from the library and those provided by the module, students will read to understand different pioneers of that time. Students can play the computer game: Oregon Trail to see what it was like to take the journey. Students can use the Little House series, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Sally Fox: Story of a Pioneer Girl, Lewis and Clark Expedition, The Coast Mappers, and If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon .
The historical content of this time is from the end of the American Revolution to the Civil War in 1860. Some of the content the teacher can cover: the government land sales policy, acquiring territory in the Southwest and Northwest, government policy of removing the Indians from the east to the west of the Mississippi, and the Louisiana Purchase. All the events encountered through expansion was difficult and demanding. Through the will and determination of the American Pioneer, they were successful in forging a path to making the most powerful nation in the world.

1 comment:

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

I really like the idea of having students pretend they are around a campfire considering what they will experience on the trail. It would be fun to simulate the experience with additional elements such as turning off the lights and sitting around a fake fire. They could eat s'mores.

Are the numbers you provided in the Tracking Distances activity the actual numbers you would expect pioneers to travel? If so, where did you acquire these numbers? I would love to link them from the module website!

What a great idea to use a period map to identify information about the native tribes! It might be a good exercise to look at a contemporary map of tribal locations and ask students why the locations and sizes of the nations are so different than 200 years ago.