Chapter 7: On the Banks of the Big Blue

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Eva Brown, 4 grade teacher, M.J. Christensen Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: Even though this is an extremely short chapter, there are lots of themes you can choose from. One theme that was quite common in the westward movement, but not often talked about is tragedy and death. In this chapter we see that the grandmother dies and the family most learn to accept this and continue on with their plan. We also learn of other hardships such as the weather and crossing rivers. We learn that the weather played an important role for the pioneers, it often made a difference on when and how far they could travel. And, if the weather was not a problem, they had to cross a few rivers to get to their destination. The major problem with the rivers was not always being able to take all of your stuff with you because of the weight, therefore, it was not uncommon to see supplies and household goods left on the banks. The Reed family was lucky, they were able to get most of their things across the Platte River that would have helped them when they reached Orgeon.

Chapter Themes: Tragedy, Weather, Crossing Rivers

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1 Predictions
      • Description: Students will use title and previous knowledge of story to make a prediction about this chapter. Students will record prediction in jounal and visit at the end of the chapter to confirm prediction
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 3.4.2- Make inferences about character traits; make predictions about conflict and resolutions
        • Standard 2 : 4.4.2- Identify and compare main ideas and important concepts of text.
    • Activity Idea 2: Haiku Poem
      • Description: After reading chapter, CW discuss feelings and any knowledge of death as well as people they know they may have died. T/SW create a circle map based on feelings about death and dying. TW review what a Haiku is and students will use words from circle map to create a Haiku poem to express their feelings about the grandmother in the story (or someone they know) who has died
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 6.4.3- create one-paragraph composition with main idea and supporting details.
        • Standard 2: 5.4.1- write informative papers with a clear focus using a variety of sources
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1: Elapsed time
      • Description: Students will determine how much time has passed since the beginning of the trip to the time grandmother died. SW begin at the beginning of the book to find out when the trip started; create a word problem that ask how much time has passed. SW then exchange their word problems with other class members for them to solve.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 1.4.8- generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers in practical situations
        • Standard 2: 3.4.6- use elapsed time
    • Activity Idea 2: Mode, median, mean
      • Description: SW have to research prior chapters to determine how many miles the wagon trains traveled up to reaching the Valley of the Platte and record information, the they will take the information to figure out the mode (number of miles that occurred the most) mean (average number of miles travel over that period of time) median (number of miles in a set of data)
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 1.4.8- generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers in practical situations
        • Standard 2: 1.4.3read, write, compare, and order whole numbers
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1: The women’s role
      • Description: Women played an important role in the movement west, after reading this chapter and the previous chapters, the students will be able to determine the role of women on the trail. The teacher will display historical documents of women on the trail and SW tell what they think each picture means. TW read parts of "A Place to Grow" so that students can actually hear the role women played in the movement. Then they will compare and contrast the role of women back then to the role of women today
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 4.4 describe experiences of pioneers moving west
        • Standard 2: 4.12 read historical passages and interpret details
    • Activity Idea 2: Make a model of rivers along the different trails, including Big Blue
      • Description: SW research on the internet different rivers in the US that pioneers had to cross and create and label a physical map using clay, they can access ,
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: (4) 3.3 gather geographic information from electronic sources
        • Standard 2: (4) 3.9 locate and name major rivers on a map of the United States
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1: Graphing sickness and diseases on the trail
      • Description: TW read If you Traveled West in a Covered Wagon, and Across the Plains With the Donner Party SW research the most common diseases people traveling on the trails may have gotten and create an excel graph listing diseases and number of cases
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: (4) 4.13 Identify important resources for historical information
        • Standard 2: (4) 2.5 use a variety of media and technology resources for directed and independent learning
    • Activity Idea 2: Weather/Clouds
      • Description: Weather played an important role in the movement. Often times, the rain would slow down the trip and the wagon trails would have to stop. In this chapter it talks about how the weather slowed down the party, students will learn that rain comes from different types of clouds, using this information and researching clouds SWBT make a flip book on the different types of clouds, after researching clouds. Students should then be able to determine which types of clouds must have caused the amount of rain the Reed’s encountered that prevented them from traveling and the river levels to rise.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: (4) 3.1 investigate and describe the water cycle, including the role of clouds
        • Standard 2: (4) 3.4 investigate and explain that water can be a liquid, a gas, or a solid and can go back and forth from one form to another
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Families usually began their journey at Independence, Missouri near the Missouri River. The journey in a covered wagon took six months, following a winding 2,000 mile trail through prairies, deserts, and across mountains to the Pacific Northwest. The journey was a severe test of strength and endurance. Settlers often had to cross flooded rivers. Indians attacked the wagon trains; however, an issue that is rarely discussed in most stories of the westward expansion is "death". It has been written that there were about 10,000 deaths that occurred from this movement, of which, only 4 percent resulted from Indian attacks. The most common causes of death were Cholera, smallpox, and firearms that went off accidentally. The Donner and Reed parties witnessed their share of death from the beginning when the grandmother died. Little did they know many more deaths were to follow, especially since they went on a different trail that would lead to the end of the Donner Party. There is so much that can be discussed in this book that the Donner party and many other pioneers went through, on the movement towards the west, such as: poor judgment, sacrifice, struggle for survival, listening to the advice of others and simply back luck. The pioneers ran into many problems as they traveled west, and death was just one of them
Additional Resources

1 comment:

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

Death and dying is a very sensitive subject. I recommend you have the counselor involved in this activity and that if you have any children who have experienced deaths of family members that you avoid this lesson altogether. Children certainly need to learn about death and dying, but the elementary level is quite young, particularly if a child is still moving through the grief process.

Great idea to bring in "A Place to Grow." This introduces adult non-fiction historical literature in a meaningful, connected way.