Fifth Grade - Literature - Overview - February

The story part of the Literature curriculum this month is intended to complement the study within American History of westward expansion. Though the title suggested for this is Little House on the Prairie, students may already know much about it from the Fourth Grade. If this is the case, several other suitable novels have been suggested, and the activities will lend themselves to most of these other titles as noted. Excerpts could be read to the class from most of the suggested books if a class set is unavailable, or if only several copies can be obtained, students could read assigned portions in small groups. Whatever title is used, through the activities students should have the opportunity to explore life as a pioneer heading west, and should contrast it to modern life. The novels also allow students to reflect on the character traits of the story's characters, and of those found in general, in pioneers.

Three lessons are based on sayings or phrases. Students will discuss the saying, Sit on the fence as it applies to the media and unbiased reporting. After listening to a tale in which the Greek phrase Eureka! is used in context, students will infer its meaning in English. Students will create original phrases that mean the same as the phrase, Till the cows come home.

Four lessons are tasks written in a performance assessment format. They use poetry and prose as reading material. Task 1 takes its title from the Langston Hughes poem "I, Too." Students are asked to compare and contrast "I, Too" with the Arnold Adoff poem "If They Hate Me." Task 2, "I Hear America Singing" is based on the Walt Whitman poem of the same title. Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem, "The Snow-storm" is used as reading material for Task 3. Task 4, "Take the Bull by the Horns" uses an excerpt from the James A. Michener novel about bullfighting in Spain, Miracle in Seville. All tasks include writing exercises. Students are prompted to write to persuade in Tasks 1 and 4, to express personal ideas in Task 2, and to inform in Task 3. The tasks do not have to be used in any particular order. All tasks contain a Student Response Booklet, an Examiner's Manual, and a Student Resource Materials Book.

Fifth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Till the Cows Come Home
Write a phrase that means the same as Till the cows come home.

Text of the phrase Till the cows come home on sentence strip or on chart paper

Suggested Books
Teacher Reference
Hirsch, E. D. Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Teacher Background
Till the cows come home means a very long time. In this lesson, students will work in pairs to create phrases that mean a very long time and use these phrases in sentences.

Ask the students: What is the home of a cow? (barn) Explain that a barn is a shed, some sort of shelter for animals. Ask: Where would a cow spend most of the day? (in the field, grazing) Tell students that after a long day, cows are brought in to the barn to pass the night. In this way, they can be protected from the cold or rain.

Present the phrase Till the cows come home orally and in writing on sentence strip or on the board, and ask the students if they have ever heard that phrase used and what it means. Tell students that this phrase means "a very long time." Offer an example of the phrase used in context e.g. You may weep till the cows come home but the train has left and there is nothing you can do about it anymore.

Ask the students to recall any phrase that they might know which means the same thing as Till the cows come home. Allow two minutes for students to think and write, then invite students to read what they have found to the entire class. Write the contributions on the board or on chart paper. They may include "till it snows in July," and "till you're blue in the face."

Next, place the students in pairs and ask them to create at least three of their own phrases that mean the same as Till the cows come home. Tell the students they must use each phrase in a sentence so that the meaning can be understood by reading that sentence. Explain that these sentences must not be definitions but explain what the phrase means. Ask students to be original and funny in creating. Explain to students that their writing may one day be passed down to future generations of speakers of English. Tell the students that they have ten minutes to work.

After ten minutes, ask students to submit their writing to the entire class along with the sentences in which they are used. Write the phrases on chart paper or on the board. Be generous with praise and entertain their work until time has run out or until every new phrase has been read aloud to the class. Tell students that one day, students in English classes may study the phrases they have created just as they have discussed the phrase Till the cows come home. Finally, tell students they can retain their phrases and use them in their creative writing including poems, stories, and plays. Explain to students that writing original phrases is one way of passing them down to future generations. Remind students that they may use their phrases in conversation where they can observe the effects they have on people.

Fifth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Eureka!
Listen to brief account and infer the meaning of the Greek word "Eureka!" used in context.

Text of the account "Eureka!," attached

Suggested Books
Teacher Reference
Hirsch, E. D., Jr,. ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
________. What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know. New York: Dell, 1993.

Teacher Background

Eureka is a Greek word. Its English equivalent, "I have found it" is associated with the story of Archimedes who used the saying to proclaim that he had found a way to prove that King Hiero's crown was not made of pure gold. A version of this story is told in What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know. This lesson is based on that version of the story.


Ask the students if they have ever heard the saying Eureka! and whether they know what it means. (If they do know, you may explain how the story came to be associated with the Greek mathematician, Archimedes.) Write the saying on the board or on sentence strip. If the saying is new to the students, tell them that in this lesson, they will get its meaning by listening to a brief account of a famous mathematician using that saying. Tell the students that when they have found what the saying means, they will respond by saying "I have found it!" Recount the following.


Say: King Hiero of ancient Greece had just bought from a craftsman a crown which its maker claimed to be of the purest gold. The wise old king suspected otherwise.

Ask: What did the king suspect? (the crown was not pure gold)

Say: But how was King Hiero to prove this? He called on Archimedes, a great mathematician to solve the problem, saying "Is my crown of the purest gold or is it mixed with silver?" Archimed-es thought long and hard and said, "Your Majesty, I have no way of knowing." King Hiero dismissed Archimedes, saying, "I will summon you to the palace once a week till I have an answer, my dear Archimedes. Give it your every waking thought." Week after week, the king asked Archimedes, "Have you found the answer to my question?" Archimedes would say, "I have not found it."

Say: Then one day, while taking a bath, Archimedes noticed that his body had displaced water from the tub. A brilliant idea came to his mind. He knew that silver was lighter than gold, which meant it would take more than one cup of silver to weigh the same as one cup of gold. If silver had been mixed into the crown, it would have more cups of metal than the same weight of pure gold would have. I'll fill up a bucket of water right up to the brim, he said to himself. Next, I'll drop the king's new crown in the bucket. He won't mind it getting wet, I am sure. The number of cupfuls of water that spills out should be no more, no less than the number of cupfuls of metal in that crown. Then, I'll go to the goldsmith and have him smelt the same weight in gold as he used in that crown and drop it in that bucket of water. I'll compare the two amounts. If King Hiero's crown pushes out more water than the same weight of pure gold did, then King Hiero's crown is not made of pure gold. But if that crown pushes out exactly the same amount of water as pure gold did, then King Hiero's crown shall have been made of the purest gold. At the thought of this, and even before he performed the experiment, Archimedes grew so excited he had solved the problem, that forgetting he wore only his birthday suit, he rushed out of the tub, ran into the streets, and dashed towards the palace. This time when the king asked, "Have you found the answer to my question?" Archimedes cried in his native Greek tongue, "Eureka! Eureka!"

Ask: What does Eureka! mean? (I have found it.)

Emphasize to students that Eureka means, "I have found it," and that Archimedes is a historical figure they can read about in an encyclopedia. Tell the students that when Archimedes carried out his experiment he found out that the king's crown pushed aside more water than an equal weight of gold did, which meant that the crown had been mixed with silver and the king had been cheated.

Fifth Grade - Literature - Sayings and Phrases - Sit on the Fence


Discuss the saying Sit on the fence as it applies to the news media.


Text of the saying Sit on the fence on sentence strip or on the board

Suggested Books

Teacher Reference

Hirsch, E. D. Jr., ed. What Your 5th Grader Needs to Know. New York: Doubleday, 1993.

Teacher Background

Sit on the fence means not taking sides.


Remind students that in a prior Literature lesson, they met the word "fence" in a saying. Ask: What was that saying? (The grass is much greener on the other side of the fence.) Ask: How many sides are there to a fence? (two) Tell students that often, there are just as many sides to a story; two.

Tell students that we should suspend our judgement at least until we hear two sides of a story. Explain that by suspending judgment, we take no sides at all, neither for, nor against anyone. Tell students that when we are not committed to any side, we are sitting on the fence. Emphasize that sitting on the fence does not mean taking both sides of one issue. Bias is the opposite of sitting on the fence. It means prejudice. Remind students that sitting on the fence means being neutral or not taking sides at all.

Explain that there are professions whose business it is to sit on the fence while carrying out their duty. Ask: Can you name professionals that should not take sides in the course of their work? (news reporters) Explain that news reporters should report the news as it happened. Ask: In your opinion, do news people (television, radio, press) sit on the fence on issues they report? (Answers may vary.) Ask students to relate incidents which in their view were not reported by journalists who were sitting on the fence. Be careful to stress to students that there are sections of the media, such as editorials, that are not meant to sit on the fence. Explain to students that the editorial usually reflects positions taken by the editor or someone acting on the editor's behalf. Caution students however that even these editorials should be considerate of other points of view and read examples of these if time permits and they are available.

Close by exhorting students to sit on the fence on issues they may not know both sides of and to be watchful of journalism that is supposed to but does not sit on the fence.

Additional Activity

As a home assignment, you may ask your students to find an article where the reporter sits on the fence and an article where the reporter does not sit on the fence.

Fifth Grade - Literature - Little House on the Prairie


Map the route of pioneers heading west.

Contrast life as depicted in a historical novel to modern life.

Hypothesize which modern invention would be most appealing to a historical fiction character and justify the hypothesis.

Generate a list of qualities and characteristics desirable in a pioneer companion and design a classified advertisement for such a person.

Respond to a journal prompt.

Develop a pioneer game based on a historical novel (optional).

Compose a list of items to take on a long covered wagon journey, then justify eliminations from the list (optional).


One copy for each student:

Then Vs. Now worksheet (attached)

Map of the United States (attached)

Packing List worksheet, both sides (attached, optional)

For each cooperative team:

Four copies of the attached game board sheet (optional--If they are used, you may want to copy them on paper that is a heavy weight.)

Approximately twenty index cards, cut in half (optional)

One die (optional)

Several small pieces of tape (optional)

One small slip of paper (about one inch by two inches) for each team member (optional)

Suggested Books

Read Aloud

Harvey, Brett. Cassie's Journey. New York: Holiday House, 1988. This book, based on actual diaries kept by pioneers, is an account of a young girl's journey on a wagon train from Illinois to California. It is a read aloud book, and would work well if you are pressed for time and do not have the luxury of reading one of the chapter books. It would lend itself well to all of the activities, and though it is a read aloud, the content is not too juvenile for fifth graders.

Harvey, Brett. My Prairie Year. New York: Holiday House, 1986. This book, like the one above also written by Brett Harvey, is a read aloud which is suitable for fifth graders. It is based on the diary kept by the author's grandmother, and though it does not describe the journey to the prairie, it does do an excellent job of describing the joys and hardships of pioneer life on the prairie through the eyes of a young girl. It would work well with all of the activities except for the "Setting Map."

Henry, Joanne Landers. Log Cabin in the Woods. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1988. Though not in the local library systems, this is a well written book that if ordered or found in a book store, would be suitable for fifth graders. It is based on the actual recollections of a pioneer, told to his grandson, who wrote them down. The story is told from the perspective of a young boy living in the Indiana wilderness in 1832. Excerpts could easily be read from this book, though it is only sixty pages long and has plenty of illustrations.

It would lend itself well to all of the activities except the "Setting Map."

Kudlinski, Kathleen. Facing West; A Story of the Oregon Trail. New York: Viking, 1994. This is the story of a young asthmatic boy on the Oregon Trail with his family in a wagon train. It describes well the difficulties common on the journey, and could be read in excerpts. It would lend itself to all of the activities.

Paulson, Gary. Call Me Francis Tucket. New York: Delacorte Press, 1995. This novel moves along at a quick pace, and the main character is very interesting. Paulson writes from the point of view of a teenage boy who has been separated from his family's wagon train and is facing life in unfamiliar territory alone. His adventures would be found exciting by fifth graders, but due to the nature of the plot, the book would not lend itself well to reading only excerpts. It would be an especially good choice for reading if you plan on doing the activity "Into the Future," and would also work for all of the other activities except for the "Setting Map."

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1935, 1991. Laura Ingalls Wilder describes, using clear details, what life as a pioneer on the prairie was like from the perspective of a young girl. Though this is the book recommended by the curriculum for this month, students may already be familiar with the Little House series. (See Teacher Background.) The book might be considered juvenile by some fifth graders, but if the portions suggested in Procedure are read, disinterest may be avoided. It would lend itself well to all of the activities.

Student Reference

Freedman, Russell. Children of the Wild West. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1983. There are marvelous photographs in this book of pioneer children that students would enjoy seeing. There is also an excellent map on page nineteen of the various trails that went west during this time period.

Levine, Ellen. If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1986. The question and answer format of this book makes it appealing to the reader, and fifth graders would find the text interesting, yet easy to read.

Websites This website, entitled "Across the Plains in '64," is the story of the author's great-grandfather's journey, with his family, across the plains in a covered wagon. The story is divided into twenty-nine chapters, and though the reading level may be high for some fifth graders, it could be used as enrichment. You will want to pre-read each chapter before assigning it to students to make sure that the content is appropriate.

http://babe.math.uic.edu/oakpark/district97/integrate/prairie/lang.html This website has suggestions for language arts activities based on Little House on the Prairie.

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/p_greetham This is a rather extensive website about Laura Ingalls Wilder and her work. It includes a map of the areas in which she lived, biographical information, and photographs of Laura and her family and their many homes. This would be an excellent website for students doing additional research in that it provides background information on topics pertinent to most of the pioneer stories: blizzards; sod houses; homesteading. Addresses are also given that students may use to obtain further information about Laura Ingalls Wilder from museums, bookstores, historical societies and the like.

http://vvv.com/home/jenslegg There are many subsites within this website on Laura Ingalls Wilder. They include ones that provide the names of related books and resources for teachers.

http://webpages.marshall.edu/~irby1 This website is associated with the one at http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/p_greetham, but in addition to the data duplicated, this website has information on upcoming events related to Laura Ingalls Wilder such as new book releases, festivals and fairs, and the creation of new websites. Also of note is the list provided of teacher created materials designed for the Little House series.

http://www.isu.edu/~trinmich/Oregontrail.html "The Oregon Trail" is the title of this website, which is produced by the creators of a documentary film on the same subject. They note that in doing research on the Oregon Trail, they found lots of fascinating facts, but only had space in the documentary for about forty percent of them. This website provides access to the wealth of information they compiled, and does so in an organized, appealing manner.

http://www.myhero.com/writers/wilder.asp This website allows children to learn more about their heroes, and contains a subsite on writer heroes, including Laura Ingalls Wilder. Biographical information on Laura Ingalls Wilder is provided, as are links to other websites about her.

http://www.state.sd.us/state/executive/tourism/adds/laura.htm The South Dakota Department of Tourism and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society sponsor this website, which contains a picture of the Surveyor's House in De Smet where the Ingalls family lived. It also provides addresses students can use to obtain further information about Laura Ingalls Wilder.

http://www.teleport.com/~eotic/index.html This website is produced by the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, and contains lots of interesting and pertinent subsites. Of special interest are the ones that provide maps, pictures of views of the trail, information on what the typical wagon contained, and facts about black pioneers.

Teacher Background

In conjunction with the February's American Civilization study of westward expansion, the story Little House on the Prairie is featured as a part of the Literature curriculum. Students may already be familiar with the Little House series from Fourth Grade, and if this is the case, you may wish to use one of the other recommended pioneer books instead of Little House on the Prairie. If you do read Little House on the Prairie, biographical information on Laura Ingalls Wilder follows below.

Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the "Little House" books, led a difficult, though not atypical, life of a pioneer. Born February 7, 1867, in Pepin, Wisconsin, she and her family moved to the prairies of Kansas in 1868. They were prompted to so by the Homestead Act of 1862, which made it possible to claim 160 acres of land if it was farmed and lived on for five years. Unfortunately, after two years there and a bout with malaria, they were forced to leave, having built and farmed on land that was technically Native American territory. They returned to their house in "the Big Woods" in Wisconsin.

They headed west again in 1874, this time to a farm and sod house near Walnut Grove, Minnesota. Though this allowed Laura and her sister, Mary, to attend school, the family ran into more trouble with grasshoppers, which destroyed their crops in the Plague of 1874. The following year it was discovered that the insects had laid enough eggs to destroy another crop.

Hoping for better luck, Laura and the Ingalls moved again to a relative's farm, where further misfortune struck--an infant son named Freddie died. In the autumn of 1876 they moved yet again, and Laura's father Charles took a job managing a hotel in a town called Burr Oak. Burr Oak, however, was a rather wild town, and, not wanting their children to be influenced by it, the Ingalls decided to move back to Walnut Grove.

Once again in Walnut Grove, the Ingalls family lived in town, and Charles did carpentry work and opened a butcher's shop. Laura and Mary re-enrolled in school, where they met a rival, Nellie Owens. In 1879 Mary Ingalls suffered a bout with Scarlet Fever, which left her blind.

Charles Ingalls was offered a job as railroad manager in the Dakota Territory in 1879, and the family made a final move. Though the railroad work eventually moved on, the family stayed so that their children could continue to be educated there. With another family, they became the first residents of the new town of DeSmet. Charles Ingalls filed a claim on 160 acres of land near DeSmet in what was to become South Dakota.

Life in South Dakota proved to be no less harsh than life in the other places the Ingalls had lived. The winter of 1880-81 brought blizzards almost continuously from October to the following May. Perhaps the isolation caused by the severe weather and remote location made Laura the shy young woman she became in her teens. She did excel academically, however, and at the early age of 15, she received her certificate to teach.

As a teacher, Laura accepted a position at the Bauchie School, twelve miles from DeSmet. She stayed with a family who lived close to the school during the week, and on weekends accepted rides back to her own family's home from a local young man, Almanzo Wilder. After three years of courting, Laura and Almanzo were married in 1885. In 1886, their only child, Rose, was born.

Laura and Almanzo, like the Ingalls, tried farming in South Dakota but were unsuccessful. Droughts, hailstorms and house fires were among their woes. Overwork and diphtheria left Almanzo crippled, and in attempt to aid his health, the Wilder family moved to Westville, Florida, where they stayed until 1892.

In 1894, after two years back in South Dakota, the Wilders moved again, this time to a town called Mansfield in the Ozarks of Missouri. There, in the early nineteen hundreds, Laura began to write articles for a local newspaper. In 1930, with her daughter Rose's help, she published her autobiography as The Little House in the Big Woods. It became the first of a series Laura wrote chronicling her pioneer life. Laura Ingalls Wilder died in 1957 at the age of ninety.


It is recommended that you alternate reading chapters of whichever pioneer book you have chosen with the activities described below. If you have chosen to read Little House on the Prairie, the following chapters are suggested: Going West; The House on the Prairie; The Wolf-Pack; The Tall Indian; A Scream in the Night; Prairie Fire. You may wish to read the selections aloud to the entire class, or if multiple copies are available, assign readings to be done aloud in small groups. Students can even be assigned different chapters to read in groups, then share their assignments with the class, once they're completed, as a way of conveying the information contained within the chapter they read.

Whichever book you choose to read this month, be sure to summarize what has been read before each new reading, and after each reading, ask comprehension questions to confirm students' understanding of basic contextual information. Introduce the book as historical fiction and discuss the time period in which the book takes place. Additionally, tie the content of the book to the material that students are being taught this month in history: early exploration of the west by explorers such as Lewis and Clark and Daniel Boone; the motivation behind the push west by pioneers; routes such as the Sante Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail; the geography affecting westward movement (such as the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River); Indian resistance to settlers; and conflicts with Mexico over territory in the southwest. If you are reading excerpts only, make sure that any information pertinent to the selection, but not included within it, is told to the students.

One of the optional activities, the "Pioneer Board Game," has students create a game based on the novel being read, then use dice to play the game. If there are students in your class who are forbidden to touch or use dice, make a small pile of cards numbered one through six, and have students draw from the pile instead of using dice.

Note also if you are reading one of the books that emphasizes frontier life, as opposed to the journey to the frontier, that the activity "Pioneer Companion Want Ad" could easily be modified to better suit your book. Simply change the focus from one in which the students are looking for a companion for the journey to one in which the students are looking for a partner for a new homestead.


Setting Map

Before beginning the reading of the novel, distribute to each student a copy of one of the attached maps of the United States. (Two possible maps have been attached, one with states labeled and one without. Some novels describe the journey of the characters using states as a reference, and if you are reading one of these novels, it will, of course, be easier to use the map with states marked. It may also be easier for students to use this map because current state lines can be referred to when adding geographic details. If the map with the states depicted is the one to be used, make sure that students understand that the many of the western states shown did not exist as parts of the United States during the time when the novel is set.) Depending on which novel you are reading, have students mark geographical features which will be crossed by the novel's characters, or which come into play in the plot. For example, if reading excerpts from Little House on the Prairie, you will want students to mark the Mississippi River and the Great Plains. Then, have students note, creating a map key if necessary, the location of the characters when the novel begins. As you read the novel, students should go on to mark the route the characters take as they travel. There are several ways to do this. Students can color in the states that the characters pass through, or may draw a line to represent their path. Either way, the map should be passed out to students before any reading is begun that will contain information pertinent to the map. As the reading is done, students will listen for information that will have bearing on their map and will mark the map appropriately. After the reading, review with students what should have been added to their maps. If students find this difficult, or lose their ability to listen as they mark the map, it may be easier for them if you use a transparency made from the same map and mark it appropriately with them after the reading has been done.

Then Vs. Now

After reading several selections from the chosen book, pass out to each student a copy of the Then Vs. Now worksheet. Ask students to think about how life in the novel is different than modern life. To prompt this thought, have students consider differences in methods of transportation, dress, food, ways of making a living, gender and age roles, daily chores, communication, education, etc. (Write this list of categories on the board.) Then, ask students to write, on the left side of the paper, what the novel has mentioned about the standard in any of these areas. Directly opposite each of the examples, in the right column, the students should note what the standard is today. For example, if a student notes that a food mentioned in the novel as being eaten frequently is rabbit stew, across from rabbit stew, the student should write a food commonly eaten today, such as hamburgers. It may aid in student understanding if one or two examples are done together.

When all students have completed the worksheet, discuss their answers, progressing through each category, such as transportation, one at a time. Ask: Which of the examples found in the book are never found in modern times? Which are found, but only rarely? Why are these things not used or done the same way today? Are there any you'd like to try? Why or why not? This discussion leads nicely into the next activity, "Into the Future."

Into the Future

Engage students in a discussion about the main character of the book. Ask: What facts about him or her does the author reveal? (For example, his or her age, sex, favorite hobbies, etc.) What conclusions can the reader draw about the personality of the character based the information the author has chosen to give about him or her? (For example, that he or she is stubborn, likes adventure, has a sweet tooth, etc.) Tell students to imagine that the character has suddenly been enabled to travel into the future, and will be waiting for each of them at home after school today. Based on what they know and can conclude about this character, what would they want to show this person that he or she would not have seen before and would enjoy? Instruct students to write a paragraph, entitled "Into the Future," in which they describe three modern things they would like to show to the main character of the book. In addition to describing these three things, for each item they need to tell why they think the main character would be interested in it. They should use details from the story to support their three choices.

For example, if Little House on the Prairie is being read, one item a reader might select to show Laura would be a battery operated toy dog that barks and wags its tail. This choice would be made because in the story, Laura shows great love and affection for her dog, Jack. Based on this, one could assume that she would like to see such a toy dog.

Before students begin, remind them, if necessary, of proper paragraph format, including a topic and concluding sentence. When finished with their paragraphs, students should be encouraged to read them aloud to one another. Praise them for their creativity and their ability to connect elements of the story with modern items.

Pioneer Companion Want Ad

Ask students to think about the types of jobs their relatives, friends and neighbors have. After allowing students to share several examples, ask them how adults frequently go about finding a job. (Answers will vary. If no one volunteers using the classified section of the newspaper, elicit this response.) If students are unfamiliar with the format and content of a help

wanted ad, you may choose to concisely teach them this information in several ways. One way would be to divide students into cooperative teams and give each team several want ads clipped from the local paper. Teams would be required to read the ads, then tell what characteristics they have in common. Another way to familiarize students with the format of a want ad would be to place an example on chart paper or the overhead, then discuss its elements as a class. It may also help to remind students that in the Second Grade, they read a want ad for mailmen to ride on the Pony Express. Regardless of the method of teaching or reviewing this content, students should come to the conclusion that want ads are advertisements for help that is needed. They typically contain the name of the job or job title, its requirements, and the name, address and telephone number of a contact. Want ads may also contain salary information, the hours necessary to work, and information meant to entice prospective employees into applying (such as, "great growth opportunity"). As students volunteer these common characteristics of want ads, list them on the board.

Next, tell students to imagine that they have heard of some great deals on land in California. They have decided to take a covered wagon across the United States and settle there. Before they go, however, in addition to packing all the necessary supplies, they need to find someone to travel with on the long journey, as the journey and handling of the covered wagon will be too difficult for one person alone. They have decided to place a want ad in the local paper for a traveling companion, someone who is also interested in going to California via covered wagon. Ask: What kinds of hardships might a person traveling by covered wagon expect? (river crossings, shortages of food and water, poisonous snakes, bad storms, dangerous mountain crossings, attacks by hostile Native Americans, getting lost, etc.) Tell students that, considering these potential dangers, not just anyone could expect to be a successful pioneer! Instruct students to think, in part based on these threats, about what qualities or characteristics they would want in companion going on the journey with them. They should consider not only personal characteristics, such as bravery, but also any skills they think might come in handy on the trip, such as cooking or carpentry skills. Finally, students may want to think about the type of person they could see themselves spending several months with. For example, in their ad they may want to specify that all applicants must not snore! Students should combine all of these considerations into a succinct ad that includes the elements listed on the board as common in want ads. (Salary and job hours will be the exceptions, though students may want to warn applicants in the ad of the length of the journey.) Encourage students to be creative, especially in the way they choose to entice people to apply. Their own name should be used as a contact, but they may invent an address. Ask: Why won't they have a telephone number listed for people who are interested to call? (Phones had not yet been invented.) This assignment will be easier if students first list the qualifications and other aspects of their ad, then write the ad itself.

When students have finished their want ads, ask for volunteers to read theirs aloud. Students should be able to explain why they chose the qualities and characteristics they did as required in a traveling companion. You may even want for students to justify their choices regarding qualifications in a separate paragraph, to be used for grading purposes.

Journal Prompts

Instruct students to respond to any or all of the following journal prompts.

Discuss the role journals play in understanding history. Ask: How do historians use journals kept by people in the time periods they study? How do authors use journals to help them write historical fiction? Why are journals an excellent source for information about life in the past?

Tell students to pretend that they are a pioneer, traveling west in a covered wagon or living on the prairie. They should write a journal entry describing what happened to them over the course of a day. The day could have been an exciting one, or it could have been quite boring. What happened is entirely up to them, but it should be realistic. Inform students that frequently, pioneers sketched a drawing to accompany what they wrote, illustrating what was described. If students have time, they should do the same.

If you are mid-way through one of the Suggested Books, ask students to predict what will happen next. They should then write a journal entry, pretending to be the main character, in which they describe these predicted events as if they actually happened. Ask for volunteers to read their journal entries aloud, then continue reading the book to see how accurate predictions were.

Modern life is quite different from the life described in the historical novels recommended. In which time period would they rather live? Some elements to consider, when making this decision, include drugs and crime, the conveniences of modern cities, life isolated on the prairie, civil rights, and modern inventions. Students should respond in a journal, telling which time period they would rather live in, then write to support their opinion.

Tell students that journal and journey share a Latin root word, which means daily. A journal is usually written in daily and a journey was once considered the distance one could cover in a day, or a traveling day's work. In addition to having the same Latin root word, journals and journeys are also associated with one another because journals are often kept on journeys. Some stores even sell specific travel journals. Instruct students to respond to these questions in their own journal: Why do you think journals are so frequently kept on journeys? What is it about a journey that makes it an especially good topic for a journal? If you were planning to take a trip around the world, would you keep a journal? Why or why not? If so, what types of things would you put in your journal? Would you let other people read it? Why or why not?

Pioneer Board Game (optional)

Divide students into cooperative teams of four or five. Give each team a set of the blank game sheets and instruct them to assemble them so that one large game board is created. There are several ways they may choose to do so; two are illustrated below. Students will want to fold or trim the edges of the sheets so that boxes match up evenly with one another. Once the team has settled on a game board design, the sheets should be taped in place to prevent them from slipping.

Teams should then get the pile of halved index cards, and the pile should be divided in half. On one half of the cards, students will write mishaps that could have occurred, based on the novel being read, to a pioneer family either traveling west or living on the prairie. (Possibilities include storms, wagons breaking down, cattle dying, cholera striking, etc.) On the other half of the cards, students will write events, again based on the book, that could occur that would benefit a pioneer family, such as finding fresh water, meeting friendly Native Americans, killing fresh game, etc. Then, students should go back and on each of the "catastrophe" cards, write directions for a player to move back a number of spaces. Likewise, on each of the "good fortune" cards, students should write directions for the player to move forward a number of spaces. The cards should then be shuffled and placed face down in two separate piles, one of "catastrophe" cards and one of "good fortune" cards.

Students should next mark the game board with a beginning and an end, the end being the goal to reach, whether it is surviving pioneer life on the prairie, or arriving in Oregon, California, or a new homestead. On about half of the spaces between the beginning and the end, students should write directions for players to pick up from one pile or the other, keeping an approximate balance of the use of piles. Depending on the game board design, students may need to draw arrows at crossroads to show which direction players should move.

Teams should then be given small slips of paper, one slip for each of the team members. Teams should discuss appropriate symbols of pioneer life to put on the slips, then each student should draw a different symbol on a slip, making it his or her playing piece. All playing pieces should be put on the beginning space of the board, and students should be given dice. (One die to each team.) After rolling to see who will go first, each team should play the game until there is a winner.

The games may be left at the back of the room, and during free time, students may enjoy playing another team's game with a classmate.

Packing List (optional)

Pass out to each student a copy of the packing list worksheet (which should be printed on two sides or on two pages). Instruct students to follow the directions on the top of the front, and list the items they would pack to go on a long journey by covered wagon. Remind students that they need to consider not only personal items, such as clothes, but also items such as food, spare wagon parts and medical supplies. Once students have completed this initial list, have them read the next set of directions, which tell them to eliminate two of the items. Students should then describe the rationale behind choosing those particular items to eliminate on the lines provided. Students should go on to read the rest of the worksheet and continue to eliminate items. On the final lines, they should, as directed, describe what it is about the remaining items that makes them indispensable.

When all students have completed the activity, ask students to share which four items they have left, and their rationale for keeping these four items. Encourage students to challenge one another's thinking (respectfully, of course) regarding the items they would keep. Ask: After listening to others read and justify their choices, does anyone want to change the four items they would keep? Why? Inform students that frequently travelers would see beloved items left by other travelers along the trails, as oxen died and wagons needed to be lighter, or as families pushed up mountains and needed to lighten the load so that it could be pulled. Ask: How do you think it felt for someone to have to leave their grandmother's china? Were there any sentimental items on your list that would be particularly difficult to leave in the dirt? Why? If you were traveling along a trail and found a pile of items that included a yoke for oxen, three books, and a trunk that had photographs and small dresses in it, what assumptions could you make about the family that left these things and their reason(s) for doing so? Why?

Fifth Grade - Literature - Little House on the Prairie




Directions: In each of the boxes on the left side of the table, write an item or element of the story which was common during the time period in which the story takes place, but is not now. In the boxes on the right side of the table, write a modern replacement or counterpart for each item or element.





Directions: You are finally making the trip you have wanted to make--across the United States to a new homestead in California! You have arranged for a ride in a covered wagon with a group of friends, and now must begin to pack for this journey. It could take several months, and though you will occasionally pass by a trading post, for weeks at time you will be alone with your companions on the trail. Considering this, what should you bring? Remember too that space in the wagon is limited, but that you might never come back east again, or be able to get any of the belongings you will leave behind. List below ten items you will choose to take with you.





Your companions have informed you that due to space limitations, you can only take eight of the items you selected. Which eight will you take? List them on the lines below.




Why did you choose to eliminate the two items you did? Explain your reasoning on the lines below.




Your wagon train has successfully made it to the Rocky Mountains! Now, however, because the terrain is so steep, the oxen are having trouble pulling the load uphill. Everyone in your wagon must leave four items on the trail to lighten the load for the oxen. Which four items, of the eight you listed above, will you keep? List the four items you will continue to hold on to as your party crosses the Rockies.



What is it about the four items you listed that leads you to think that they are necessary or desirable to keep? Why did it make sense to leave the other four? On the lines below, describe why these items are the ones you kept.