Chapter 1: Little House in the Big Woods

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Tina Russell, 5th grade teacher, Roger D. Gehring Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: Chapter 1 introduces us to the Ingall's family living in the Big Woods of Wisconsin in the 1870's.

Chapter Themes: Rural family life in the late 1800's; Survival; Forests (flora/fauna, cutting trees); Population density; Mapping local regions; Family composition; House designs (i.e., fence to keep out bears); Food storage (e.g., hanging deer from trees, winter storage, salting food in a smokehouse); Animal scavengers; Summer work vs. winter rest; Preparing food/Resources from animals (pig, deer); Methods of food gathering (hunting venison, bear, and fish, fattening and slaughtering pig, growing vegetable gardens and herbs); Butchering (family roles, uses of internal organs, resulting foods, required tasks); Entertainment in the 1800s (games, toys, storytelling, fiddle music); Trapping (greasing traps)

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Figurative Language
      • Find examples of figurative language in the first chapter
        What kinds of figurative language were used?
        What is the author trying to say?
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.5 locate and interpret figurative language, including simile, metaphor, and personification
          in text [NS/PS 3.5.5]
        • (5)3.6 describe how authors’ purpose(s) and writing styles influence reader response [NS 3.5.6]
    • Storytelling
      • There was no TV or radio or computers in the 1870's. Often times they told stories as entertainment. Interview someone in your family about an interesting or funny story that could be, or has been, handed down from generation to generation. Write the story as a picture book using the writing process. Students will present their books to the class.
      • Standards addressed
        • (5)5.4 write a narrative or story that develops a plot or sequence and uses “showing” rather than
          “telling” details to describe the setting, characters, and events of the story [NS 5.5.3
        • (5)5.6 write summaries of oral and written stories [NS 5.5.5]
        • (5)6.1 use the writing process
        • (5)6.2 use the analytic writing traits
        • (5)6.3 generate ideas for future writing through activities such as clustering, brainstorming, and
          listening to and following story models [NS 6.5.1]
        • (5)6.7 edit for use of standard English [NS 6.5.5]
          (5)6.8 produce writing with a voice that shows awareness of an intended audience and purpose
          [NS 6.5.6]
        • (5)6.9 share final drafts with a designated audience [NS 6.5.7]

  • Mathematics
    • Time Goes By
      • The first sentence says “60 years ago”, sixty years from when? (What is a copyright page?)
        • So when did the story take place?
        • How many years ago was the book published?
        • How many years have passed since the book was written?
        • How many years have passed between when the story took place and today?
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.19 generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole
          numbers and decimals in practical situations [NS/PS 1.5.8]
        • (5)1.22 use basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with speed and
          accuracy in computation and problem solving
    • Neighbors
      • The houses were miles apart in the Big Woods. Measure how far away the house next door to you is. Using the English Standard and Metric system measure to the closest foot and meter. Create a chart that converts each measurement up one unit and down one unit of measure.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.2 measure, compare, and convert length to the closest fractional part (1/4 and 1/2) of inches,
          feet, yards, and miles
        • (5)3.3 measure, compare, and convert length to the closest decimal unit of millimeter, centimeter,
          meter, and kilometer
  • Social Studies
    • Geography, Economics, and Lifestyle
      • Investigate the geography and climate of Wisconsin.
        How does geography and climate effect how people live?
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.35 describe how the physical setting influenced an event in the past [NS 6.5.1]
        • 5)3.40 locate and gather geographic information from a variety of sources [NS 7.5.2]
        • (5)3.26 investigate an economic issue by asking and answering geographic questions about location [NS 4.5.6]
    • Mapmaker
      • Make a topographical map of Wisconsin.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.43 draw a conclusion by presenting geographic information in an oral or written report accompanied by maps or graphics [NS 7.5.5]
        • (5)3.45 identify, locate, and distinguish among varying land forms, bodies of water, and major geographical features of the United States
  • Science
    • Spoiled Food
      • How did people keep food from spoiling without refrigerators?
        Investigate and report on how they preserved by salting, smoking, and pickling food.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5)1.7 use models to explain how something works or how something is constructed
        • (5)1.4 draw conclusions from scientific evidence [N5A3]
        • (5)1.5 create and use labeled illustrations, graphs
        • (5)1.9 explain that all people can contribute to scientific knowledge and discovery [N5B1]
    • Four Seasons
      • Students will investigate the changes in climate in Wisconsin. How did people plan for the different seasons? How did they use the patterns of the seasons to plan out their lives.
      • Standards addressed
        • (5)1.8 investigate observable patterns that can be used to organize items and ideas and to make
          predictions [N5A7]
        • 5)4.5 explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environments [L5C1]
        • (5)4.6 investigate and describe the interrelationships and interdependence of organisms with each other and with the non-living parts of their habitats [L5C2]
        • (5)4.4 explain how the Sun’s energy is the primary source of energy for most ecosystems and
          moves through food webs [L5C1]

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

This story takes place about 5 years after the Civil War. The United States had been experiencing expansion since the end of the American Revolution, and many families had moved west to settle new land and to start new lives. The town near the Ingall's place, Pepin, was first settled in the 1840's. The village sprang up about 10 years later. It was attractive to settlers because of the lake and woods. The lumber industry boomed there, and the lake provided mussels, clams, and fish. Like the Ingalls, most families living in rural areas in the 1870's farmed on a small scale. The whole family worked together to ensure the smooth running of the household. Survival was more important than ease and comfort. The work ethic was strong and work came before play. Families lived far apart and had to be self sufficient. They rarely saw their neighbors or families. When families and friends did get together, it often involved helping each other with farming and other important jobs. After the work, families would have social gatherings. The lives of people centered around work, family, religion, and survival.

Additional Resources


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

What a terrific idea for teaching students elements of books by having them look at the copyright page!

I'm wondering how well the topographical map idea would work for Wisconsin. After all, it's not the most topographically diverse state in the Union. :-)

Tina, Could you add two more activities (one for language arts and one for science. You have neat ideas and I'd love to read more!

VernaBurn said...

I like your science idea a lot. Over the weekend I watched an episode, on the Food Channel, about Asian food and the chef spoke about a dish called kimchi. It is a cabbage dish that is buried in the ground to keep it from spoiling.

It is interesting to think about what techniques people actually used to preserve their food.

I think the students will have a great eyeopener when they realize what a luxury refrigeration is.

I would like to hear about what other ideas came to you as you read this chapter.