Chapter 12: The Wonderful Machine

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Selena McDowell and Jaime Tschan, 3rd grade teacher, Hal Smith Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: In this chapter we find that the Harvest is being gathered up by Pa, Uncle Henry, Grandpa and Mr. Peterson. Ma is using the heads of the oats to tie braids and in turn make hats for the family. Laura watches as the men bring in large machines which will be used to separate the wheat from the straw.

Chapter Themes: Harvesting Wheat, Working in Communities, Female/Male Responsibilities, Man vs. Machine

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1: Vocabulary Experience
      • Description: Students will collaborate to come up with a list of at least 10 vocabulary words from the chapter (unknown to them) and work in groups to research their meanings. Students will be allowed to use the Internet to come up with visual representations of these vocabulary words. Groups will give a presentation of their work to the class. Vocabulary List Example: acorn, calico, coarse, hull, Johnny-cake, kettle, threshers, turnip, saucer, sumac.

      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.1.11- Develop vocabulary by listening to and discussing selections read aloud.
        • Standard 2: 3.1.12- Develop vocabulary through meaningful experiences (e.g. wide reading, discussion of word meanings, interactive activities, examples and non-examples).
    • Activity Idea 2:Separator Sequence Chart
      • Description: Students will use a graphic organizer to chart the sequence of events described in this chapter of how the separator machine works. Students are to also construct their own visual aid of the separator machine as detailed and shown in this chapter.

      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.2.13- Restate facts and details in text to share information and organize ideas.
        • Standard 2: 3.6.4- Organize ideas using graphic organizers such as a web or Venn diagram, and through activities such as sequencing and classifying.
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1:Pumpkin Seed Prediction
      • Description: Students will work in groups of four (each group will receive one pumpkin) to make predictions about how many pumpkin seeds they will find in an average size pumpkin. After teacher carves open the pumpkins, students, wearing plastic gloves, will then work together to count the seeds. Students will create bar graphs comparing their predictions (bar graph color red) to the actual result (bar graph color blue). The class will bake the pumpkin seeds to enjoy eating later.

      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.5.1- Pose questions that can be used to guide data collection, organization, and representation.
        • Standard 2: 3.5.2- Use graphical representations, including number lines, frequency tables, bar graphs, and pictographs to represent data.

    • Activity Idea 2: What's a bushel?
      • Description: Working in groups students will discuss the different types of measuring devices used today. This chapter refers to a bushel. Students will research what a bushel is and how it compares with standard and non-standard units. Students will experiment using these different measuring devices and take notes and observations. They will present their findings to the class.
      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.3.1- Estimate and use measuring devices with standard (customary and metric) and nonstandard units to measure area, volume/capacity, and weight.
        • Standard 2: 3.3.4- Communicate the relationships of more, less, and equivalent when solving measurement problems.

  • Social Studies

    • Activity Idea 1: Man vs. Machine
      • Description: When presented with a topic (e.g., harvesting the crops, written forms of communication, transportation) students are to discuss how humans have evolved through the years. Students are to answer the following questions: How did man accomplish these things without current tools? What technologies have been invented to make everyday work easier? Students will compare and contrast, using their discussion and a graphic organizer, one of the above mentioned topics, how it was done then vs. now.

      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.3.27- Compare the wants and needs of people in different communities (and different times) and the means used to fulfill those wants and needs.
        • Standard 2: 3.3.30- List tools, machines, or technologies that have changed the physical environment.

    • Activity Idea 2: Visualize This!

      • Description: In groups, students will discuss from the chapter, then construct visual aids, of what Laura's home, community, wheat fields, and woods looked like during her time. Students will them go on and view a satellite picture of a similar community in Wisconsin today. The students will then compare and contrast how times, conditions, and technologies have changed over time. Groups will then present their visual aids and ideas to the class.

      • Standards Addressed:

        • Standard 1: 3.3.14- Compare visual images of the same place over time.
        • Standard 2: 3.3.15-Identify neighborhoods and communities as places where people live, work, and play.

  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1: Winter Already?
      • Description: In this chapter it mentions the "squirrels ...scampering busily everywhere, gathering their winter's store of nuts." The students will read and discuss the changes in nature and all living things as winter is approaching. Further discussion will be made about why it is necessary for living things to prepare for winter. Students will be divided into groups and given a "living thing" to research. They will include in their research the living thing's life cycle, ecosystem of living, and characteristics for survival throughout the different seasons of nature. Groups will share their research with the class.

      • Standards Addressed:

        • Standard 1: 3.1.2- Cooperate and contribute ideas within a group.
        • Standard 2: 3.4.2- Investigate, compare, and contrast life cycles of various living things.

    • Activity Idea 2:What Can You Grow?
      • Description: This chapter focuses on the harvesting of wheat. The United States grows many plants and vegetables on our soil. Working in pairs, students will choose one plant or vegetable to research. Students will include in their research: the anatomy of the plant; where and when it grows; what conditions are beneficial and harmful to the plant; and why that plant is essential to our survival. Graphic organizers will be required. Pairs to present their final projects to the class.

      • Standards Addressed:
        • Standard 1: 3.4.6- Investigate and describe how changes to an environment can be beneficial or harmful to plants and animals.
        • Standard 2: 3.4.7- Investigate, compare, and contrast identifiable structures and characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to grow, reproduce, and survive.

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

The chapter theme of man vs. machine is introduced in this chapter as The Ingalls are harvesting their wheat for the season. Pa and his family are working long, hard days to harvest the wheat and are pressed for time, as weather conditions will soon be changing and winter will be coming. Before machines were introduced, man harvested the crops by hand using various tools including: "reaping hook" or sickle, cradle, scythe, flail, and reaper (click here to view tools).

The reaping hook or sickle was one of the first tools used for harvesting. One man could cut from 1/2 to 1 acre in a day. Later the cut grain was bound by hand. In 1776 the cradle was used. It consisted of a broad scythe with a light frame of four wood fingers attached to it. This tool was used well into the late 1840's. Two acres could be harvested in a single day using a cradle. In the late 1800's machines were being introduced to use for harvesting. A threshing machine was used in harvesting for the separation of grain from stalks and husks (click here to view threshing machine). Laura refers to this machine as the separator in this chapter.

The Ingalls worked their wheat fields mainly by hand until Pa decided to get the community together and send for the threshing machine. Pa, like many farmers of the time, saved time, energy, and money using great innovations such as the threshing machine. Men who worked in other established countries might have been upset that a machine was now being used in place of manual labor. For Americans settling in the American west territories, machines like the threshing machine, were a dream come true. Using harvesting machinery also meant that women were probably going to be in the field less. As detailed in Riley's A Place to Grow: Women in the American West, it was not uncommon to find women and even children helping in the field to bring in the harvest. With the use of such machines, harvesting took less time and women could concentrate their efforts more on the home.

Overall, The Ingalls, especially Pa, are pleased with the use of the threshing machine and even vow to always have the machine come and thresh their wheat.

Additional Resources


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

You have a strong science focus in all your lessons and I love the technology component and hands-on opportunities!

Rich Foster said...

I love the idea of comparing and contrasting using a graphic organizer to show the changes from yesterday to today (progress of machinary). An extension to this activity could be using simple machines which is a fourth grade unit. Have the students show how the simple machines such as levers, inclined planes, etc. were used on the machines of yesterday and today. The "Big Idea" is that simple machines are the basis of how all machines work.