Chapter 17: Pa Goes to Town

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Kimberly Anthony, 3rd grade teacher, Fong Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: In chapter 18, Pa leaves for 4 days to go into town, leaving Laura and Mary feeling especially lonely. Even Jack the dog noticed he was gone and was feeling uneasy. Mr. Edwards had promised Pa he would stop by the house each day to check on things. Jack barked each time he stopped by, trying hard not to let Mr. Edwards near. As the first day passed, the wind howled fiercely in and out of the house. The wind continued to blow through the second day. On the third day, Jack came inside and would not rest. He was worried or afraid of something and Jack was never afraid. Mr. Edwards warned the family of nearby Indians. On the last night they stayed up all night listening to the wind howling and waiting for Pa. Pa finally arrived home late at night, cold from his trip. Pa emptied his sack with goods from the store in town. One special gift was for Ma: 8 glass windows. Pa also brought back brown sugar, white sugar, nails, cornmeal, fat pork, salt and other things. Everyone went to sleep near the warm fire, feeling safe again because Pa was home.

Chapter Themes: Traveling into town for goods, Neighbors helping neighbors, Bad weather on the prairie

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • "Thank you kind Neighbor"
      • Mr. Edwards, a neighbor, came by every day to check on the family while Pa was gone. He even did all of the chores for Pa. On the last night, he offered to stay in the barn on hay in case of an Indian raid. He was a very generous neighbor. Write a thank you letter to Mr. Edwards to thank him for his generosity. Be sure to tell him what you are thankful for and what it meant to you and your family. What you will do in the future to return the generosity? Be sure to use friendly letter format. When you're finished, fill out the envelope so you can send it.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Write a friendly letter
        • Use correct Punctuation
        • Use correct Capitalization
    • "A Pooch Perspective'
      • Chapter 17 mentions Jack, the dog, quite often. He barks a lot and even traps Mr. Edwards on a pile of logs. He paces around the house and seems worried about something. We know that Mr. Ingalls is gone to town and that there are Indians nearby. What could Jack be so worried about? Re-write chapter 17 from the perspective of Jack. Tell everything again but from Jack's point of view.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Make inferences about characters, plot, and setting.
        • Restate facts and details in text to share information and organize ideas.
        • Interpret information in new contexts.
  • Mathematics
    • "A Trip into Town"
      • Mr. Ingalls travelled into town to buy important things for his family. We know some of the things that he bought. What else do you think he needed? Create a list with a partner. Research online how much these items would cost at the grocery store today. Find the total. Research online how much these items would cost in the 1870's for Mr. Ingalls. Use the website to help you figure it out: Find the total. Compare the two lists that you made.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Read, write, and use money notation.
        • Recognize equivalent relationships among bills and coins.
    • "Measuring the Distance"
      • Pa left his home and traveled to Independence, Kansas for goods. Locate his home and his destination on a map and determine how far he traveled. It took him 4 days. Create a practical schedule for Pa that shows how he spent his 4 days. Predict how many miles you think he traveled each day. How much time do you think he spent traveling and how much time sleeping? Shopping? How fast can a horse travel compared to a car? Take all of this into consideration as you create your schedule.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Select and use appropriate units of measurement
        • Use elapsed time in half-hour increments, beginning on the hour or half-hour, to determine start, end, and elapsed
  • Social Studies
    • "Chores, Chores, and More Chores!"
      • Mr. Edwards comes over every day while Mr. Ingalls is gone and volunteers to do all of the chores each day. Everyone on the prairie had chores to do: Pa, Ma, even the children. Research with a small group different chores that people had to do on the prairie in the 1870's. Make tri-fold poster with a section for women, men, and children.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Use library resources, media, and technology to find information on a topic
        • history
    • "Independance, Kansas"
      • Pa traveled for 4 days into a town called Independence, Kansas. Where is this town? Locate it on a map. Find out some more information about this town. Create a trivia board game. Find out about the following things: When did it become a town, what is the population now, how large is the town, who found the town, what are some big attractions there? Use the town web page for reference:
      • Standards Addressed
        • Use library resources, media, and technology to find information on a topic
        • geography/history
  • Science
    • "A Windy chapter"
      • In this chapter, the wind is a fierce force! Research the effects of strong wind. Use to help. What is the cause of wind and what are some possible after effects? Find examples of times when weather has been so strong that it has been damaging to communities. Find examples of times when wind power can help a community. Present your findings in an oral report to your classmates.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Use library resources, media, and technology to find information on a topic
        • Present ideas and supporting details in a logical sequence (speaking, listening, discussing).
        • Students understand that energy is produced in different forms.
    • "A Sugary Experiment"
      • In this chapter, we know that Mr. Ingalls went into town and came back with sugar, cornmeal, and other goods. Have students study the properties of sugar. Students can try the "burning sugar cube trick" or the "floating sugar cube trick. To try these experiments, visit Students can also make sugar candy (visit Students will determine why sugar was an important commodity? What might the Ingalls have used sugar for?
      • Standards Addressed
        • Physical Science- Students learn that heating or cooling can change some common materials.
        • Scientific Inquiry- Students know how to plan and conduct a safe and simple investigation.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Theme: Traveling into town for goods

Traveling was not an everyday occurance on the prairie. Families did not have cars, buses, airplanes or bicycles and therefore were limited in their ability to travel. Families did not venture far away from their homes unless it was absolutely necessary, or to trade or buy goods in town. A trip to town took several days and was really like a "trip".
Most travelers made their way by foot or rode horseback. The Chisholm Trail was a common trail to use in Kansas. For families with a little extra money, a stagecoach was the way to travel. Stage coaches were not always comfortable because they were usually packed with people. They became even more uncomfortable when there was a bump in the road. Passengers would usually get thrown around in the coach.
Another option for people was a horse drawn wagon. The methods were usually so slow that traveling took days. Most wagons rode for nine miles or so per day. Usually conditions like mud and horse manure in the road slowed down a trip even more.
In 1869, traveling became much more convenient when the Transcontinental Railroad was complete and ready for use. It made traveling faster and more efficient. However, train conditions were not always as pleasant as might be imagined. Travelers were constantly in fear of derailment, which was quite common. They often complained of ashes from the smokestacks burning their clothing. Families who lived near the railroad often complained about their livestock being run over. Even pedestrians were in danger near the railroad.
Another way to travel in the 1800s was by water transportation. Steamboat travel was especially popular. Usually passangers were treated well on board but safety was a big issue. In the early to mid 1800s, numerous steamboats blew up, burned, or struck something and sunk. From 1811-1850 almost one thousand steamboats had such fate. As a result, canal boats became the fad. Canal boats rode in shallow water so fear of drowning disappeared. The canal boat fad was short lived, however, because the popularity of the railroad grew fast. A new form of transportation was funally introduced in 1897 when the first subway was opened in Boston, Massachusetts.
Its interesting to see how transportation affected people living on the prairie. We often take for granted the easy access we have to moving about whenever, however, and wherever we like. It is difficult to imagine living during a time when it was not as easy as hopping in a car and driving to the grocery store for milk and bread.

Additional Resources


Suzanne Hennigan said...

I really enjoyed your teacher's guide. I thought all of your activities were great. I especially liked "A Pooch Perspective" we always have students do an activity from the perspective of one of the character but what a great idea having them put themselves in the place of the dog. I think students are going to love this activity. I know that I would like to borrow this idea from you to do with my students. I also like the gameboard idea. I know when I give my students choices for different activities in spelling or vocabulary a lot of them make gameboards. I think you have come up with activities that will keep your students engaged. I think you have done a fantastic job and I can't think of any suggestion for improvement. Well Done!
Suzanne Hennigan

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

I als love "A Pooch Perspective." What a terrific idea to re-write a chapter from a different perspective. You may read Seaman's Journey (the chapter book) or Seaman's Journal (the picture book) to show a dog's perspective before they engage in this assignment.

I think this chapter may be a good "jumping off point" for a unit on service learning. Ask students how thy help others in their community and off you go to a whole new unit!

Many of the math lessons in the teacher's guides have suggested having students work with distances and some have suggested students work with daily schedules. Yours is the only one that puts the two together and adds in the element of estimating distance. What a great activity!

You use links extremely effectively! Thank you for all the extra information you provide in these links!

Rebecca said...


I LOVE the idea of writing the story from the dog's perspective. Really you could take anyone's perspective, because we only hear from Laura. But writing from the dog's point of view would really tickle the kids' imagination. I do gameboards with my kids too and they really enjoy this culminating experience. For me it is better than a test for an assessment tool.
Thanks for all your ideas!