Chapter 19: Mr. Edwards Meets Santa Clause

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Julie Sligar, 5th grade teacher, James Bilbray Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: Chapter 19, of Little House on the Prairie, tells the story of one Christmas holiday on the prairie in Kansas. On this particular Christmas, flooding and high waters on the Verdigris River prohibit Santa Claus from making a visit to the Ingalls household. Mr. Edwards comes to the rescue and deliver holiday presents to Laura and Mary after a chance encounter with Santa Claus in Independence, Kansas.

Chapter Themes:
Weather patterns and flooding; Stringed instruments and recreation; Geography of the Midwest; Persuasive writing; Recycling and quilt making; Use of natural resources; Early American toys and dolls; Nutrition and meal planning; Friendly letter writing; Character development: compare and contrast; and Time lines of early exploration.

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Letter to Santa Claus: Persuasive Writing
      • Laura and Mary fear that Santa Claus will not be able to reach their house on the prairie due to flooding. Ask students to write a persuasive letter to Santa Claus explaining to him the importance of making a stop at their home.
      • English Language Arts/Reading
        • Produce writing with voice that shows awareness of an intended audience and purpose.
        • Students write with clear focus and logical development, evaluating, revising, and editing for organization, style, tone, and word choice.
    • Thank you Note to Mr. Edwards
      • Laura and Mary are grateful that Mr. Edwards was able to deliver presents from Santa after they were certain that the flooding would prevent his arrival. Students use the friendly letter format to write a letter of appreciation to Mr. Edwards.
      • English Language Arts/Reading
        • Write well organized communications such as memos/faxes, friendly or business letters in an appropriate format for a specific audience and purpose.
        • Revise compositions to improve the meaning and focus of writing.
  • Mathematics
    • Meal Planning and Measurement Conversion
      • The Ingalls family prepares for Christmas day by planning a special meal. Their meal consists of turkey, sweet potatoes (brought by Mr. Edwards), salt-rising bread, stewed dried blackberries and little cakes. another common food served during the early exploration of our country was Johnnycakes. Students use the recipe for Johnnycakes in Kids Discover Pioneers to create a table of ingredients needed for 1, 2, 3 and 4 batches of the recipe. For an extension activity, students can convert the cup measures to ounces and or draw pictures to represent the cup amounts needed.
      • Numbers, Number Sense and Computation
        • Add and subtract fractions with like denominators using models, drawings, and numbers.
        • Estimate and convert units of measure for weight and volume/capacity within the same measurement system.
    • Quilt Squares and Math
      • The Ingalls ladies keep busy making nine square quilts during the long and dreary winter days. Students will explore the idea of perfect squares and/or square numbers by making paper quilts and modeling perfect square.
      • Patterns, Functions and Algebra/Number and Number Sense, and Computation
        • Identify, describe, and represent patterns and relationships in the number system, including triangular number and perfect squares.
        • Use estimation strategies in mathematical and practical situations.

  • Social Studies
    • How Far Did Mr. Edwards travel?
      • Students search for primary source documents; maps, of the territory from Independence, Missouri to the prairies of Kansas, to gain an understanding of the topography of the area in which the Ingalls family lived. Students recreate maps of the route that Mr. Edwards must of traveled from Independence to their home on the prairie. Students them employ a map key and legend to determine the distance traveled as well. Students can employ the following websites for additional information and resources;
      • Geographic Application and Skills
        • Use maps and map features, including directional orientation, map symbols, and grid system, to identify and locate major geographical features in the United States and Nevada.
        • Construct maps, charts, tables, and graphs to display information about human and physical features of the United States.
    • Money in the 1800's
      • Laura and Mary are thrilled when they find that Santa Claus has given them each a penny of their own. Students research what types of money was being used during this period of time and draw replicas of each coin or bill.
      • Economics
        • Identify forms of money used in the United States prior to the 20th century.
        • Organize historical information from a variety of sources.
  • Science
    • Flooding and the Water Cycle
      • Flooding of the Verdigris River causes the Ingalls to be cut off the the town of Independence, Kansas. Students explored the phenomena of flooding and the reasons for its occurrence.
      • Earth Science
        • Investigate and describe various meteorological phenomena (flooding, snowstorms, thunderstorms and drought)
        • Compare and contrast the kinds of landforms
    • Topography of the Prairie
      • Students examine the physical characteristics of the land known as the prairie. The use maps of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma and Colorado to locate land features and name them. Students then construct a map of the physical land form present in the state of Kansas. Students label land features and develop a map key to guide others in using their map.
      • Science/Geography
        • Compare and contrast types of landforms.
        • Construct maps, charts, table, and graphs to display information about human and physical features in the United States.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Finding, preparing and storing food during the early days on the prairie was a constant process. The pioneers were not able to rely on the availability of supplies from a general store or market. They had to grow, raise, hunt, fish and gather enough food to sustain their family throughout the year and all seasons.

Farming could be backbreaking work on the prairie. The land was often hard and water could be unpredictable. Breaking land was a difficult task that had to be mastered if crops were going to be planted and cultivated. The pioneer was heavily dependent on his livestock and a plow to help him break the ground and prepare the soil. Grassy plains needed to be turned into field of grain. Wheat, corn, alfalfa, oats, barley, potatoes, and hay were often sowed upon this land. In order to water or irrigate his crops the farmer often had to dig a well in the hard soil by hand. Many of these well were dug to depths of 200 feet. Windmills were sometimes employed to pump water from the wells and to grind grains.

A garden was often grown to produce vegetable for the family. The garden was often tended by the women while men toiled in the fields.

Livestock was kept for the food it produced and the products that could be made from it. It wasn't unusual for a pioneer family to own a cow. Some were fortunate enough to also own hogs, geese, chickens, and sheep. Hens produced eggs. Geese were eaten for special meals. Sheep produced wool that the pioneers used to spin into threads and yarns. The cow's milk was used to produce milk, butter and cheese. The pioneers were very conservative in their use of their stock. After an animal was butchered every part of the carcass was used before being discarded. Goose grease was used as a remedy for wheezy chests as well as an ointment for chapped hands and cheeks.

The pioneers learned quickly to hunt and gather from the land surrounding their homes. Wild game was in plentiful supply in the early years. Deer, squirrel, rabbits were among the game caught and used to feed pioneer families. Fish were in plentiful supply and were easily caught during the summer and fall months. Children often helped with this chore too. Nuts, berries and seeds were gathered from the woods surrounding the home. Honey was gathered from beehives and used as a sweetener, sweets, and for medicinal purposes as well. Honey was used as a salve for cuts and scraps and was known for its natural antibiotic properties.
In some parts of the country maple syrup was available for collecting and used to sweeten foods and make sugary sweets.

Pioneers families had to take advantage of the milder seasons to gather and prepare foodstuffs for the winter months to come. They had to carefully plan and store food for the long months when hunting, growing and gathering might be impossible. Jerky was one form of prepared meats that was easily stored. Native Americans taught the pioneers how to combine seeds, nuts, berries and melted fat to make pemmican for later use.

Feeding a pioneer family was a full time job and required the work and efforts of all family members.

Additional Resources


Monica Modesitt said...


When I read Little House on the Prairie, this was my favorite chapter. Every time I see a shiny penny, I think of Laura Ingalls. Your activities were very creative. When I read that Laura and Mary were quite concerned that Santa wouldn’t be able to visit them due to flooding, I thought—Didn’t Mary and Laura know that Santa’s reindeer fly? Therefore, flooding would not have been a problem. So, maybe, back then their beliefs regarding Santa’s capabilities was quite different than what kids believe today. Perhaps the students could research this and make a comparison. Also, I’ve included a website for salt maps.
hirsbrunner/Salt%20Maps.htm. It’s incredible with what you can do with a little bit of flour, salt, paint, and a pizza box.

The penny is going to be revamped this year to commemorate the 200th year of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The back of the penny will depict scenes from his life. It costs a $1.67 to make one penny. You could pose questions to initiate a group discussion. Why do you think money has changed over the years? Why does the Treasury Dept. continue to make pennies when it cost so much to make them? What would happen if they stopped making pennies? How would that change pricing?

Your chapter guide was informative and contained lots of classroom ideas. Well done Julie!

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

I love your ideas and would like you to take them one step further by adding hands-on approaches. For example with math have students make the food and quilts. This helps develop authenticity - students will experience why they need to know what they are learning.

Perhaps you could add a study of tessellations (both science and math) to your quilting activity.

I love that you've added primary sources as resources for your mapping project!

Great idea for researching coins! Perhaps you could add this lesson to a wider unit on currency and have students learn about coins from around the world. This would bring in the global importance of 21st century skills and you could use the pictures and words on the coins to teach about symbolism.