Chapter 20: A Scream in the Night

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

Chapter Overview: Chapter 20 tells the story of mysterious cry heard in the night and how the Ingall's family responds to the crisis. Laura, Mary and Ma are forced to sit at home and wait for Pa's return from a trip into the wilderness in search of the source of the scream.

Chapter Themes: Recreational activities on the Prairie, Poetry, Animal Studies and the Panther family, Informative Writing, Perimeter/Area and Mathematical Problem Solving and Communication

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • How To Guide
      • Pa uses a bootjack to take off his boots after returning home. Students examine the narrative in chapter 20, page 260-261. Students then write a paragraph to describe how to do something that they commonly do, daily, without thought. Students exchange narrative and perform the tasks described by their partners.
      • Writing Composition/Speaking Skills
        • Write informative papers that develop a clear topic with appropriate facts, details, and examples from a variety of sources.
        • Give multi-step directions to complete a task.
    • Character Development
      • Throughout the reading many opportunities arise in which the reader can compare and contrast the characters Mary and Laura Ingalls. Using the graphic organizer of their choice students create a list of ways in which Mary and Laura are alike and different.
      • Reading Comprehension - Literature/Writing Process
        • Organize ideas through activities such as outlining, listing, webbing, and mapping.
        • Make inferences supported by the text about characters' traits and motivations.


    • Garden Planning
      • The Ingalls family plants a garden to grow vegetable for their household. Students will use what they know about perimeter and area to plan, draw and give as many examples as possible of a garden with the following specifications. A garden that covers an area of 32 square feet, a garden with the perimeter of 32 feet.
      • Math: Measurement
        • Describe the difference between perimeter and area, including the difference in units of measurement.
        • Use a variety of methods (physical materials, diagrams, and tables) to represent and communicate mathematical ideas through oral, verbal and written formats.
    • Garden Planning II
      • The Ingalls family must decide what types of vegetables to grow in their garden. Students use the garden plans, drawn up in previous lesson, and seed packets, provided by teacher, to determine which vegetables to plant and how to plant them so as to maximize the space they have available to them. Students should make a determination of which of their various layouts would be the best for the type of vegetables they want to grow. Students will need to consider the spacing suggestions on the seed packets. They must choose 3 types of vegetables and should consider which seeds produce the most beneficial produce that will help to feed the family. Students then make a 3D model of there garden plan using whatever materials they select and submit a written explanation of the choices they made and what the expected outcomes of the planting will be.
      • Math: Numbers, Number Sense and Computation
        • Use a variety of appropriate strategies to estimate, compute, and solve mathematical and real-world problems.
        • Justify and explain the solutions to problems using manipulatives and physical models.
  • Social Studies
    • Pioneer Play
      • Laura and Mary kept busy during the long winters on the prairie by playing games such as Hide the Thimble, Cat's Cradle and learning and reciting rhymes such as Bean Porridge Hot. The origin of the rhyme is explained in Chapter 20 of Little House on the Prairie. Students research the first two activities to find information about the game and its origins. Then students prepare a demonstration of how the game is played or an essay about their findings.
      • Social Studies: History
        • Ask a historical question and identify resources to be used in research.
        • Organize historical information from a variety of sources.
    • The Move to the Prairie
      • The Ingalls family moved to the prairie of Kansas from the woods of Wisconsin. Students are asked to draw conclusions about why the family, along with many other pioneer families of the time, made this move. Students will examine historical accounts written by pioneer families and children as well as history texts to find the reason for this movement.
      • Social Studies: History
      • Ask a historical question and answer it.
      • Identify and explain reasons for early exploration of the New World.
  • Science
    • Renewable/Non Renewable Resources
      • The Ingalls family produced, grew, hunted or gathered almost all of their own foods and supplies for living. Students will re-read or skim through chapters 19 and 20 and compile a list of the resources they took from the land. Students will then sort these resources to determine if each is renewable or nonrenewable. Students organize their findings in two column note format.
      • Earth Science/Reading Comprehension- Process Skills and Strategies
        • Differentiate between renewable and nonrenewable resources.
        • Adjust reading rate to suit reading purpose and difficulty of text.
    • Panther Foldable
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes :

While children of the prairie were kept busy much of the time with chores and helping their parents out around home, they did manage to find occasion to relax, play and recreate. Recreation on the prairie was much different from the types of leisure children and adults enjoy today.
Toys were limited and much of what children did required them to use their imagination and interact with other children. When pioneer children did have toys, they were treasured and taken care of. Toys were usually hand crafted by their parents or grandparents and were often made of wood. Dolls and miniature farmhouses were common. Wooden toys were the easier and most affordable toys that children possessed as the materials to make them were readily available and easy to attain.
Toys were often different for boys and for girls. Girls toys often had to do with homemaking type activities while boys toys tended to be more physical in nature. Guns and toy soldiers were typical toys for a boy during this era.
Toys were especially important during the long winter months when children were forced to stay indoors. Children made up rhyme and sang them while they clapped or performed hand movements to them. A piece of string was tied into a loop and manipulated into various shapes to make a smaller model of everyday tools. This became know as the Cat's Cradle. Settler children were able to make their own adventures with almost any object. Imagination was key to having a good time. A popular game enjoyed by children a parties was Blind Man's Bluff. Children would encircle their blind-folded friend and dance around him and sing. The blindfolded child pointed to a playmate and that person then join him in the circle. He tried to identify the mystery friend.
When the weather warmed and outdoor play became a possibility, children were able to enjoy more variety in their recreative activities. Children climbed trees, went swimming in lakes and streams, fished, danced, skipped to rhymes, and competed in contests. A simple hoop and stick was used by children to race and chase.
With the warmer weather came an opportunity for community members to come together and enjoy each others company. Women often participated in quilting bees, cornhusking competitions, and often worked together to accomplish a household task such as candle or soap making.
Families would gather together to picnic, square dance, build barns cooperatively, and compete in friendly competitions. Fiddle playing was enjoyed by families at home and at gatherings as well. Communities often had old fashioned hoedowns with dancing, fiddle playing, eating and games for all family members.
Special occasions, such as the Forth of July, often brought towns of any size together to enjoy speeches, picnics and fireworks. The larger the town, the more elaborate the celebration.
While toys were in short supply, children of the prairie were not at a loss for how to have fun and showed creative ways to entertain themselves.

Additional Resources:

  • A Child's Day, Bobbie Kalman & Tammy Everts, Crabtree Publishing Company
  • A Pioneer Sampler: The Daily Life of A Pioneer Family in 1840, Barabara Greenwood, Houghton Mifflin Company
  • Early Settler Children, Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company

1 comment:

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

I like that you've made connections to important standards in such a creative way. For example, your ability to teach about renewable and non-renewable resources using the items the Ingalls' family took from the land was ingenious!

Perhaps you could teach immigration push and pull concepts with "The Move to the Prairie."