Chapter 3: The Long Rifle

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Robyn Brodhagen, 5th grade teacher, Schorr Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: This chapter is about how Pa makes his own bullets and he tells his daughters a story from when he was a little boy.

Chapter Themes: Guns (cleaning, mechanics, timing); Making things by hand (e.g., bullets); Listening to your parents; Cooking along the trail (utensils, food, access to staples); Nights on the prairie (sleeping, warmth); Selecting a location to homestead; Threatening animals along the trail; Rifles and their purposes (safety, hunting); Folktales; Pasturing cows; Getting lost in the woods (exposure);

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Descriptive Writing
      • The author used many descriptive words when writing about how Pa made his bullets for his rifle. She also was descriptive when writing about how Pa made the hooks that his rifle sat on. Students are to write about how they made something with their own hands (e.g., cookies, cards, art) using as many descriptive words as possible, helping to make their story come alive. When the stories are done, students are to stand in front of the class and read what they wrote.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.5.5 - Write paragraphs and compositions with main ideas that are supported by relevant details and state a conclusion.
        • 6.5.9 - Share final drafts with a designated audience.
    • Write your local Senator
      • In this chapter, the talk a lot about Pa's rifle. Rifles were very popular to have back then to help ward off against dangerous animals and Indians. Today, there is a lot of controversy with gun control. Write a letter to your local senator about your feelings on gun control.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.5.3 - write well-organized communications such as, friendly or business letters with envelope in an appropriate format for a specific audience and purpose.

  • Mathematics
    • How Much Profit?
      • Pa made his own bullets for his rifle. This is a math word problem that the students must describe how they received their answer.
        • If Pa decided to sell his bullets to the town store for 2 cents each, how many must he sell to make $5.00? $10.00?
      • Also, have students come up with their own amount and show how they came up with their answer.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.5.7 - represent and solve problems involving combinations using a variety of methods.
        • 1.5.18 multiply and divide decimals by whole numbers in problems representing practical situations.
    • How much time was lost in the woods?
      • In this chapter, Pa spoke about when he was a little boy and how one day he disobeyed his father. Pa became lost in the woods and before he knew it it was dark. Students are to be given a starting time from when Pa entered in the woods and if they know that it becomes dark around 6:30, students are to find the elapsed time that Pa stayed in the woods.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.5.8 - determine equivalent periods of time, including relationships between and among seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and years
        • D.5.6 - identify, explain, and use mathematics in everyday life
  • Social Studies
    • Creating a Map
      • In this entire book, including this chapter, the author speaks about the woods. Use the internet to locate where the woods Laura and her family lived in and create a map.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.5.4 - construct maps, charts, tables, and graphs to display information about human physical features in the United States
        • 3.5.7 recognize that states in the US may be groupsed into regions
    • Compare and Contrast
      • The Ingalls family lived very differently from how we live today. Research the way of life of people who lived in the 1800's. Write an essay comparing and contrasting from how people lived in the 1800's and how we live today.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.5.2 Write informative papers that develop a clear topic with appropriate facts, details, and examples from a variety of sources.

  • Science
    • Metal Observations
      • Pa had to melt down metal and use a mold in order to make bullets for his rifle. Students are to write in a science journal their observations of a metal that is chosen by the teacher. The teacher can either use the actual metal or a picture of one. They are to write down all their observations, such as color and texture. Anything they can. The teacher will then show a picture of the metal in it's melted form. Students are to write what they observe. Students are to compare and contrast what they see.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.5.5 Create and use labeled illustrations, graphs, and charts to convey ideas, record observations, and make predictions
    • Owl Investigation
      • In the story, Pa told his daughters a story of when he didn't listen to his father and played in the woods. While he was in the woods it became dark and all he could hear was the sound of an owl. This activity is a fun one for the students to use the computer and library books to investigate information on owls and display them in different ways - essay, poster, diorama, any way the student chooses (or the teacher gives the students certain choices)
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.5.5 Explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environments.
        • 4.5.3 Investigate and describe how plants and animals require food, water, air, and space.

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Gunpowder was created by the Chinese in as early as 850 A.D. They discovered gunpowder by accident because they were trying to create an elixir for immportality. When they heated the gunpowder in an experiment, some had their hands and faces burnt, while others had their homes burn down.

The Chinese were also the first ones to create a gun complete with a metal barrel. This was discovered in the 12th century.

Additional Resources


Note: This teacher's guide was developed as part of one of the Clark County School District's Teaching American History grants. In this grant module, teachers focused on using children's historical literature to teach cross-curricular concepts relating to 19th century westward movement. For more information about this blog, related teacher's guides, or the grant module, please contact Dr. Christy Keeler.


Selena said...

I like the idea of the descriptive writing assignment. Asking kids to write about what they made, how they made it will help them in their writing. Even having them talk about how they felt at the different stages of making their item might help them to understand better how authors set moods in stories.

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

I like the idea of having students write about their thoughts on gun control because this teaches civic content as well. My concern is that students will lack the knowledge to make informed decisions about the topic (I'd definitely add a research component first), and this is a highly controversial topic. For elementary-aged children, I recommend you begin by working with your principal and then (if s/he agrees to the assignment) you have children work with their parents on this assignment.

What a great science activity to teach students about melting metal (though also be sure to teach safety). A great book that teaches about melting metal from a historical perspective is Johnnie Tremain ( Johnnie Tremain is the fictional story of a boy during the Revolutionary War. He is a metal-working apprentice and burns his hand when working.

Jessica Graham said...

I enjoyed your idea on writing to the senator on gun control. Not only is it a very controversial topic that the students could become very opinionated about, but they are writing to someone in the local government that they could possibly receive a reply from. I am wondering, though, how students will treat the writing prompt. I know fifth graders at my school are very immature and sometimes violent anyway. It would depend on the teacher, classroom management, and the kids year to year, but it could definitely be a success!

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

I really appreciated Jessica's comment about violence in the schools and that this is an area in which we should be cautious. I agree it's good to have them write their senator, but probably not relating to gun control. I would probably wait until middle school to have students discuss the issue of gun control. At that point, they are more capable of understanding some of the complex issues related to the topic.