Chapter 4: Prairie Day

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Kristen Rizzo, 3rd grade teacher, J.T. McWilliams Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: In chapter 4 the Ingall’s family continues to rest at their spot on the prairie which is about 40 miles from Independence. The family does chores and Mary and Laura even have some time to explore the area. Ma and Laura have a conversation about Indians and Laura finds out the Ma doesn’t like Indians. This confuses Laura considering the fact that they are planning on moving to Indian country. Pa comes to the realization that there is plenty of game to eat on the prairie and the family is excited to start their new lives.

Chapter Themes: Negative feelings toward the Indians, importance of daily chores, importance of entertainment while out on the prairie; Hygiene on the prairie; Etiquette of the era; Water (washing, drinking, access); Jobs for each family member; Predator/prey relationships on the prairie; Settlement in “Indian Territory”

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • "Mail from the Prairie"
      • Students will choose a character from the chapter and write a friendly letter to a family member or friend back in the Big Woods of Wisconsin. This letter should be written in proper friendly letter form and should include a reasonable date for the time period, three points of interest, two questions about back home and what he or she is looking forward to in the coming days/weeks/months. Once the letters are written by everyone in the class, students will switch and have to answer one of the letters from the perspective of one of the people in Wisconsin
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.3.2 Write friendly letters

    • "Live, from the Prairie!"
      • For this activity the class will participate in a talk show (guest chairs and audience seat should be set up accordingly). Eight students will be given the roles of Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, Baby Carrie, Jack the dog, and Pet & Patty the horses. The other students will each come up with relevant questions for each of the characters. The teacher can introduce the guests and walk around the audience to find people who will ask questions. The students playing guests should answer the questions as if they were the characters living on the prairie
      • Standards Addressed
        • 10.3.2 Ask pertinent questions; respond to questions with relevant details.

  • Mathematics
    • "City to City"
      • In the chapter it mentions that the family is 40 miles away from Independence. In small groups have students use maps of the United States to measure the distances in miles between cities in the prairie states. Students will be responsible for choosing cities and using the map scale to measure. Students can compare distances using subtraction or add distances to show the mileage for a trip through numerous cities.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.3.2 Add and subtract multi-digit numbers with and without regrouping
        • 3.3.3 Use measuring devises with standard units to measure length
    • "Animal Fractions"
      • During their stop, the family saw many different wild animals. In this activity students will get with a partner and create a variety of animal fraction problems for another pair to solve. These problems can include adding & subtracting fractions, labeling fractions, comparing fractions, or ordering fractions.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.3.9 Write fractions with numerals and with number words
        • 1.3.9 Model, sketch and label fractions with denominators to 10
  • Social Studies
    • "Map Makers"
      • Using their previously taught knowledge about the Prairie and Indian Country at the time of the book Little House on the Prairie, students will create a map of a fictional state. The map must include a legend showing cities, the state capital, natural resources, and industries. If applicable the map and legend should include rivers and other landscape features. The maps should reflect the given time period.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)1.5 Use various legends on maps to identify cities, state capitals, natural resources, and industries.

    • "Fun with Latitude and Longitude"
      • After discussing major lines of latitude and longitude such as the equator and prime meridian, students will find the latitude and longitude for important cities in Little House on the Prairie. Once students have a list of five cities, they can work in groups to find the lines of latitude and longitude.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)1.3 Locate major lines of latitude and longitude

  • Science
    • "Star light, Star bright"
      • At the end of the chapter Laura was very interested in the stars. As a class create a K-W-L chart about stars. In order to research stars, have students read fiction and nonfiction books, read the encyclopedia, check the internet, and watch video clips from united streaming. Complete the K-W-L chart with their findings. Students can then write a report or prepare an oral presentation for the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)1.3describe the stars
        • *Solar system and universe strand
    • "Fiddle Fun"
      • At the end of the chapter Pa entertains the family by singing and playing his fiddle. In this activity students will have a chance to explore a variety of instruments (borrowed from the music teacher) to see and hear hands-on how sound waves are produced. Students will break up into groups and rotate around to all of the instrument centers. While at the center students will predict how the sounds are produced in writing as well as in an illustration form. Students will then receive books or internet articles about how sound is produced in the various instruments to check their predictions. *It would be great to have the music teacher do a follow up lesson during his or her time with the students on this topic.
      • Standards Addressed
        • P.5.C.2 Explain that vibrations produce sound waves

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

The time period of chapter 4 in Little House on the Prairie can be directly related to the overall module related theme of Westward Expansion as well as issues with Indians. The Ingall’s family was traveling westward as many other families were throughout the first half of the 19th century. According to the Joy text, during this time of American expansionism, Thomas Jefferson was trying to expand his ‘empire of liberty’ and become a force to be reckoned with on the world scene. Due to events such as the Louisiana Purchase (doubled the size of the United States, 1803) and the Lewis & Clark expedition (provided maps of trails and available resources, 1804), as well as concepts such as ‘Manifest Destiny’ (the belief that the United States was destined to expand across the continent, 1840’s) and ‘Oregon Fever’ (the drive to get to beautiful Oregon Country, 1841) many families had the courage, support, and opportunity to travel west. Cities such as Independence, Missouri were very important to these travelers just as in the Little House on the Prairie book. At one point in the chapter Ma and Laura have a conversation about the Indians they might encounter on their journey. Ma states that she doesn’t know why, but she just doesn’t like Indians. According to the Riley text, women who migrated to the West during the nineteenth century held ingrained images and preconceptions of Native Americans. Although these images did change over time, it was not a rapid process. It is also important to note that during this period in history Indians were being moved westward by the United States government in order to make room for the white settlers. As noted in the Joy text, congress passed what become known as the Indian Removal Bill in May of 1830. This gave the president the power to remove Indian tribes from the east in exchange for lands in the west. According to If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon by Ellen Levine, you would be able to trade with friendly Indians. On the other hand, your possessions might get stolen in you ran into unfriendly Indians.

Additional Resources

1 comment:

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

What a terrific idea to have students write and then respond to the letters. Often, students are asked to write letters that only the teacher reads. Your suggestion adds meaning to the assignment because students have to think more deeply about their audience, the reality of life on the prairie, and the time the letter was written. In preparation for this assignment, consider having students read letters written by and to family members along the trail that were written in the 1800s. These primary source artifacts are available online and will provide a level of authenticity to the assignment.

You are SO CREATIVE! What a great way to meet your language arts objective of asking/answering pertinent questions!