Chapter 5: The House on the Prairie

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Michael Papushak, 3rd grade teacher, Laura Dearing Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview:

The IThe Ingalls family finds a spot where they would build their house on the prairie after traveling in their covered wagon for many days and many miles. Pa begins to build the house after collecting logs for days from the creek bottoms. As Pa and Ma built the house, Laura and her sisters were able to explore the prairie. While building the house, a log accidentally falls on Ma's foot, injuring her. Despite this setback, Pa soon meets a neighbor and bachelor, Mr. Edwards, who agrees to help finish building the Ingalls' home. In appreciation for his help, Ma cooks Mr. Edwards a fine supper. After supper and into the night, the Ingalls Family and Mr. Edwards have a jolly old time singing and dancing along with Pa as he played the fiddle. Soon, it was time for Mr. Edwards to head on his long journey home. Pa continued playing until he was out of sight and could not be heard singing any more. When Pa stopped for a moment, a nightingale began to sing in the distance. Pa joined the bird in its song by playing a few notes on the fiddle and they continued that way into the night under the moon.

Chapter Themes:

  • building the house on the prairie
  • everyone working together to accomplish goals
  • showing appreciation for others help
  • making new friends in a new environment
  • life on a prairie
  • children "must be seen and not heard"/ showing respect for adults and elders
  • What is a prairie (e.g., pictures, geography)?
  • Elements of wagons and their purposes/uses
  • Settlers’ perceptions of native peoples
  • Home construction on the prairie (method, materials, workers)
  • Injuries in the wilderness
  • Community responsibility
  • Families vs. individuals on the prairie
  • Entertainment when on the trail

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts

Activity Idea 1: Figurative Language Analysis

      • Pairs of students will find 2 examples of similies and/or metaphors in the chapter to analyze and interpret their meanings within the context of the story. Students will then record their observations and share them with other pairs of students. As a group, students will then try interpret each others' examples in different ways not found by original pairs.
      • Standards Addressed
        • identify similie and metaphor in text;interpret non-literal language [3.5]
        • interpret information in new contexts [2.9]
    • Activity Idea 2: Pioneer Vocabulary Round-Up
      • In groups, students will make Vocabulary rings to learn new words used by the pioneers from the chapter. Card 1 Front= Word, Card 1 Back= Definition, Card 2 Front=synonym, Card 2 back=antonym, Card 3 Front=part of speech, Card 3 back=sentence using the word, Card 4 Front= Example Picture, Card 4 Back=Non Example Picture. One person in each group will be responsible for one card. Cards will then be hole punched and put onto a ring. Rings can be put into a center for students to be able to practice the words.
      • Standards Addressed
        • use dictionaries and glossaries to determine the meanings and other features of unknown words [1.5]
        • develop vocabulary through meaningful experiences (e.g. wide reading, discussion of word meanings, interactive activities, examples and non-examples) [1.12]
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1: Mr. Edward's Spitting Contest
      • Mr. Edwards was the farthest spitter Laura had ever imagined seeing. In this activity, students will first work in pairs and have a corn kernel spitting contest to see who can spit it the farthest. This will be done for 5 trials. Students will then measure the distances the kernels are spit using appropriate measurement tools. Next, students will then organize their own data and display it in a graph chosen by them. Finally, students will display their graphs for the rest of the class and describe their findings.
      • Standards Addressed
        • estimate and use measuring devices with standard and non-standard units to measure length [3.2]
        • collect, organize, display, and describe simple data from surveys and experiments using number lines, pictographs, bar graphs, and frequency tables [5.1]
    • Activity Idea 2: How much Wood Would it take?
      • When Pa was building the house he used many logs. At different times in the chapter the author describes how high the house was getting. For example, the house was 4 logs high or 8 logs high, etcetera. An example question could be, How many logs would it take to build the house if it were 15 logs high? (15logs high x 4 logs per level)= 60 logs total. In this activity, groups of 3-4 students will generate one and two step math problems using the previous description as an example for other groups to solve using different problem solving strategies. They may incorporate another building as if another family had moved nearby, or even noting that Pa built the stable in the same manner. This may make the problems more challenging or involve a second or third step too.
      • Standards Addressed
        • generate and solve two step addition and subtraction problems based on practical situations using pencil and paper, mental computation, and estimation [1.31]
        • formulate own problems; use various approaches to investigate and solve problems [6.3]
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1: House on the Prairie Model/ Replica
      • In this activity students will construct a model of the Ingalls' house using small pretzel rods and frosting to hold them together. First, the model can be built on a piece of construction paper. Next, students will also draw on or make on the model if possible the windows and door. Students will then place a compass rose oriented in the proper direction (as per the book says) on the paper. Finally, students will complete their model by drawing the river and other elements described in the chapter on the paper. Students will then display their models for the class to see and do a gallery walk to observe others' models.
      • Standards Addressed
        • identify the difference between physical and human features [3.9]
        • identify and use the cardinal directions on a compass rose to locate places on a map [3.1]
    • Activity Idea 2: Prairie Map
      • Groups of students (3-4) in this activity will draw a map to replicating the prairie as described in various parts of the chapter. Included on the map will be a compass rose oriented properly, the river, the Ingalls' home, and any other important features deemed important by the group. After completion, groups will write questions about locations on their maps where answers will be compass directions. For example, Is the Ingalls' house east or west of the river?
      • Standards Addressed
        • identify and use the cardinal directions on a compass rose to locate places on a map [3.1]
        • construct a simple map, including titles, symbols, and directions [3.4]
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1: My Family Tree
      • In this activity, students will create a family tree for their family,one similar to the Little House Family Tree at the front of the book. Students will research and find out 2-3 ( or more if possible) generations of their family tree and then display the information on a tree map or chart for other students to see. After completion, the class can do a gallery walk and then have a class discussion where students can ask questions, state comments, or observations of other students' family trees.
      • Standards Addressed
        • investigate and describe ways that offspring may resemble and differ from parents and siblings may resemble and differ from each other [4.1]
        • create and used labeled illustrations [1.6]
    • Activity Idea 2: Pioneer Trunk
      • In this activity, students will observe, describe, make predictions about, and investigate information about items used or found during Pioneer times. If you are a teacher here in Las Vegas, there is a company called "Nevada Humanities" which allows teachers check out trunks filled with lots of the items that students can use in this investigation. If you live in another area, it might take some research on the part of the teacher to acquire some of these items, but if accessible, this would be a very rewarding experience for students as they would have immediate access to significant objects in the life of a pioneer.
      • Standards Addressed
        • describe objects in terms of their observable properties (mass, texture, color, and temperature) [2.3]
        • conduct investigations based on observations and questions raised about the world [1.3]
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

One of the major themes of this chapter was the building of the Ingalls' house on the prairie and the descriptions of how it was built. Like the Ingalls family, as soon as they could, pioneers replaced temporary shelters with log cabins. Settlers cut notches in the logs close to the ends so that they fitted together to make the cabin walls. Once the logs were stacked, empty spaces were filled with moss and mud. Hangers for clothing were made by inserting a peg into a hole in the wall, or by nailing a forked stick in a handy place. Windows and doors were cut after the walls were up and short blocks of logs were cut for the ends to rest on. Open spaces in the walls were made with long wedges split from logs. Early homes were set to the compass rose to help the pioneers keep their directions straight especially on the prairie where there were few landmarks to help. The door was facing the south to let in light and to mark the passage of time as the sun moved. Walls were usually seven logs high with extra room for the angled roof.
As for the inside of the cabin, smaller logs were split from larger ones and made the floor. The bed in the corner of the cabin was usually the one shared by Ma and Pa and possibly a child. A log house is pretty comfortable, with its thick walls. Heat in the summer rose through the chimney and was sometimes pushed out by the wind. Along with the fireplace, the family many times used each others' heat to keep warm in winter.

Additional Resources


Randi Stover said...

I would use many of your plans in my own classroom. I really appreciate how you made your lessons engaging as well as educational. Students would certainly learn to love history with these activities! Creating math lessons for this book is difficult and you did a great job making them relevant. If the kernel spitting lesson was in the fall you could use pumpkin seeds to incorporate the season. I like the idea of using vocabulary words in a variety of ways to make it meaningful and build connections. You could also create vocabulary cubes with all of the parts you listed. For a center students could toss the cube and play charades to guess which word is being portrayed. The family tree is a personal way to make history come alive. That would be an item that all of the family members could enjoy and cherish too.

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

I love the corn kernel spitting contest idea! But... I worry that there may be safety and other issues that might negate the possibility of doing it. Be sure you run this one by the principal before doing the activity. You don't want to have to deal with angry parents because you encouraged their children to spit and you certainly don't want an angry nurse because of the bodily fluids exasperated around the school and in proximity to other students. :-) That said, can I participate on that day? LOL

When you do the pretzel/frosting activity, be sure the focus remains on the content and not the craft. Have students mathematically determine dimensions using ratio and compare the dimensions of the logs to the dimensions of the pretzels. I wonder if you could do this lesson as effectively using Lincoln Logs (though it would be as tasty)? So, my question is... what does using the pretzels and frosting add to teaching about the content?

You clearly have a strength in your ability to teach geography concepts!

Gotta love your use of primary sources with the Traveling Trunk! Know that other states (though I'm not sure about all states) also offer these trunks to teachers through their state humanities organizations. Different states have trunks from different eras.

How will you deal with children in your classroom who have no information about their family tree?