Chapter 8: Dance at Grandpa's

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Monica Modesitt, 4th grade teacher, McMillan Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: The Ingalls get up early and head through the Big Woods to Grandpa’s. The men haul the maple syrup to Grandma where she pours it in a kettle to grain. Later people arrive. Pa gets out his fiddle, and the party comes to life. It culminates with Grandma out-jigging Uncle George. Grandma remembers the syrup just in time. The syrup grains, and everyone rushes to get a scoop of snow with drizzled syrup. After eating the maple candy, the fiddling and dancing resume. Laura watches twirling skirts, stomping boots, and then falls asleep listening to the sound of Pa's fiddling.

Chapter Themes: Cooperation and Interdependence; Pioneer Male and Female Roles; Settler Entertainment; The Civil War; Immigration; Scottish/Irish Dance and Music Changes in Transportation; Dance Attire, Sounds of Dance (Sleigh Bells), Square Dancing/Jig; Instruments of the Time (fiddle, bugle); Courting; Syrup Waxing; Animal Tracking; Animal Tracking; Foods of the Time (hasty pudding); Family Time Together; House Styles and Living Arrangements; Defining "Wild"; Dressing and Hair Styles for 19the Century Celebrations; Making Soap

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Activity Idea 1: My Favorite Scene
      • Description: Students will construct a diorama of their favorite scene. Then, the students will have to present their diorama to the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 3.4.1 Know plot, characterization, setting, conflict, resolution.
        • Standard 2: 9.4.3 Give organized presentations that demonstrate a clear viewpoint.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title: Come to a Party at Grandpa’s
      • Description: Students will compose a formal invitation inviting guests to attend Grandpa’s dance.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 5.4.2 Write well-organized friendly and formal letters.
        • Standard 2: 7.4.4 Use rules of capitalization.
  • Mathematics
    • Activity Idea 1 Title: Blueprint of Grandpa’s House
      • Description: The students will draw a blueprint of Grandpa’s house. Students will label each room—kitchen, big room, Uncle George’s room, Aunt Docia’s and Aunt Ruby’s room.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 3.4.3 Communicate difference between perimeter and area; describe/determine the perimeter of polygons and the area of rectangles.
        • Standard 2: 1.4.8 Generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers in practical situations.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title: A New Outfit for the Dance
      • Description: Laura describes the patterns in Ma’s, Aunt Docia’s, and Aunt Ruby’s dresses. The teacher will bring in pieces of flannel, calico, lace, and delaine (see website for an example of Ma’s delaine dress. The students design an outfit, integrating a geometric design.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 2.4.1 Identify, describe, and represent patterns and relationships in the number system including arithmetic and geometric sequences.
        • Standard 2: 4.4.2 Identify shapes that are congruent, similar, and/or symmetrical using a variety of methods including transformational motions.
  • Social Studies
    • Activity Idea 1 Title: Dance and Music
      • Description: Show students a video of people jigging. Explain that jigs are a part of the Scottish or Irish culture. Give students a set of directions and have them locate Scotland and Ireland on a map. In groups, have students discuss and list reasons why the Scottish and Irish came to America. Students will check their predictions via an internet search. Have students discuss how music is important to them, thereby connecting them with the importance of music to the early settlers. Then, take students to the playground so they can jig. An example of “Slip Jig” dancing -
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 4.3.1 Identify and use intermediate directions on a compass rose to locate places on a map.
        • Standard 2: 4.4.11 Discuss how and why people from various cultures immigrated and migrated to the American west.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title: A Soldier’s Uniform
      • Description: Students will reread on page 136 beginning with the 4th paragraph and continuing to page 137 and reading the 1st paragraph. Students will use details from this passage and The Little House Family Tree (in the front of the book) to construct a timeline to determine an approximate year for this event in Little House in the Big Woods. Note: For a more accurate date, give students the following information: Caroline married Charles when she was 16 years old on February 1, 1860. Laura was born on February 7, 1867. She was 4 – 5 years old in the Little House in the Big Woods.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: 4.4.1 Record events on a graphic organizer, such as a time line.
        • Standard 2: 4.4.12 Read historical passages and interpret details.
  • Science
    • Activity Idea 1 Title: Melting Ice
      • Description: On page 133, the first paragraph reads that the “air was growing warmer already and Pa said that the snow wouldn’t last long.” Ask students to discuss what is meant by Pa’s statement. Then explain that the sun generates heat, thereby melting the snow. Next, give students a clear plastic cup with one ice cube, representing the snow. Take cups outside to a sunny spot on the playground. Students make periodic observations of the ice in the cup. Finally, students make a diagram of the water cycle.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: E.5.A.2 Describe the water cycle, including the role of the sun.
        • Standard 2: P.5.A.2 Explain that water can be a liquid, a gas, or a solid and can go back and forth from one form to another.
    • Activity Idea 2 Title: The Many Colors of the Sun
      • Description: On page 132, Laura vividly describes the sunshine in the woods. She says “the long streaks of yellow light lay between the shadows of the tree trunks, and the snow was colored faintly pink. All the shadows were thin and blue.” This can be used as a catalyst for a discussion on what color is light. Give students prisms and take them out side and let them split the sunlight in to many colors. On page 133, it reads, “The air was growing warmer already and Pa said that the snow wouldn’t last long.” This statement can be used to start explain that the sunlight produces heat.
      • Standards Addressed
        • Standard 1: P.5.C.1 Describe light in terms of simple properties (color, brightness, reflection)
        • Standard 2: P.5.C.3 Explain that light is usually associated with heat, and that heat is often a by product of energy conversion.

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Joy’s main theme is westward expansion at any cost. The United States wanted to expand their boundaries and capitalize on the natural resources by any means necessary, whether by war, treaties, or negotiations. The Manifest Destiny was fulfilled from 1790 – 1850. In a period of 60 years, 19,100,000 came to the United States. From where did these people come?

Many immigrants came from western European countries, and a large percentage of these were Irish, who brought with them much of their culture and tradition. Among these traditions was a fine history of music and dance. We see examples of this in the passage describing the dancing of the jig, in which Grandma “out-jigged” Uncle George. We have further evidence of their heritage when they later play “The Irish Washer Woman” which is a traditional Irish Jig, dating back prior to 1791. Although the tragedies were plentiful, the early pioneers sought release and escape through jigs and other entertainment.

We can find examples where jigs and the music brought people together. The example that comes to mind is that of “The Arkansas Traveler.” The Arkansas Traveler is many things; it is a traditional Jig; it is a set of paintings; and it is a story. The story of the Arkansas Traveler is a simple one. A traveler worn and weary finds himself lost and well beyond the borders of established civilization. He happens across a ramshackle cottage where the settler sits playing the first part of the jig “The Arkansas Traveler.” The traveler is seeking shelter and food, but he is met with disdain and sent away by the settler. The traveler instead of leaving begins to play the second half of the jig, which is called “The Turn of the Tune” upon hearing this, the mood changes and the settler extends the hand of friendship to the traveler. We see here an example of conflict being resolved by a cultural connection. Riley touches upon this when she talks about music bringing “solace and civility” (Chapter 5, page 204).

Jigs, and their cultural necessity, date back to 400AD, when the influence of Christianity needed to find a way to be acclimated into the previously pagan rituals and belief structures. Christianity adopted the illustrative traditions in their manuscripts and the gaiety of their dance in their festivals. As early as 1569, we find a letter from Queen Elisabeth I which proclaims the skill and beauty of the Irish dancers. By the 18th Century Irish Dance was widely regarded as an art form of its own, and formal structure had formed around it. Irish Dance Masters taught in their own regions and competitions were held to test the best of the dancers, many of which were women. The writings of Riley further states “that women were often called upon to be the conservators of cultural heritage,” thereby drawing a clear validation to the events the Ingalls illustrated.

Through music and dance, the early pioneers carried with them, not only their culture, but brought a welcome and necessary release from their toils and hardships.

Additional Resources


Michael Papushak said...

You have some great ideas Monica! I also had the diorama project as one of my activities. They are a great, hands-on, and artistic learning experience for students. I have an extension idea to go along with 2 of your activities, the invitation and outfits. You could along with these two activities, hold a real pioneer party/ dance in your classroom. Students can make the outfits to wear. Then, using the formal invitations, invite parents, other classmates, administrators, etcetera to the party and even teach them the jig. I really enjoyed your blog. Thanks.

Jaime Tschan said...

I also enjoyed your guide to chapter 8. I like your use of technology and having the students view the jig dance online. I agree with Michael as far as extensions to your activities. You might also have your students perform the dance as a routine at a school assembly. That might get the whole school involved, not just one class. Good work!