Chapter 8: Two Stout Doors

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Heather Bay Rampton, 3rd grade teacher, Rose Warren Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: This chapter was a seven-page detailed description of how Pa built two doors, one for the house and one for the barn, out of logs. He made the doors without using nails. He had been waiting to go into town to buy nails, but after the incident with the wolves, he felt that building doors was an urgent matter. Before the doors, the only thing separating the family from the wolves was a quilt hung in the doorway.

Chapter Themes: carpentry, survival skills; Constructing a door (engineering of the 19th century; Leather and wood (accessing, curing); Predator/Prey relationships (e.g., deer/wolves, horses/horse thieves); Cooking indoors vs. outdoors; Foods at meals; Vulnerability to the weather; Children’s responsibilities

Chapter Activities
  • Language Arts
    • Advertisement for Pa's Doors
      • In partners or small groups, students will create an advertisement for Pa's Doors, with the target audience being other settlers needing doors. In the advertisement, students should include the reason for needing doors, as well as a brief explanation of how the doors are made. If time and materials allow, students can also create a jingle and record a commercial.
      • Standards Addressed from the Power Standards
        • 2.3.4 Restate facts and details in text to share information and organize ideas.
        • 2.3.A1 Interpret information in new contexts
        • 6.3.3 Write simple compositions and persuasive essays that address main ideas and supporting details.
    • Instruction Manual for Building a Door
      • Students will synthesize the information in chapter eight and use it to write an instruction manual for how to build a door without nails. The manual can be presented in a variety of ways: a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, a brochure, a booklet, etc... Students may choose to do this project individually, with a partners, or in small groups.
      • Standards Addressed from the Power Standards
        • 2.3.4 Restate facts and details in text to share information and organize ideas.
        • 2.3.A1 Interpret information in new contexts.
        • 4.3.6 Read and follow multi-step directions to complete a task.
        • 9.3.5 Give clear three- and four-step directions to complete a simple task.
  • Mathematics
    • Design a Door
      • The teacher will write various dimensions for a door written on slips of paper. Each student will pick a slip of paper and then design a door with those dimensions. Students will record how many logs they need, with given measurements for an "average" size log. Students will write instructions for how to build their door.
        • Standards Addressed from the Power Standards
          • 3.3.2 Select and use appropriate units of measurement; measure to a required degree of accuracy, and record results.
          • 6.3.1 Select and apply strategies to sole practical and mathematical problems.
    • Little Doors on the Prairie
      • Pioneer families often shared labor tasks. Perhaps Pa was assigned to build doors for the other families living nearby. Students will estimate how many doors are needed in an average prairie town. To get this information, students will estimate how many families live in the area by re-reading chapter seven. Chapter seven mentions the Scott Family, the bachelors, the family suffering from fever and ague, and of course, the Ingalls family. Then, the students will estimate how many doors each family needs for their houses, barns, and other structures. Students will multiply this number by the number of families to calculate approximately how many doors are needed. If time allows, this can be extended with information from the previous activity to further estimate how many logs would be needed to build doors for an entire prairie town.
      • Standards Addressed from the Power Standards
        • 6.3.1 Select and apply strategies to solve practical and mathematical problems.
        • 1.3.3 Generate a solve 2-step addition and subtraction problems, and 1-step multiplication problems based on practical situations, using pencil/paper, mental math, and estimation.
  • Social Studies
    • Blueprint for the Little House on the Prairie
      • Based on the descriptions of the house thus far in the book, students will work with a partner to create a blueprint for the Ingalls family house. Students will include doors, windows, furniture, etc...
      • Standards Addressed from the C.E.F.
        • 3.3.4 Students will construct a simple map, including title, symbols, and directions.
        • 3.3.6 Students will identify and explain simple spatial patterns on a map.
    • The Debate for Doors
      • The class will split up in to three debating groups: the "Pro-Door" group, the "No-Door" group, and the "Freedom to Choose" group. Students will have a class debate on whether or not handmade doors of this nature were really needed. Students can argue various issues. The Pro-Door group can argue that it is every family's right to build their own sturdy doors. The No-Door group can argue that homemade doors are depleting the natural resources (trees) and also hurting the economy because commercial door builders are losing business. The Freedom to Choose group can argue that it is everyone on the prairie should be able to make their own choices. At the end of the debate, students can propose and vote on a solution.
      • Standards Addressed from the C.E.F.
        • 3.1.2 Students will recognize differences of opinion.
        • 3.1.1 Students will explain that democracy involves voting, majority rule, and setting rules.
        • 3.2.3 Students will identify the benefits and costs of an all-or-nothing choice.
        • 3.2.15 Students will explain what a producer does.
        • 3.3.27 Students will compare the wants and needs of people in different communities and the means used to fulfill those wants and needs.
  • Science
    • How Many Trees?
      • Students will estimate how many trees are needed to build doors for a prairie community. Students will discuss how this will affect the local ecosystem.
      • Standards Addressed from the C.E.F.
        • 3.4.6 Students will investigate and describe how changes to an environment can be beneficial or harmful to plants or animals.
        • 3.4.7 Students will investigate, compare, and contrast identifiable structures and characteristics of plants and animals that enable them to grow, reproduce, and survive.
    • Different Kinds of Wood
      • Students will explore various kinds of trees and the properties of different kinds of woods to determine what kind of trees would make the best doors. Students will record their findings in their science notebooks. Students can research using the following websites:
      • Standards Addressed from the C.E.F.
        • 3.1.3 Students wil conduct investigations based on observations and questions raised about the world.
        • 3.1.5 Student will use science notebook entries to develop, communicate, and justify descriptions, explanations, and predictions.
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes
Pioneer Life—the Great Equalizer

The first pages of Little House on the Prairie explain that Pa’s reason for moving the family to “Indian country” is because it has become “too crowded” (Wilder 1). Pa was not the only person who felt this way. Many people during this time period continued moving west because the settled areas started to feel overcrowded. In areas that had been settled for a long time, the land prices were very high, and this also brought about high taxes (Joy 13). Joy also states that some settlers moved further west to “escape a social order that they saw as too settled and conservative” (Joy 13). All of these reasons validate Pa Ingalls’ motives for moving his family further west.

The move west brought about a new social order. In our class lecture, we discussed the idea that pioneer life equalized people. People were judged by what they could do rather than by what kind of education they had. College education and wealth suddenly took a backseat to practical survival skills as pioneers settled the frontier.

This was certainly the case with Pa Ingalls. After reading Little House on the Prairie, it is unclear as to whether or not Pa is college-educated or if he came from a wealthy family back east, however it is reasonably safe to assume that was not case. As the family moved west, however, none of this mattered. The census from that time period reports that C. Ingalls, better known as “Pa Ingalls,” was a carpenter, and these skills helped ensure his family’s safety as they settled in untamed lands. Throughout the entire Little House series, there are many accounts of Pa building various structures, from nail-free doors to a meat smoker. Pa hunted all sorts of animals to feed his family. A formal college education would not have helped his family survive in “Indian country.”

Works Cited and Referenced:

Joy, Mark S. American Expansionism 1783-1860. Great Britain: Pearson Education, 2003.

Riley, Glenda. Women in the American West. Arlington Heights: Harlan Davidson, 1992.

Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House on the Prairie. New York: Harper Collins, 1935.

Additional Resources


Coolibah1 said...

Nice job, Heather! I really liked your math suggestion of "Build a Door." How creative! I wouldn't have thought of that on my own. I was thinking it could be beneficial if the teacher also added a tangible aspect to it. Maybe you could have the students actually make their door out of popsicle sticks and tie in a lesson about "scale." The students could have to decide how many feet a popsicle stick would represent.

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

Great use of links and wonderful ideas!

I'm not sure the debate over doors/no doors would really work because of the need for protection from wild animals discussed elsewhere in the book and because the the lack of environmentalist thinking during the time. Today, we tend to think of killing trees and animals as bad; whereas, 1800s settlers realized these were necessary for life. I'm not sure it is fair to have elementary-level children debating such emotionally heated issues given their lack of knowledge on the topics and the history.

I'd love to read what others think...

DrummerGirl said...

I'm not sure the debate over doors/no doors would really work...
I agree. I was really grasping at straws to come up with ideas for this chapter. It was really just a seven-page description on how to build a door without nails. Any other social studies ideas are welcomed!

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

What about considering the types of resources to build different types of houses and doors. For instance, we use wooden, fire-resistant doors. What did Native American's use (comparing different tribes)? Did they use different materials to build doors on the prairie than compared to living in the "Big Woods"? What about when they lived back East? How did Pa learn to build doors? You could teach about specialization. For instance, some of your students' fathers are probably carpenters. Do they all work on all types of carpentry jobs , or do they focus on certain aspects (e.g., finishing work)? Why is it that Pa had to know how to do everything and how did he learn to do everything? Could we live that way in an urban community today? What about in a rural environment?