Banks of Plum Creek: 14—"Spring Freshet" and 15—"The Footbridge"

Teacher's Guide Author: Ivy Nelson, 4th grade teacher, Piggott Elementary School, Clark County School District


This teachers' guide is one of a series including activities for all chapters of On the Banks of Plum Creek. Additional teacher's guides are available for other Little House books as well as other books addressing the topic of U.S. westward migration.


Chapter Overviews: With the end of winter, the snow melt causes the nearby creek to bubble to it's fullest. Laura is awakened by the roaring of the creek and the concern in father's voice. Although she is told that there is nothing to worry about, Laura shows more curiosity than concern. She ventures out into the stinging cold and rain to have a look at the noisy creek. Laura is mesmerized by the power of this once serene creek. After she has seen enough, she returns home to a mother who knows her curiosity and scolds in a loving way.

The following day, Laura sneaks out to explore the creek in all it's wonders during the day. As she reaches the foot bridge, her child like curiosity draws her into a near drowning experience.

Once home, her mother makes her promise to stay put!

Chapters' Themes: Spring comes in with fury, honesty is the best policy, don't underestimate nature

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Post card from home
      • Students will create a postcard. Writing as if they were Laura, they will recount the event that occurred on the footbridge. Students will be expected to use all the senses in the letter. Students will decorate the front of their postcard with what they believe the prairie would look like in the early spring.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT understand and use key vocabulary
        • SWBAT restate main ideas
        • SWBAT write a response to literature
    • Figurative Language
      • Teacher will read aloud pgs. 101-102. The teacher will specifically point out examples of personification and similes. Teacher will prompt students to find other examples using two column notes. Students will record the figurative language examples on side 1 and will record implied meaning on side 2.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT explain similes and personifications
        • SWBAT record information
        • SWBAT organize information
  • Mathematics
    • Graph Rainfall Average on the prairie
      • Teacher will provide average rainfall by season for life on the praire. Students will create two different graph to represent their results. (bar graph, circle graph, pictograph, line graph)
      • Standards Addressed
        • use a variety of methods to represent and communicate mathematical ideas
        • organize and represent data using a variety of graphical representations.
    • Finding Mean, Median, Mode and Range
      • Using the data from the previous lesson, Teacher will model how to find mean, median, mode and range of rainfall during the seasons. Students will practice independently and will record their details on a poster.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT collect, organize, display, describe and interpret simple data to solve problems
        • SWBAT model and compute range
  • Social Studies
    • Ecosystem
      • Students will explore numerous types of ecosystems. Students will discuss similarities and differences between the ecosystems. Students will then create a poster detailing the animals and structure of a prairie. Students will write a brief caption to go with their ecosystems.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT generate specific examples of various ecosystems found here in Nevada and the United States
        • SWBAT construct a model of an ecosystem
    • Spring Hazards
      • Students will make a list of natural hazards that occur in our state. Students will narrow it to one and will plan a skit of the natural hazard. Students will act out their skits for the class and class will guess which hazard each group is acting out. Students will be specific when giving reasons for their guesses.
      • Standards Addressed
        • describe the effects of various natural hazards on the natural environment
  • Science
    • Grasshopper life cycle
      • Teacher will reread pg. 100 to the class and will ask the students what Laura meant when she asked Pa If it was Grasshopper weather yet? Teacher will record students responses in a circle map. Students will then use the internet to research the life cycle of a grasshopper and will create a diagram of it's life. Students will label all parts of their diagram.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT investigate, describe, compare, and contrast identifiable structures and characteristics of animals
        • SWBAT cooperate and contribute ideas within a group
    • Bodies of Water
      • Students will compare and contrast 4 bodies of water. Students will fold a large piece of construction paper into four sections. Students will title each section one of the following: stream, river, lake and creek. Student will draw a picture to represent each body of water and will write a brief caption for each one.
      • Standards Addressed
        • SWBAT investigate and describe bodies of water
        • SWBAT compare and contrast landforms
  • Historical Viewpoint

One of the main themes in this passage was nature is unpredicatable. Nature is often the cause of natural disasters and hazards that have a significant impact on the inhabitants living nearby. Environmental changes often occur quickly, but some, such as global warming, can occur very slowly over time. Certain meteorological phenomena such as floods and droughts, show what a valuable, yet scary resource water can be.

Less than 1 % of water, which covers 70% of the Earth's surface is accessible fresh water. Children really have no idea how limited this resource is. Students are often blown away that there is actually more fresh water tied up in glacial ice.

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.


Gail said...

My one “heart” comment is that I like the Spring Hazards activity because you get the kids talking and moving with the skit! I also appreciate the fact there is an audience participation part, which makes the kids listen to the information in two formats – as the receiver and the deliverer.

My first “wish” is that there were more details given in the overview of the chapters. I was hoping to see an overview per chapter. My second “wish” is that for the figurative language activity there was an extension activity added, such as have the students work with a partner to create 1-2 examples of similes or personification. This extension would align with the higher levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Overall, this was a well designed teacher’s guide.

Neil G said...

I really liked the math ideas for your teacher's guide. They were interrelated, so it would be easy to have a connection between the two. It is evident you spent time thinking of engaging activities for the students to do.

I do have a couple of suggestions. First, I would like to have seen a bit more detail in the description of the activities. For instance, in the rainfall and graphing activity, where would students find the information? Does it mention it in the book? This added detail will help the teacher truly know what resources he or she can look to for further guidance and just a bit more clarification. Also, I would probably write out the standard, with the number, that is being addressed. It just seems a little more formal that way.

Thanks for the guide. I can see how students would really have a lot of fun with the activities you provided.

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

The postcard is a terrific idea. Perhaps you could have them create the picture using KidPix and then having them print them out and write their information on the back. They could even create stamps that would depict prairie life. Having them express all their senses in the postcard is genius! :-)

The "Figurative Language" activity is a nice way to blend grammar into a listening opportunity. Personification is always a fun concept and this will make students cognizant of personification when they hear it in their everyday lives.

For your mathematics lessons, I don't see how any graphic representation other than bar and line graphs would work. Could you explain this in greater detail? Also, It would be neat to have them graph the data in Excel and then graph a second line including temperatures in Las Vegas (and maybe even their country of origin). Also, this is a great way to encourage use of primary sources.

Having students act out the spring hazards is a great way to differentiate instruction while appealing to alternative learning styles and intelligences.

Gotta love your infusion of technology!