Banks of Plum Creek: 22—"Town Party" and 23—"Country Party" and 24—"Going to Church"

Teacher's Guide Author: Jonathan Geiger, 3rd grade teacher, Cunningham 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:

Chapter 22: Town Party. Laura and Mary go to the Oleson's for a party. The country children are amazed at the beautiful home and furnishings. The children are allowed to play with magnificent toys, including a model of Noah's Ark, Tin soldiers and a jumping jack. Nellie is terribly selfish with her wax doll. Laura plots to get back at Nellie for her rude behavior.

Ch. 23 Country Party. Nellie and the big girls go to Laura's home for a party. Ma prepares Vanity cakes for the party. Laura is embarrassed of her rag doll. Nellie is rude to Ma. Laura plots to get back at Nellie. Laura and the girls go play at the creek. Laura scares Nellie with the old crab in the creek. While Nellie is wadding in the creek she gets covered with "bloodsuckers" or leeches. Laura pulls off the leeches while Nellie screams. The party ends with the girls eating all the vanity cakes and milk they want and Nellie not thanking them for the party.

Chapter 24 Going to Church. Pa takes the family to church. Laura and Mary have never seen a church. The chapter describes Ma's beautiful handmade dress in detail. They travel over the prairie early and Ma makes a mistake on the color of bows during getting ready. Laura knows the story at Sunday school, but ends up liking Sunday school because it breaks the monotony of Sunday up. The family continues to go to church. Pa needs new boots but ends up giving the three dollars to the church for a new bell. Pa hopes his crop will come in and they will have plenty of money.

Chapters' Themes: Pioneer churches, prairie life, prairie topography, stream wildlife, pioneer toys, pioneer foods, clothing, wheat harvesting, poverty.

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Greed and Revenge
      • Students will be read portions of "Town Party" and "Counrty Party". These sections will involve: Nellie's behavior with her wax doll, Laura's response after the party to Mary, Nellie's attitude toward Ma at the Country Party and Laura's response toward Nellie at the creek. Students will then create a cause and effect chart relating these actions. Further, a sequence chart can be created in addition to the cause and effect flow chart.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.3.1A2 Describe and compare sequence of events
        • CCSD 3.3.1B Identify how one event may cause another event
        • CCSD 3.2.3A6 After reading strategies to Evaluate text and make inferences/draw conclusions
        • 3.3.9J Organize information with graphic organizer/flow chart
    • Planning a Party
      • Students will listen to excerpts about the parties in Ch. 22 and Ch. 23. Students will plan a party and create an invitation. Students will list everything that is required for the party. Students will share their finished products with the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.5.1B Consider audience and purpose
        • CCSD 3.5.1C/D Consider format, explore a topic and plan written work
        • CCSD 3.5.2C Participate in writing activities (e.g. lists)
  • Mathematics
    • Pioneer Baking
      • Students will be read portion of "Country Party" where Ma is making the Vanity cakes. Students will then be shown a recipe for making biscuits. 2 c. flour, 2 Tb. baking soda, 1 tsp. salt, 1 c. water. Students will then be given standard measuring cups and be able to see the different sizes. Students will then be given ingredients and asked to follow the recipe.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.3.1 Estimate and use measuring devices with standard units to measure volume/capacity
        • CCSD 3.3.6 Select and use appropriate units of measurement
    • Making Money
      • Students will be read section of "Going to Church", where Pa wants to buy a new pair of books for three dollars. Students will be asked to discuss if this is possible to day. Students will be given money manipulative. Students will be asked to determine possible combinations to create this given amount of $3.00. Students will record their combinations then share in the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.3.9 Determine possible combinations of coins and bills to equal a given monetary amount
        • CCSD 3.3.10 Read, write and use money notation
  • Social Studies
    • The Great American Desert
      • Students will locate and learn about the great plains. Students will locate the Great Plains on the map. Students will identify the states that are located within this region. Students will take notes on the limited rainfall and geographic properties of the region. i.e. flat, rolling hills and very little vegetation. Students will create their own map of the Great Plains with color coded states were the early pioneers settled.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.3.3 Use maps to collect geographic information 3.3.1 Identify and use the cardinal directions on a compass rose to locate places on a map
        • CCSD 3.3.4 Construct a simple map, including title, symbols, and directions
    • Looking at the Land
      • Students will be shown photographs of the Great Plains. Students will discuss the physical properties of the land. Students will be shown photographs of early pioneer homes and buildings, including churches and sod homes. Students will take notes and discuss the differences between the land and the buildings that were built on the prairie. Students will draw and label important parts of the sod home. Students will be read sections of "Town Party" and "Country Party" regarding their possessions and toys, and discuss the differences between the Oleson's and the Ingall's needs and desires.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.3.9 Identify differences between physical and human features. 3.2.14 Demonstrate that each family has a limited amount of money 3.2.16 Give an example of income 3.2.26 Identify jobs and careers within a city and community.
        • 3.2.27 Compare the wants and needs of people and the means to fulfill those needs
  • Science
    • Stream Life
      • Students will be read portion of "Country Party" that deals with the leeches. Students will be shown a diagram of a stream ecosystem. Students will take notes and discuss the relationship of the organisms found within the ecosystem. Students will diagram the stream ecosystem and label important interactions that had been discussed during the note taking section of the activity. Students will present their finished product to the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.L2C Students will understand that living things live in different places.
        • CCSD 3.L5C Students understand that organisms interact with their ecosystems LA 3.7.1 Listen for the purpose of gaining information
  • Comparing Wheat and Crabs
      • Students will be read "Going to Church" section when Pa is harvesting wheat, then "Country Party" when Laura talks about old crab. Students will then be given a diagram which needs to be completed by the students for both wheat and crabs. Students will label parts of the wheat stalk and parts of the crabs anatomy, i.e. shell(exoskeleton), claws etc... and purpose for each structure. Students will discuss the differences between the life cycles of these two living things.
      • Standards Addressed
        • CCSD 3.L12B Students understand that all life forms use specialized structures and similar processes to meet life's needs
        • CCSD 3.L2B Students understand that living things have identifiable characteristics

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Theme: Pioneer Food vs. Settlers Food

People often have a misconception about the pioneers, settlers and food. Often we think it was just bacon and beans. Perhaps this misconception comes from the views we have of the pioneers as they traveled west in their covered wagons. Once settled though, they often times ate a wide variety of foods while they were in season, and preserved the produce when they could for the winter months.

Pioneers would hunt and fish for food. They would pick berries and other wild fruits they encountered to add to their supplies. The basis for the settlers tables was the family garden or "kitchen garden". Settlers would plant two gardens a year. One in the spring and one in the summer. The spring garden would provide things like greens, radishes, and peas. The summer garden would provide pumpkins, beans, potatoes and squash. Most of the woman's time on a homestead was tending to the family's garden and farm animals. They made cheese and butter from the animals milk and also gathered eggs. Fruit trees were planted as soon as a homestead was established.

Settlers could buy flour, tea, salt, sugar, coffee, bacon, dried fruit, dried beans, cornmeal, split peas, oatmeal, vinegar, pickles, dried beef, salt pork, assorted spices and other commodities at a general store. Yet, even with these staples, settlers spent a great deal of time and effort to add to these foods. Again, as I stated before, the majority of the work was done by the woman. She had to gather the eggs, milk the cow, pull the weeds, can the jam, prepare and water the garden on top of her other domestic jobs. It was estimated that the woman provided up to half of the family's food during these times.

Gourds were a popular vegetable to grow. Squash and pumpkins could be stored for long periods of time in a root cellar. The flesh could be dried as well. Further, the small gourds could be used as ladles, and larger gourd to hold both water and seeds. Settlers would gather native plants as well. Some of these included Chives and BeeBalm, Huckleberry and Choke berry.

Fruit was often dried as soon as it was picked. Scurvy was a threat to the settlers, so fruit in the winter helped give them a balanced diet. Meat was preserved in winter by hanging the meat outside, or in summer by salting it or pickling it. Salting required the meat to be rinsed thoroughly before being able to eat it.

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.


Joelle said...

You have a great variety of very interesting and engaging lessons for your 3rd graders. I especially enjoy the cooking activity. How will you have the students working? Will they be in small groups, pairs, individually? The wheat and crab activity is neat! You should get a crab for each group to look at and handle. Some of the 3rd grade Foss kits get them in the spring. Your resources are fantastic! There are several different ones that I had not thought of looking at. Wonderful Blogg Jon!

smhester said...

Many of your activities involving comparing and contrasting excersis, which I think is very appropriate for third graders. Other excellent lessons were the "planning a party" and "pioneer baking" activites which encourage student involvement and hands-on learning.

One additional idea for the baking activity would be to change the recipe to include fractional parts of the measuring cup, and introduce fractions to the students.

With the ability to plan activities such as these, I'm sure your students enjoy school and preform well academically.

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

How fun to have students plan a party! Perhaps they could plan a traditional pioneering party. I would definitely have them actually have the party and, possibly, invite other classes in their grade level and their parents. This would give a lot more opportunities for writing. They could write thank you notes to attendees, placards to describe artifacts they made, signs to show direction, etc.

When you're doing your "Making Money" activity, it would be a good opportunity to discuss cost of living and inflation. You may even invite a certified financial planner or certified public accountant to come speak to these issues. There are lots of good inflation calculators online to help students find what $3.00 in 1800s dollars would be in 2008 dollars. See, for example,
On that site, your students would learn that $3.00 in 1870 is the equivalent of $48.63. Now, that's a good amount for buying some decent shoes!