Banks of Plum Creek: 38—"The Day of Games" and 39—"The Third Day"

Teacher's Guide Author: Anne Crumm, 5th grade teacher, Tomiyasu 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 39 The Day Of Games is about a very stormy winter day. Pa has left to go to town and he has been gone overnight. The family is worried. The girls go downstairs to dress by the stove because it is so cold. The eat a breakfast of hot cornmeal mush and milk with bread and butter. There is thick frost on the windowpanes. Ma puts on Pa's jumper and boots and goes outside into the storm to feed the stock. The girls are anxious about their mother leaving so they stay busy by cleaning the house. When Ma returns she rests a bit and then goes out again to get wood. When the wood is stacked, Ma praises the girls for cleaning the house. The girls begin to study their lessons and Laura begins to cry. She is ashamed at herself for crying, then she realized Mary was crying as well. Ma notices the girls are upset and worried about Pa, who still has not returned, so she decides that they should play games. They play Pussy -in-the-corner, which makes them all shout and laugh. Then, Ma tells a story using a slate to draw a bird. Then, using thimbles they draw pictures in the frost on the windows. They were so busy playing games, the day went by quickly. They ate a late dinner and went to bed. Ma put a light in the window to help Pa find the house in the storm. Chapter 39 The Third Day is about the following day when Pa has still not returned and the storm is still going strong.

Chapters' Themes: weather, schooling, caring for animals, heat, games

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Revealing Tone in Reading
      • Students will read the chapters and discuss how they think the character Laura is feeling (defined in one word). After sharing their ideas in partners (think-pair-share), students will go back to the book and find the words in the story that specifically support their interpretation of the characters feelings. Using those words, students will create a bubble map that shows the word that they used to describe her feelings and all of the supporting evidence from the text.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 2.5.3 Select after reading strategies appropriate to text and purpose; evaluate the effectiveness of reading strategies.
        • 3.5.2 Describe the physical and personality traits ogf characters; describe motivation for characters actions; make inferences and draw conclusions about character(s) based on evidence.
    • Predicting
      • Prior to reading chapter 39 A Day of Games, students will discuss in partners what a day of games would be like for them at their house. Then after that discussion, the teacher will lead a whole class discussion about what students think a day of games would be like for the Ingalls children. Teacher will record responses on chart paper. After reading the chapter students will review their prior predictions and reflect in partner sharing the similarities or differences. Finally, students will write a compare and contrast essay between a day of games today and a day of games in the 19th Century.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 2.5.1 Select prereading strategies appropriate to text and purpose: set purpose for reading and determine text type.
        • 3.5.7 Explain the influence of historical events, cultures, or time periods.
  • Mathematics
    • Graphing Weather
      • Using the internet, students will collect data about the weather in the Midwest during the winter months. They will record average temperature, snow, and rainfall over a 10 year period. They will input this data into an excel spreadsheet and then using the graphing functionality they will create a scatter plot and bar graph. Students will compute mean, and median and mode of temperatures.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5.5.2 Compute range, model and compute the measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode)
        • 5.5.3 Interpret data and make predictions using stem-and-leaf plots and histograms.
  • Social Studies
    • Create a Map
      • Using details from the book students will create a map covering the area between the Ingalls' house and town. They wqill do this using information from the text. The map will be labeled with appropriate map symbols and geographical features. Students will use their maps to discuss and predict the possible routes that Pa could take to get home in the storm
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.1 Maps and map features, including directional orientation, map symbols, and grid system.
        • (5)3.4 Construct maps, charts, tables, and graphs to display information.
    • Money in the 19th Century
      • Using the internet students will research the cost of items in the 19th Century, specifically at the setting of the book (1875). Students will then compute the cost of the things that Pa would buy in town at the store. Students will also identify any other forms of money that may have been used at the time, and present this information on a sign that may have been displayed at the store in town.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)2.16 Identify forms of money used in the United States prior to the 20th Century.
  • Science
    • Create a Food Web
      • Students will use the internet to research data to create a food web relative to the area and time period of the story.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 5(4.5) Explain how the Sun's energy is the primary source of energy for most ecosystems and moves through food webs.
    • Vegetation Eco Study
      • Students will use the internet to research native plant life in the Plum Creek area. They will print pictures of trees and flowers native to the area and label them. Students will then use this data to share in groups.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.5 Explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environments.

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

The 19th century was a difficult time for homesteaders. The weather patterns caused incredible distress for the settlers. In specific, the winter of 1880-1881 lasted for a long seven months. The snow would pile up 40 feet high and people would not go more than a mile away from their homes for fear of being lost in a blizzard.

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.

1 comment:

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

It's a nice strategy to have students think about what they would do for a day of games (making it personal) and then predicting games the Ingall's children would have experienced. Before having them write their essay for the "Predicting" activity, I recommend you have them do some research on games and toys of the 19th century.

I like that you are challenging your students to use 21st century tools in the "Graphing Weather" activity. Using Excel is the perfect tool, yet many teachers simply have their students draw the graphs. I agree that drawing the graphs is a good idea, but, by the time they reach intermediate levels, they need to be dealing with larger data sets which are more conducive to spreadsheets. You may also consider adding more technology via the "Vegetation Eco Study" activity. You could have students present their research in the form of a virtual museum ( or movie made using MovieMaker and digital storytelling concepts ( Alternatively, you could create a class social bookmarking site (e.g., where they add websites and descriptions of the flora. For an example, visit or A third option would be to have the class create a blog or a blog posting on your classroom blog) dedicated to the topic.

Your lesson on money is a good one. You could also find images of bills and coins from the 1800s and share these with your students.

Could you recommend some websites for the "Create a Food Web" activity?