The Long Winter: 1—"Make Hay While the Sun Shines" and 2—"An Errand to Town"

Teacher's Guide Author: Janet C. Lowe, Fifth grade teacher, Mountain View Elementary School, Clark County School District


This teachers' guide is one of a series including activities for all chapters of The Long Winter. 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:
This book is a continuation of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her family. They are preparing for a long winter, hence the title The Long Winter. They are living in a claim shanty in the Dakota territory. The family includes Pa, Ma, Mary (now blind), Carrie, and Grace.

In the first chapter, Laura is working with Pa, helping him stack hay while also helping around the farm. This further illustrates the special bond Laura and Pa share. This special bond began at the onset of her novels. Pa affectionately refers to Laura as “Half-Pint.”In the second chapter, Laura and Carrie must go into town to purchase a section of the cutter-bar. Since the need for the section is urgent in order for Pa to complete the cutting of the blue-grass, Laura and Carrie take a “short-cut.” They get lost and in the interim meet the Wilder boys, Roy and Almanzo (Manzo).

Chapters' Themes: Family - Pa, Ma, Mary (blind), Carrie, Grace, Laura; working and being together as a family (Laura helps Pa with the stacking of hay), the chores of Ma, Mary, Carrie around the farm, survival (preparing for a long winter)

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Figurative Language
      • Have students define and illustrate what “eyes shining like beads” (p. 3) and “tongue flickered like a tiny jet stream” (p. 3) mean to them and how figurative language plays an integral part in writing. Have the students go "fishing" for figurative language. Create a fishing pond, fishing poles with hooks, and as they read the chapters and locate the figurative language used, have them either "fish" them out or they could be "hooking" their catches.
      • Standards Addressed
          • (5)3.5 explain the use of figurative language (e.g., simile, metaphor, personification) [PS/NS 3.5.5]
          • (5)3.6 identify words and phrases that reveal tone [PS/NS 3.5.6]
          • (5)3.6 explain how words and phrases create mood [PS/NS 3.5.6]
          • (5)3.9 evaluate text (e.g., draw conclusions, make inferences) [PS/NS 2.5.3]
    • Vocabulary Builder
      • This activity is geared towards second language learners, resource students, and students who have a difficult time with vocabulary.
      • Create word cards for unknown words; information to be written on index cards -- place word in center of the card, upper left-hand corner students write definition; upper right-hand corner students write the part of speech; lower left-hand corner students write a sentence using the word; and on the back of the card, the students draw a picture (if possible).
      • Standards Addressed
      • (5)1.4 – use resources to find pronunciations and/or confirm meaning of unknown words and word origins (e.g., glossary, dictionary, thesaurus)
      • (5) 1.4 – develop vocabulary through meaningful experiences (e.g., listen to and discuss selections read aloud, wide reading, discussion of word meanings, interactive activities, examples and non-examples)
      • (5)3.9 – make connections to self, other text, and/or the world [NS 3.5.9]
    • Mathematics
        • “An Errand to Town”
        • Laura and her sister, Carrie, had to go to town to purchase a cutter-section. Have the students calculate how far in English standard and metric measure the nearest store is to them. Prior to this, have the students measure the distance from their home to their next door neighbor's. They need to decide whether the best measure is in inches, feet, or yards. Then they use a Bridge Map to show the relationship between their conversions. The relating factor could be: "equals" -- 1,760 yards equals 5,280 feet; another relating factor: "can be converted to" -- ____ feet "can be converted to" ___ meters."
        • Standards Addressed
          • (5)3.2 – measure, compare, and convert length to the closest fractional part (1/4 and ½) of inches, feet, yards, and miles
            (5)3.3 – measure, compare, and convert length to the closest decimal unit of millimeter, centimeter, meter, and kilometer
      • Cooking Up U.S. History (2nd Edition)
      • This could be a culminating activity. The ingredients would be set out on a long table. Each student would read, measure, and make their own Baking Soda Biscuits. (To make each different, each student would create a design, distinguishing their biscuit from the other students.) Teacher will bake the biscuits.
      Recipe for Baking Soda Biscuits
      2 cups flour
      1 ¼ teaspoons salt
      1 teaspoon baking soda
      2 tablespoons melted shortening
      ¾ cup sour milk*
      Milk to brush tops of biscuits
      1. Mix flour, salt, and soda in a large bowl.
      2. Stir in shortening and milk until a soft dough forms. Add more milk if necessary.
      3. Roll dough out on floured board to 1-inch thickness.
      4. Cut out rounds of dough with 2-inch floured cutter.
      5. Place biscuits so that sides touch on a greased cookie sheet.
      6. Brush tops with plain milk.
      7. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
      *To make sour milk, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice milk and let sit for 10 minutes to curdle.
      (makes 10 to 12)
  • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.1 – estimate and convert units of measure for weight and volume/capacity within the same measurement system (customary and metric) [NS 3.5.1]
        • (5)D.6 – identify, explain and use mathematics in everyday life [NS D.3-5]
  • Social Studies
    • Be a Map Maker
      • In small groups, have students create a topographical map of South Dakota, identifying De Smet, where Laura Ingalls Wilder lived. The students would need to have prior map making skills and they would need to know what the requirements of a topographical map includes. The students may use various materials, including construction paper, graph paper, markers, crayons, paint, Crayola Magic Clay.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.43 – draw a conclusion by presenting geographical information in an oral or written report accompanied by maps or graphics [NS 7.5.5]
        • (5)3.45 – identify, locate, and distinguish among varying land forms, bodies of water, and major geographical features of the United States
    • Lifestyle, Economics, and Geography
      • Research the geography and climate of South Dakota. Using a Double-Bubble, students would compare and contrast how the geography and climate differs from Las Vegas, Nevada. They would need to create two different maps -- one for the geography and one for the climate, i.e., summers and winters.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)2.26 – investigate an economic issue by asking and answering geographic questions about location [NS 4.5.6]
        • (5)3.30 – describe ways in which changes in the physical environment affect humans [NS 4.5.8]
        • (5)3.35 – describe how the physical setting influenced an event in the past [NS 6.5.1]
  • Science
    • Create a Landform
      • Students, using the FOSS Landform kit, create a landform of De Smet, South Dakota. Students would need a map of De Smet, South Dakota and would need to be in groups. Each group could be assigned a different landform.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.6 – compare and contrast various kinds of landforms [E5C2; E5C3]
        • (5)3.9 – describe the positive and negative impacts of technologies (dams, agriculture, using natural resources) on society and the environment [E35C3; L5C3; L5C4; N5B2]
    • Water Survival – Ginger Water
      • Ma sent Pa and Laura ginger-water, which warmed their stomachs “they could drink till they were not thirsty.” (p. 8) Students, working in pairs or small groups, will mix water, sugar, vinegar, and ginger to re-create this survival water.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.3 – investigate and describe how plants and animals require food, water, air, and space [L5B1]
        • 5(4.5) – explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environment [L5C1]

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Charles Ingalls was an important element in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life. Throughout her books she is affectionately known as “Half-Pint” by her father. In reading her novels, one realizes that the special bond that she has with her father influenced her life. However, in her earlier “Little House” series of books, Laura Ingalls Wilder described her father’s wanderlust as “My wandering foot gets to itching.” He didn’t like living among large crowds of people and loved to travel. In the earlier books, the family moved from the woods of Wisconsin, to Indian Territory in southeastern Kansas, then back to Wisconsin. This is not satisfy the “wanderlust,” and he moved his family again to Minnesota. They stayed there a year, and moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, then back to Minnesota. However, Caroline (Ma) grew tired of the constant moving fearing the children would not receive a proper education. Charles agreed and the family made their final move to De Smet, South Dakota.

There is an actual website where one can view the De Smet highway which is named in honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

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.


MDCherry said...

I rally enjoyed reading your Science guides. We have the Landform FOSS kit here at Mendoza. My students love hands on. We are a Thinking Map school so the students can use a Double-Bubble Map to compare/contrast. Your Water Survival - Ginger Water will fit in with my Life Science unit. The Map Maker is also hands on. I like that. These are great cooperative learning lessons.

Sarah said...

I really like the math activities. Measuring distance to the nearest store would be great for my students who struggle to understand just how far a mile or kilometer really is. I would like to see a description on this page of the vocabulary builder activity. New ways to introduce or practice vocabulary are always great to learn. I also would have liked a description of the Landform activity for those of us without the FOSS kit.

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

How creative! Using the idea of figurative language to teach figurative language (having children fish the concepts from the text)!

I do not know what a Bridge Map is, but am guessing it's a type of Thinking Map. Would you add a link that describes Bridge Maps?

The cooking activity would be a great opportunity to enlist parental involvement in the classroom. Perhaps you could even have small groups work with different parents to make different dishes for the table. The result would be a full pioneer dinner.

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

Thank you for adding the link to the thinking maps. That's a great site that I will probably visit often. :-)