The Long Winter: 20—"Antelope!" and 21—"The Hard Winter"

Teacher's Guide Author:Diana Cohen, 5th grade teacher, Cartwright 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: Chapter 20 - Antelope! Snow, snow and more snow, that's what the Ingalls family could look forward to for a few more months. But out of nowhere, a herd of antelope is sighted and new hope of a different meal brings excitement to the town. Charles Ingalls leads the group of men, on foot as well as horse, in a plan to hunt the antelope. There is so much excitement, too much excitement. Mr. Foster hops off Almanzo's mare and shoots at the antelope. Unfortunately, the antelope are out of gunshot range and Almanzo's horse runs off with the antelope. Almanzo loved that horse and rather than pass blame or get angry at Mr. Foster, he sets off to see if he can find her. He knows it's risky given that storms come up fast but he just has to try. After awhile they spot the mare and she sees Almanzo on his horse and runs to follow them home. Meanwhile Pa arrives home and no one says a word. If he had shot an antelope, he sure would be talking about it. Pa tells the family about what happened. Ma makes light of it by admitting the antelope would have been poor eating because it could find no food to forage in this weather. Pa went over to Almanzo's to see if he found his horse. He was welcomed in to have a delicious dinner of pancakes with Almanzo and his brother.

Chapter 21 - The Hard Winter Watching for storms is the main event of the morning. The sky is bright but makes Pa uncomfortable. Pa goes out and comes bursting in with incredible joy! He just happened to be in the right place at the right time to get some beef for the family. A neighbor had slaughtered his oxen and was selling the meat. Everyone figures this will last them until the train comes. But Pa found out that the train is not coming. The superintendent has issued a statement via telegraph that the train will not run until spring. Everyone is truly disheartened. The girls don't understand so Pa tries to tell them a story about it in a way that they could understand just how difficult a situation the train engineers are in. And just to add insult to injury, they heard and felt another blizzard hit the house.

Chapters' Themes: teamwork, hunting, hospitality, story-telling, perseverance, survival

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Figurative Language Search
      • Teacher will address the concepts of figurative language to the whole group. Teacher will explain what metaphors, similes, and personifications are. Teacher will pass out worksheet (see attached). Students will work in pairs to complete it. Whole group goes over answers to worksheet. Teacher then instructs pairs to look at chapters 20-21 to find where the author uses similes and metaphors. students note page and paragraph. Whole group comes together to find the similes and metaphors and explain what they compare.
      • Standards Addressed
        • ELA 3.5.5 Explain the use of imagery and figurative language.
        • ELA 4.5.2 Explain figurative language (simile, metaphor, and personification
    • Idiomatic Expressions - What Are They Good For?
      • Teacher will advise whole group that an idiomatic expressions are colorful ways of writing that cannot be taken literally. Teacher writes several idioms on the board and the student stry to guess their meanings and put them into sentences. Teacher passes out worksheet (see attached). Students work in pairs to identify the meanings of idioms. Teacher goes over correct answers. Teacher then instructs student pairs to find the idioms used in chapters 20-21. Whole group discusses their findings.
    • Standards Addressed
      • ELA 3.5.6c Explain how words and phrases create mood.
      • ELA 3.5.5 Explain the use of imagery.

  • Mathematics
    • How Little Can You Eat?
      • Teacher explains that the Ingalls running out of food and Ma has to carefully figure out how much they can eat each day without going hungry yet without eating too much in case the train doesn't run. Ma must use fractions and decimals to compute how much grain and potatoes they can eat each day.
      • Standards Addressed
          • 1.5.7a Add and subtract decimals.
          • 1.5.8 Generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers and decimals in practical situations.
      • How Far Can A Bullet Go Anyway?
        • Teacher goes over the part in Chapter 20 where Mr. Foster shoots at the antelope but he is too far away. Teacher then explains that students can make a graph containing travel distances of certain objects to help explain to students how Mr. Foster's bullet did not travel far enough to hit an antelope. Teacher will set up an area outside for measurement of objects to be tossed. Students will be assigned jobs: object tosser, data recorder, observer, graph creators. Teacher gives objects: paper ball, balloon, wiffle ball, ping pong ball, golf ball, tennis ball to tosser. Students will toss the objects and then the observers will report distances and data recorders will record results. Once inside the classroom, the graph creators will work with recorders to create the graph of distances. Students will then pose math questions based on the data collected and recorded
        • Standards Addressed
          • 5.5.1a Pose questions that can be used to guide the collection of numerical data.
          • 5.5.4 Represent and solve problems involving combinations using a variety of methods
      • Social Studies
        • Where in the Sam Hill Are We? A Lesson in Using Landmarks
          • Teacher reminds students how in Chapter 20 Almanzo was able to use landmarks to know where he was in relation to the town based on landmarks. Teacher passes out paper and rulers. Students will create a map of the school grounds. Students will create a key to describe the objects drawn in their map. Students will do their best to create the map to scale.
          • Standards Addressed
            • GS 5.3 Create and prepare maps to display geographic information.
            • 1.5.4 Construct to display information about human and physical features.]
        • The Little Engine That Could - Locomotives as a Means of Getting Supplies
          • Teacher will remind students how the Ingalls' town could not get any supplies because the train was not running. Whole group will discuss how we get our supplies today (train, plane, truck, ship). Students will discuss the importance of the train being the only means of getting supplies to the towns in the midwest. Teacher can show pictures of locomotives on projector from the internet. Teacher reads The Little Engine That Could to Whole Group. Students discuss how the engine tried its very best to succeed. Teacher rereads the story Pa told about the superintendent and how the trains just couldn't get through the ice packed snow.
          • Standards Addressed
            • (5)3.35 Describe how a physical setting influenced an event in the past
            • 5)3.25 Identify the sources of various economic goodsand describe their movement between states.
      • Science
        • Lifestyles of the Rich and Antelope
          • Teacher will discuss with whole group the physical attributes, eating habits, and habitat of antelope in the midwestern United States in the mid1800s. Teacher will read aloud from Chapter 20 the desciption of how they traveled in a herd, ran off very quickly and disappeared, and how Ma said that they wouldn't be good meat anyway since they don't have any nourishment since the ground is covered with snow. Teacher can go to website for and project the webpage onto the wall. The whole class can read about the antelope or have groups of students break out and discuss only one subheading and then report back to the whole group.
          • Standards Addressed
            • (5)4.5 Explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environments
            • (5)4.7 Investigate and describe how some environmental conditions are more favorable than others to living things
        • Fight or Flight - for Survival
          • Teacher will explain the fight or flight survival response that all animals have is necessary to their survival when they meets up with a preceived enemy, such as the antelope coming up against Pa and the hunting group's rifles going off towards them. Teacher will put up on the overhead: and read aloud to the whole group what goes through the antelope's brain as it is assessing its situation which it viewsd to be a threat. Whole group can then discuss if there are any situations in human's lives where the fight or flight survival response comes into play.
          • Standards Addressed
            • (5)4.1 Investigate the the different structures of organisms that serve different functions for survival.
            • (5)4.11 Explainhow differences among individuals within a species give them advantages in surviving.

      Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

      1. Weather elements in the midwest. While the Ingalls family had wintered in other states, this winter was by far the worst that they had to endure. They moved from a shanty in the outlying area to the town where they would have a chance at survival and news of happenings.
      2. Crops. Pa worked extremely hard to harvest the hay and store it in a safe manner by their barn and shanty. Had he not worked as hard as he did, the family would not have had fuel to heat their home in town. Farmers had to work their fingers to the bone to prepare for a rainy day. Farmers were at the mercy of weather conditions for their crop's safety.
      3. Locomotive trains as a means of getting supplies. Without the train coming through the blizzards, the settlers out west had no means of getting any supplies, including coal to heat their homes. Despite the many attempts at getting through to the towns, the supervisor had to call off the trains until spring. This meant that the Ingalls and other settlers would have to survive on what they had.
      And lastly the theme that crosses my mind the most in these two chapters is how the family finds a way to survive no matter what obstacle hits them: antelope get away, train is not coming, storms keep coming - each one fiercer than the last, and food is running out. They sing to pass the time and to boost their spirits. Ma and Pa try to find a bright side to every situation and try not to worry the children. Their faith in each other and in God is strong and that's what is getting them through the winter. This reminds me so much of the texts that we read for class that discuss the perseverance that the families had when they started new lives travelling to the west.

      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...

        Students will love your "How Far Can a Bullet Fly?" activity. What a terrific way to engage students in mathematics and scientific principles while relating to history. You may want to make sure your principal is aware of your lesson objectives before completing the lesson. You don't want parents to call the school because they think you're teaching their children to shoot guns.

        "The Little Engine That Could" activity is also great! So many children do not know how their food and other goods are manufactured and transported. What a great blend of history, movement (geography), and economics.

        For your language arts activities, I'm not quite sure how the worksheets match your instructions. Could you provide a little more detail. Also, there doesn't appear to be a link to the first worksheet.

        For the "How Little Can You Eat" lesson, it would be nice to bring in the food pyriamid and needed caloric intake per day. Note that our caloric intake should be much less than those of individuals living in the 1800s because our comparatively sedentary lifestyle. You may want to invite the physical education teacher to be a part of this lesson. This also may be a good time to discuss eating disorders and ramifications of childhood obesity.

        To complement your science activities, I recommend the Project Wild curriculum (