The Long Winter: 24—"Not Really Hungry" and 25—"Free and Independent"

Teacher's Guide Author: Jill Killian, 5th grade teacher, May 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 24:During this chapter the Ingall's family faces the hardships of a blizzard. The title, "Not Really Hungry," demonstrates the feeling that Laura is experiencing. Food is scarce and there is a real possibility that they may soon run out of food. The family members go about their daily chores so that time does not stand still. Caroline continues to stay positive, and encourages the girls to complete their recitations. She promises them a surprise for their evening supper. A part of a salt codfish that she had frozen will become the main course of the night. Turned into gravy and served over bread. While the feast was being prepared, Mary and Laura assisted Pa with the laborious task of twisting hay for the fire. As they prepare to enjoy their meal the conversation turns to discuss the topic on every one's mind, will we have enough food to make it through the long winter.
Chapter 25: During this chapter young adult brother and sister enjoy their evening meal. Almanzo is pondering the grave situation that is facing his community. He has calculated that many families including the Ingalls family may be starving. He is developing a plan that may save the whole town. He has remembered that there is an abandoned storage of wheat on the south side of town, just 40 miles away. Almanzo has decide that he must brave the storm and retrieve the wheat. Royal is worried and does not want Almanzo to risk his life on this dangerous journey. The prospect of being a hero of the town bring Almanzo's appetite back to life.

Chapters' Themes: hardship, endurance, positive attitudes, taking chances in the face of danger

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Journal Writing
      • Students will write in their journals on the prompt- The Ingalls family is facing a difficult time, yet they still maintain a positive attitude. Share a time that your family experienced a difficult situation.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
      • Reading comprehension (5)3.1 distinguish main incidents of a plot that lead to a climax, and explain how the problem or conflict is resolved
      • Writing composition (5)5.1 participate in daily writing activities (e.g., journals,learning logs, reports)
    • Narrative Story
      • Students will write a narrative which takes place in the same time period as the reader. It will describe a difficult time and how the characters handled it.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
      • Reading Comprehension- Literature (5)3.1- distinguish main incidents of a plot that lead to the climax, and explain how the problem or conflict is resolved
      • Writing -composition (5)5.4-write a narrative or story that develops a plot or sequence and uses "showing" rather than "telling" details to describe the setting, characters, and events of the story

  • Mathematics
    • How much food do you eat in a day ?
      • Almanzo is estimating how much food will be needed to survive the storm. Students will calculate how much food they consume in a day and then create graphs to show all the types of food that they eat.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CESs
        • Data Analysis (5)5.1- collect, organize, read, and interpret data using a variety of graphic representations including tables
        • Data Analysis (5)5.2 describe the limitations of various graph formats
    • Word Problems
      • Students will be given a word problem worksheet with various math questions dealing with time and distance to figure out how long Almanzo's trip to the wheat in the south end of town may take.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
        • Problem Solving (5)6.1-select, modify, develop, and apply strategies to solve a variety of mathematical and practical problems and to investigate and understand mathematical concepts
        • Problem Solving (5)6.2- apply previous experience and knowledge to new problem-solving situations
  • Social Studies
    • Mapping
      • Students will use a map to calculate the distance that Almanzo had to travel to obtain the wheat for his community.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
        • Geography 1.0 the world in Spatial Terms
        • Geography 7.0 Geographic Skills
    • History
      • Students will research the city of DeSmet from the time it was established to the present. They will create a time line of the city and identify changes that have occurred over time.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
        • History 1.0 Chronology
        • History 7.0 1860-1920
  • Science
    • Animals on the Prairie
      • Students will research the various types of animals that live on the prairie. They will create a map which will demonstrate their knowledge of the location of the various animals and where they lived.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
        • Diversity of Life- L2D
        • Diversity of Life -L5D
    • Surviving the Harsh Winters
      • Students will create models of sod houses and log cabins they will conduct various activities to observe how the structures with stand various weather conditions.
      • Standards Addressed from CCSD CEFs
        • Life Science (5)4.7
        • Earth Science (5)3.3

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes
The main themes in these two chapters were
hardship, endurance, positive attitudes, and taking chances in the face of danger
. It was essential for the families to stay positive in order to survive the long harsh winter. The setting of the story is DeSmet, which was part of the Dakota Territory. The territory consisted of the northernmost part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. The winter of 1880- 1881, became known as one of the most severe winters on record in the Dakotas. Which is probably why it was so easy for Mrs. Wilder to depict her story with so much hardship.

The days were long and tedious, without the focus of daily chores many may have gone insane. All normal activities were made more difficult by the extremely cold weather. Doing laundry took extra time because the clothing would freeze.Cooking was slower because the fires would require twisted hay. The process of twisting the hay was difficult because their hands would be freezing and then they would need to stop and warm them up by the fire.

Entertainment made the evenings more enjoyable. With limited fuel for the lights, families often spent their night hours listening to music played by family members in the dark. Usually someone would play the violin, harmonica, or some were lucky enough to have a piano. Mrs. Wilder spoke of her father, "On every side now the prairie stretched away empty to a far, clear skyline. The wind never stopped blowing, waving the tall prairie grasses…And all the afternoon, while Pa kept driving onward, he was merrily whistling or singing. The song he sang oftenest was:Oh, come to this country,And don't you feel alarm,For Uncle Sam is rich enoughTo give us all a farm! " Mrs. Wilder also said that her Pa's stories helped the long cold nights to pass by with excitement. Folktales were very popular at this time in American history. Many people did not have the good furtune to purchase books, so if there was a story teller in the family there was always free entertainment. Faith and a good attitude really were the only friends on these cold and stormy nights. The one book that was in most homes was the bible. Many people would read while the light of day was available.

With determination, luck and faith these people made it through the long cold winter. Many lessons can be learned from this book. But I think it is important to focus on the most simple. These people looked out for one another and made it through the storm.

Additional Resource

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.


Stacey Seiden said...


You did an amazing job on your blog. I teach the the long winter, so it will be great to incorporate your ideas as well as those from the other teachers.

Using a time line is such a great way to teach. I think you could even teach your students about sequencing when you teach that lesson.

I also think you did a great job of explaining the hardships the family endured in your historical overview.

Fantastic work!

Sherri Aragon said...

Jill, I really enjoyed your science activities. The study of various types of animals that live on the prairie and creating a map. The extension could be to study various type of animals that live today. Another extension that I would add for your second activity for Science could be to create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the sod house and the log cabin. Nice job!

smhester said...

I like that you included a variety of activities in your teacher's guide. In the journal writing activity, I loved how you asked the students to make connections with their own lives.

The only constructive comment I would like to make is: I think you need to include more specific directions for some of your activities. For example: How should the students calculate the amount of food they eat, in pounds or in items?

Overall you did a wonderful job.

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

I like your "Surviving the Harsh Winters" activity. What media will you have students use to construct the houses, how will you use the construction process to teach about the geography and history of prairie living, and what types of experiments would students conduct to determine if the structures could withstand various weather conditions?

Would you please add the math worksheet you describe in the "Word Problems" activity?

Other than the sod house building activity, I would like to challenge you to consider activities that require higher-level students engagement and deeper level thinking. Though you may have ideas for more engaging and active learning during the activities you describe in your teacher's guide, this is not evident to the reader. As such, most of the activities above are teacher-driven. Could you think of creative ways to make the lessons be more child-centered?

For example, for the "Narrative" activity, students could work collaboratively to prepare a scenario for which they would write a reader's theatre script. The scenario would still require students focus on difficult situations of the 1800s. You could have the entire class brainstorm possible trials those of the 1800s faced and either have them choose one of these trials or have them choose a trial from a hat you've prepared listing all the student ideas. After students have their general idea for their scripts, have them jigsaw to "pitch" their scripts to other groups. When they return to their own groups, they will revise their ideas in a way their group feels will enhance their plot, setting, characters, etc. Next, each group will prepare their full script. After writing and practicing it, students will perform their reader's theater plays in front of their classmates and then each group will be sent to another 5th grade classroom to perform their reader's theatre.

In this scenario, brainstorming encourages students to think creatively and make cognitive connections between the readings, their acquired knowledge, and predicted events while teaching teamwork. Collaborative planning and writing allows students the opportunity to strengthen 21st century skills while working with peers in a differentiated learning environment (adding to learning gains for all levels of learners). For the first draft of script ideas, students will focus on pre-writing strategies while focusing on story elements such as plot, character development, climax, etc. Then, the jigsaw allows each team member to become an "expert" and requires they hone their presentation skills when they "pitch" their ideas to their classmates while enabling their feedback they can use in the editing process. Preparing the final draft of their reader's theatre continues to take them through the writing process and presenting their script is a means of publication and allows them to work on fluency. By having students present their theaters to other classes, they are practicing presentation skills required within the lanugage arts curriculum.

As you can see, this is basically the same idea you offered, but this method allows students greater student-control, more active engagement, more options for creativity, abilities to work collaboratively (reinforcing 21st century skills), and it provides exposure to many more language arts curricular objectives.