The Long Winter: 28—"Four Days' Blizzard" and 29—"The Last Mile"

Teacher's Guide Author: Jose V. Trujillo, 5th grade teacher, Tomiyasu 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 28, "The Four Days' Blizzard", chapter 29, "The Last Mile." ]

Chapters' Themes: [As the chapter opens, Laura and Mary are trying to take advantage of a break between blizzards that have become successively worse than the ones before. The air is bitingly cold and the Laura feels that the very weather is savage. As Pa comes in from from doing chores, meals have become as spartan as the weather. Supplies have run down to the last of the wheat. As Pa comes back from trying to gather information on Cap Garland and Almonzo's trip to attempt to get wheat from a crop that had been raised during the summer months. The storm hits before Cap and Almonzo reach town. In a futile attempt at defying the storms, Pa is shaking his fists in fury at the storm. In an attempt to defy the raging tempest of the blizzard, the Ingalls raise their voice in song. Still the wind howls and the storm rages ever onward. At bed time,during their prayers, both Laura and Mary include Cap and Almozo in their prayers for their safe return.

Chapter 29 "The LAst Mile."

Cap Garland and Almonzo have the much needed wheat and are on their way back to town. Cap is having difficulty locating rcognizable landmarks from the barren white terrain. Both Cap Garland and Almonzo see the impending storm fast approaching. Both know the odds of survival in the open during one of these blizzards. Both men know as well, their only hope for survival is to reach town and the shelter it offers. Although, Cap is certain they are close, without identifiable landmarks, they could miss town by a few feet and never realize it during the blizzard. In pushing on, Cap see a flash of light. At first he isn't sure, but it comes again and he is certain they have found their way. Once they reach the relative shelter of home, their first priority is to insure that their is no permenant frostbite to their feet and legs. To regain feeling, they rub snow on theur extremities to help bring their body temperature back to normal.

As the wheat has been delivered to Mr. Loftus, the question of price is not acceptable to the good townsfolk. Mr. Loftus is determined to make money on his investment, even though Cap Garland and Almonzo refused to accept any money for making the trip. It falls upon Mr. Ingalls to be mediator for the towns folk. Through reason and just plain good sense and a feeling of community, Mr. Loftus agrees to sell the wheat for the price that Cap and Almonzo paid, a $1.25 a bushell.]

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • [Bubble Me In]
      • [Begin activity by pairing students up with partners. Within pairs, each student will create a circle map to brainstorm ideas. One student will brainstorm ideas based on the environment of a typical child living in the time period of Laura Ingalls Wilder's story," The Long Winter." The partnering student will brainstorm ideas of a typical child in the present time. Together they would compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the two time periods. Students would then present their ideas in a Double Bubble Map. ]
      • Standards Addressed
        • [3.5.1: explain setting, sequence of events, conflict, climax, resolution, and turning point.]
        • [3.5.2: describe physical and personality traits of characters; describe describe the motivation for a character's actions; make inferences and draw conclusions about a character(s) based on evidence]
        • [3.5.3: describe a theme based on evidence; explain a lesson learned based on events and/or a character's actions.]
    • [Four Corner Vocabulary Cards ]
      • [Prior to reading each selection, the teacher will provide a list of vocabulary words students may not be familiar with. Students will use 3x5 cards to create "Four Corner Vocabulary" cards. Students write word in the center of card. In each corner of the card would be a definition, word in a sentence, an illustration, and an antonym/synonym. During reading of the selection, students would check to see if words were completed in context of the story. When completed the cards can be used on an interactive word wall.
        • [1.5.4: comprehend, build, and extend vocabulary using context clues and structural analysis]
        • [1.5.5: apply knowledge of content-specific vocabulary in text to build comprehension... ]
        • [Add more standards/objectives as needed]
  • Mathematics
    • [Plot That Land]
      • [Class will engage in research for planting crops in a given region during the 19th century. Research as well, on approximately how long and by what means fields were cleared, plowed, and planted. Students will decide type of crop to be planted and how much seed by weight that should be purchased to plant. Students will determine perimeter and area of a field to be planted for crops. To gain a better understanding for the effort involved in planting, whole class could walk off the perimeter of a field on the playground grass areas. ]
      • Standards Addressed
        • [3.5.1: estimate and convert units of measure for weight and volume/capacity within the same measurement system (customary and metric). [3.1]
        • : 3.5.3: describe the difference between perimeter and area, including the difference in units of measure. [3.6]
        • [3.5.4: determine totals, differences, and change due for monetary amounts in practical situations.]
    • [Average Weather]
      • [Based on previous research, students would find the median range of temperatures for summer and winter. Using stem and leaf plots, students will contrast the differences in temperatures from summer and spring to fall and winter. Whole class could then represent data on a histogram to determine frequency of weather temperatures and determine optimal planting times.
      • Standards Addressed
        • [5.5.1: organize and represent data using a variety of graphical representations including stem and leaf plots and histograms. [5.1]
        • 5.5.2: Compute area. [5.5]
        • model and compute the measures of central tendency for mean, median, and mode. [5.4]
        • [5.5.3: interpret data and make predictions using stem and leaf plots and histograms. ]
  • Social Studies
    • [Dakota Dugout]
      • [After reading "On the Banks Of Plum Creek" and "Dakota Dugout". Students would research the building of dugouts. The teacher would provide turf as a building material. In groups of 4-5, students would work cooperatively to build a house from turf. This would be an outdoor activity done on ply wood for easy transportation. Students would gain an understanding of the difficulties of building a dugout and the hazzrds of living in one.]
      • Standards Addressed
        • [(5).3.9identify examples in the community or region that reflect cultural identity.
        • (5)4.1: record and interpret events events on a graphic organizer.]
        • [(5)4.4: organize historical information from a variety of sources]
    • [The Hardware Store]
      • [ Students would create a classroom Hardware store stocked with goods from a specific time period. Supplies would include those items that would most closely associated with the region being settled. Students would determine cost of goods based on lcoal prices of time period. Students would discuss supply and demand issues and the ramifications of goods and products being delayed by unforeseen events. Drought, blizzards, lack of of a rail system.
        • [(5)3.23: list examples of historical movements of people goods and ideas.
        • (5)3.25: investigate an economic issue by asking and answering geographic questions about location.
        • [(5)3.33: describe the patterns of distribution and use of natural resources in the United States.]
  • Science
    • [Cycle of Life, "Food Web"]
      • [Begin by providing background information on climate, animal and plant life of the 19th century. Students would due research on time period to determine types of prevalent animal life. Students would then determine most suitable ecosystem for kn own species of wildlife. Students would computers to design food web based on available wildlife.]
      • Standards Addressed
        • [L.5.C.1: explain the organization of simple food webs.
        • L.5.C.2: explain that organisms interact with each other and the non-living parts of their ecosystems.
        • L.5.c.3: describe how some environmental factors conditions are more favorable than others to living things.]
        • [L.5.C.5: describe plant and animal adaptations that allow them to survive in specific ecosystems.]
    • [Mid-West Weather Web]
      • [Using meteorological data from internet sources, students will try to predict and plot weather patterns of a given region. From this data, students will hypothesize about predicting weather patterns and how they may affect agricultural, animal, and human existence. Students will then provide a weather report of their regions as a culminating activity. ]
      • Standards Addressed
        • [E.5.A.1: explain that the sun is the main source of energy used on the Earth.
        • E.5.A.4: describe various meteorological phenomena(flooding, snowstorms, thunderstorms, and drought). ]
        • E.5.A.5: describe air as a substance that surrounds us, takes up space, and moves as wind.]

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

[The very thought of enduring a blizzard, like the ones described in chapter 28, show me I would not have been a very good pioneer. I grew up in the Southwest, Phoenix, Arizona. The only comparable weather I could compare it to, would be flash flooding. Like the Ingalls in "The Long Winter," surviving the 7 + 7 +7th winter, I have survived a "Hundred Year Flood." Like seeing snowdrifts covering houses or to the second floor, I have witnessed a dry wash run a mile wide, at 399,000 cfs (cubic feet of water per second). Leaving us to conclude, that extremes in weather happen in all regions.]

Additional Resources

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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 nice to see students having the opportunity to participate in an "interactive word wall." Too often, teachers control the word wall when, I believe, students should be the ones to state words of difficulty to them.

For the "Plot Your Land" activity, I recommend you use "The Farming Game" lesson (

I LOVE the idea of using turf to build a mock sod house and to couple "The Long Winter" with "Dakota Dugout." This is such a great hands-on activity to constructively build students understanding of sod houses.

Consider adding lessons from Project Wild to complement your science activities. Note that Project Wild ( does offer trainings in the Las Vegas Valley and they are worth every minute!