The Long Winter: 6—"Indian Summer" and 7—"Indian Warning" and 8—"Settled in Town"

Teacher's Guide Author: Lacey Peckham, 5th grade teacher, Elizondo 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 6 "Indian Summer"

The bird that Pa found at the end of Chapter 5 was still not eating so Pa decided that the bird might take care of itself if they released it back into the wild. Laura, Mary, and Pa walked down to Silver Lake to release the bird. They discovered that the bird was a water bird. After releasing the bird, the family stood by the lake and Pa stated that he didn’t like the weather even though it was an Indian summer. The chapter ended with Pa proclaiming that this was going to be a very hard winter because the muskrats were building the walls of their homes the thickest he had ever seen.

Chapter 7 "Indian Warning"

After the first blizzard had finally passed, Pa, Royal and Almanzo Wilder, and Mr. Boast, were gathered at Mr. Harthorn’s store buying supplies and catching up on the business of the town. A very old Indian with deep, brown wrinkles stepped into the store. Outside of the store his Indian pony waited. The Indian told the men that a big snow and big wind were coming. Pa asked him how long it would last and the Indian stated that it would last many moons. He held up seven fingers to represent seven months. Pa explained to the men that every seventh winter was a difficult winter. He then went on to explain that after three times seven years, or twenty-one winters, there would be seven months of blizzards. The Wilder Brothers and the Ingalls decide to move into town for the winter. Pa left town, went home, and told Ma and the girls that they were moving into town.

Chapter 8 "Settled in Town"

The Ingalls family moved all of their possessions into town for the winter. Pa’s store building was located on the east side of Main Street. The family surveyed the inside of the store and decided where the kitchen, the coal heater, and the rocking chairs would go. The women hung curtains and made the store as comfortable as possible. Ma told Laura and Carrie that they would be attending school the next day. Both Laura and Carrie were extremely nervous about attending school, but Laura vowed to not be afraid. After Pa set up the cookstove in the kitchen, the family carried the beds upstairs. Laura and Carrie noticed the schoolhouse when they looked out the window of their store. Carrie expressed her fear of going to school and Laura told her that she wasn’t scared. Pa told Ma that there was a total of fourteen business depots and a total of about seventy-five or eighty people living in town. Pa proclaimed that Oregon was the place to be and Ma ended the chapter by stating that the girls needed to attend school.

Chapters' Themes: Indian Summers, Animal Preparations for Winter, Homesteading, Pioneers, Oregon, Native Americans, School, Railroads, Blizzards

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • What Would You Need to Survive?
      • In small groups of 3-4, students will be required to make a comprehensive list of items that they would need to survive seven months of blizzards. For each item they list they are to provide their reasoning for including that item. Students will have previously researched the materials needed to survive as a pioneer and homesteader. Groups will need to consider the complications that will arise from seven months of blizzards.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.5H organize information (e.g., graphic organizer, outline) [PS/NS 2.5.3]
        • 4.6B make inferences and draw conclusions based on evidence [PS/NS 4.5.6]
        • 8.4A contribute to conservations and discussions about a given topic (e.g., share ideas and opinions) [NS 8.5.4]
    • Journal Writing
      • Students will create and keep a journal for one character from "The Long Winter." The journal will account for this character's day-to-day activities, responsibilities, feelings, predictions, and anything else that they feel is important to include in the journal. Students need to pay particular attention to the theme of this novel, blizzards. Students will also be required to have a minimum of ten journal entries, with at least one entry for each blizzard described in the novel.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.2A write multiple-paragraph narrative/descriptive papers about experiences and/or events appropriate to audience and purpose that include 3. setting [PS/NS 6.5.2], 7. concrete sensory details [PS/NS 6.5.2]
        • 6.2B write to a given prompt (e.g., to entertain, to describe, to tell a story)
        • 5.7A prepare a legible final draft to display or share [PS/NS 5.5.7]
  • Mathematics
    • What Will You Need to Survive?
      • This lesson ties in with the Language Arts Lesson listed above. Small groups will be provided with a list of commonly used items with a list of prices associated with each item. Each small group will be given a certain amount of money that will need to last them through the seven months of blizzards. They will need to use the list of prices,, and decide which items they will really need, how much of it they will need, and how to ration their money and supplies to make it last.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.30 generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problem using whole numbers in practical solutions [NS/PS 1.5.2]
        • 1.32 use a variety of appropriate strategies to estimate, compute, and solve mathematical and real-word problems
        • 4.1 use technologies as an educational tool in all content areas
    • Town Party Lemonade
      • Using the link provided,, students will need to double and triple the recipe in order to provide lemonade for more people in town.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.25 add and subtract fractions and mixed numbers with like denominators [NS/PS 1.5.9]
        • 1.32 use a variety of appropriate strategies to estimate, compute, and solve mathematical real-world problems
        • 4.1 use technologies as an educational tool in all content areas
  • Social Studies
    • History of the Railroad
      • The railroad played a vital role in the survival of the pioneers. In small groups of 3-4, students will be provided a list of dates and important events in the history of the railroad. As a group, students will create a timeline of their dates and events using the provided website, Groups will present their portion of the timeline to the class. The timeline will be posted in a visible place for future reference.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.27 organize chronologically major events and people of US History
        • 4.1A identify the purpose of and gain information from text features 16. timelines
        • 4.1 use technologies as an educational tool in all content areas
    • Native American Tribes in South Dakota
      • Students will research the Native American tribes that were living in the South Dakota area. These tribes are: The Arikara tribe, The Cheyenne tribe, and The Lakota and Dakota Sioux tribes. Students will choose one of the tribes and create a flip book (graphic organizer) with the following sections: where they live, languages spoken, children of the tribe, men and women's roles in the tribe, homes, clothing, transportation before cars, religion/art/storytelling, and food. Students will be provided with the following website to help guide their research, Students will also use additonal materials such as books and encylopedias for their research.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.7 describe Native North American life prior to European contact (e.g., clothing, communication, family, food, shelter, transportation, tools) [NS 5.5.6]
        • 6.9A write research papers by 2. locating and collecting information from primary and secondary sources (e.g., library resources, media, technology) [PS/NS 6.5.9] 5. organizing collected information (e.g., note-taking, using graphic organizers, outlining, paraphrasing) [NS 6.5.9]
        • 4.1 use technologies as an educational tool in all content areas
  • Science
    • Preparing for Winter
      • Students will research an anmial that makes their home on the prairie. Students will need to concentrate their research on discovering how that animal prepares for the winter. After researching their animal's winter preparations, students will create a model of the animal's winter home to present to the class.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.5 explain that living things get what they need to survive from their environments [L5C1]
        • 6.9A write research papers 2. locating and collecting information from primary and secondary sources (e.g., library resources, media, technology) [PS/NS 6.5.9]
    • Yikes! A Blizzard is Coming....
      • Students will research how blizzards are created through an experiment and an interactive weather maker. Students will first create water droplets which led to rain and eventually snow. They will then use the Interactive Weather Maker to further explore winter weather. Students will be using the provided website,, for instructions for both the experiment and the link to the Interactive Weather Maker.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.3 investigate and describe various meteorological phenomena (flooding, snowstorms, thunderstorms, and drought) [E5A4]
        • 4.1 use technologies as an educational tool in all content areas
        • 1.7 use models as tools to explain how something works or is constructed (stream table, terrarium, map, globe) [N5A6]

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

School in the 1800’s

Although just mentioned in Chapter 8 of “The Long Winter”, the history of school and schoolteachers is a very important theme in Little House series. In the 19th and 20th century, school was very different than it is now.

American students, who had the opportunity to attend school, were taught in a one-room schoolhouse by one teacher. Children ranged from primary level to eighth grade where school usually ended unless the student decided to attend a university later in life. The teacher instructed the students on academic basics such as reading, writing, and arithmetic.

The quality and condition of the schoolhouse depended upon its’ location. Schoolhouses that were in populated, thriving towns and cities usually had more children enrolled and the buildings were larger in size. Smaller towns tended to have smaller schoolhouses with fewer amenities available. They were often built close together, within miles, because of the lack of transportation available for students. Many had to walk and some were lucky enough to ride a horse or come by wagon.

The typical school day began at 9 am and ended at 4 pm. The students had a morning and afternoon recess of 15 minutes each and an hour long lunch break. Every child that attended school had responsibilities just as they may have had at home. The older children would bring in water and wood for the stove. The younger children were given responsibilities such as cleaning the black board, which was wood painted with black paint, cleaning the erasers outside, or other task that were suited for the age and gender.

The teachers, usually women, who taught in the schoolhouses, were more often than not former students. They would start the fire in the morning before the students arrived, taught all the subjects, and would often even cook a hot meal at noon for her students. Teachers had strict guidelines that they had to follow. The following is a list of rules that teachers in the Dakotas had to abide by.

Instructions to Teachers, Dakota Territory (September, 1872)

1. Teachers will fill lamps, clean chimneys and trim wicks daily.

2. Each teacher will bring a scuttle of coal and a bucket of water for the day's use.

3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs for the individual tastes of the children.

4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.

5. After ten hours in school, the teacher should spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.

6. Women teachers who marry or engage in other unseemly conduct will be dismissed.

7. Every teacher should lay aside from his pay a goodly sum for his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.

8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents a pool or public hall, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason for suspecting his worth, intentions, integrity and honesty.

9. The teacher who performs his labors faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents a week in his pay providing the Board of Education approves.

Women and men who decided to become teachers in the 1800’s faced many hardships and difficulties. It is often said that history repeats itself.

Additional Resources

  • by Harper Collins Children Book: This website provides resources for teachers and students about all of the Little House books.
  • by Laura's Prairie House: This website provides a synopsis for each novel, music lyrics, recipes, and more.
  • by Laura Ingalls Wilder Historic Home & Museum: This website provides historical information about Wilder and resources for kids too.
  • by Little House on the Prairie NonProfit Organization: This website provides a great slideshow with real pictures of buildings and settings described in the novels.


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.


Joelle said...

WOW~This a very indepth lesson plan! I love the blizzard activity and think the kids would love that as well. I too had the kids create a journal. Well Done!

collinsm12 said...

Great unit with unique activities. I had some similar ideas in my lessons, but I like the lemonade Stand lesson and how you linked a few of your lessons to websites. It gave me some creative ideas to use with my classroom. Thank you!

annecrumm said...

I especially like the what would you need to survive lesson. It would be so much fun for the kids and I could see it being a great conversation and writing starter. To extend to higher level thinking, you could have students pick a number of items (pre-specified) and justify their choices in writing.

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

It's nice to see you recommending students work in small groups. Research supports that students benefit more when working in groups.

Just to confirm... you want students to make decisions about surviving 7 months of blizzards during the 1800s on the prairie. Is that correct? If so, a nice extension may be to have students consider ramifications of the same condition in the 21st century.

For the "What You Need to Survive" activity, there is one flaw... thefamilies in the story may not have had the moeny or resources to actually survive even if they planned ahead. This may be a good time to bring in bartering and philanthropy.

I always love it when students make food in the classroom. This teaches them why they should learn those fractions that appear so useless to most intermediate level students. During the cooking activity, it would be good to have a food safety lesson (maybe even have a parent in the culinary field come and discuss legal procedures) and to discuss how sharing foods shares germs. When reading this section, I had the "heeby-jeebies" just think about what was swimming in that lemonade! Ugh!

The Little House series has received some criticism for its descriptions of Native Americans. It's nice to see you offering students the opportunity to see "the other side" of Native cultures through the "Native Americans in South Dakota" activity.

Jose said...

Lacy, Your math, What Will You Need to Survive," is a great activity. This would definitely give our students today a greater perspective of what took to survive and make do during this period of history. Your price list was incredible. I would like to use this for my own class.