The Long Winter: 9—"Cap Garland" and 10—"Three Days' Blizzard"

Teacher's Guide Author: Sarah Daniels, 5th grade teacher, Raul P. 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 9: Cap Garland

Shortly after the Ingalls move to town, the girls have to start school. Laura was pretty nervous the night before their first day. The girls walk through town and make it school. Outside of school, the girls run into some boys playing ball. One of the boys throws the ball to Laura and she catches it. Then, Laura and Carrie meet two girls Minne Johnson and Mary Powder. Laura does not play with the boys and goes into the school house. During lunch, Laura runs home and begs Ma to let her change out of her flannel under ware. Ma says no and sends Laura back to school. While doing their afternoon lessons, it begins to snow. Laura and Carrie become nervous about the snow. Miss Garland, the school teacher, decides to cancel school so the children can get home. The teacher and students leave the school house to get back to town before the weather gets worse. The group finally makes it to Main Street and they start sending the children to their houses. Laura is worried because she notices that Cap Garland is lost from the group. Carrie and Laura make it to their house where Ma and Pa get them warm and put them into bed.

Chapter 10: Three Days' Blizzard

Laura and Carrie wake up in the morning stiff, sore, and cold. They both get out of bed and get ready for the day. The chapter then switches over to the Wilder boys, Almanzo and Royal. Almanzo already has claimed a homestead and has seed that he brought from Minnesota to start a farm. While cooking pancakes for Royal, Almanzo and him have a conversation about the winter. Almanzo is nervous that the winter is going to last seven months like the Indian said. Royal thinks that they will be fine as long as the trains can run and bring the town supplies. The boys continue talking and eating pancakes during the blizzard.

Chapters' Themes: Homesteaders, community, Pioneers/life on the frontier, Home & family, courage, memories, nature

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Poems
      • Students will learn different types of poems and write a poem on the seasons. Students will learn about hakius, acrostics, and shape poems and students will pick their own topic to write a poem about.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.3 write poetry
    • A Day in the Life of Laura Ingalls
      • Students will begin writing an essay about how their life is different from Laura Ingalls Wilder. Students will use a venn diagram to compare and contrast. Students will be expected to write at least three paragraphs comparing and contrasting.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.1 B. write essays and compositions, with assistance, using patterns of organization, including compare and contrast
  • Mathematics
    • Budget for Winter
      • Students will need to figure out how much money they will need to survive a winter in the town of De Smet. Students will be given a list of prices and things they will need for the winter. The students will be given a set amount to spend. They will have to add and subtract decimals to figure out if they have enough to buy what they need.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.16 add and subtract decimals
        • 1.19 generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers and decimals in practical situations
    • Pancakes!
      • Find a recipe for pancakes and have students use the recipe to do some different math problems. First, have the students double the recipe and then they can share with group members what their answers were. Then, using the fractions, students can name equivalent fractions.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.4 identify and/or generate equivalent fractions
        • 1.7 add and subtract fractions with like denominators using models, drawings, and figures
  • Social Studies
    • Create a Timeline
      • Students will create a time line based on the events happening in the story. They can use all of the information provided in the novel and continue throughout the story. Students can use their social studies books to put in dates to their time line that are historical events and are important in history.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.0 1700 to 1865 students understand the people, events, ideas, and conflicts that led to the creation of new nations and distinctive cultures
    • Drawing a Map of Town
      • Students will draw a map of town. They can make a legend and map out the route from the school house to the Ingalls' house in town when they had to walk in the snow storm.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 6.0 1700 to 1865 students understand the people, events, ideas, and conflicts that led to the creation of new nations and distinctive cultures
        • 3.4 construct maps, charts, tables and graphs, to display information about human and physical features in the United States
  • Science
    • Snow Day
      • Pair students up. Then have them share an almanac and look up weather for the winter of 1880-1881 and then after they gather their information, students can compare the weather from the winter of 1880-1881 to present day.
      • Standards Addressed
        • E2A Students understand that changes in weather often involve water changing from one state to another
    • Animals Everywhere!
      • Students will use a computer to research animals that were in the same region as Laura and her family (South Dakota). They will then use a venn diagram to compare animals that were found in the 1880's and present day.
      • Standards Addressed
        • L5C students understand that there are a variety of ecosystems on Earth and organisms interact within their ecosystems

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Pioneers & the Frontier

Pioneers first traveled west to the Appalachian Mountains, then west to the Mississippi and continued west to the Pacific Ocean. There were many hardships that pioneers had to deal with either traveling out west or on the frontier. These could be weather problems like rain or snow, a prairie fires, and problems with Indians. If traveling out west, something could go wrong with the wagon. These were all things that pioneers had to deal with while settling or traveling out west.
Why would people want to become pioneers? People who wanted to start over and start a new life decided to move on the frontier. A lot of the pioneers were farmers and they were in search of rich, fertile, land to start a new life. Some of the land was cheap and even free to settle on. Some people moved west to look for gold or other “magical” things they may find.
Pioneers brought many supplies with them while traveling the trail. They brought food like yeast for baking, eggs, bacon, some vegetables, rice, dried meat and a cow if they had it. Even though they could hunt and stop at towns along the way to get more but not all had a lot of money to spend. They also made their own clothes on their journey so pioneers had to bring necessary supplies along to make them. Pioneers also had to do their own repairs on their wagon so they had to bring necessary tools in order to fix anything that broke.
After they settled into their new homes, pioneers bought their land. The first spring and summer were spent getting the land ready to build houses and plant crops. Their houses were not very spectacular. They often looked like sheds and did not look very permanent. Pioneers usually bought land near a stream. This way they had access to water. If a group of pioneers lived near each other they would build a fort to protect them from the Indians.

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.


Joelle said...

We had a several of the same ideas, the weather activity, drawing a map and creating a timeline. Excellent choices and fun for the students. I love the Budgets for Winter activity, so important for students to understand money has value. In the Animal Everywhere activity I feel like you could expand past just the Venn Diagram and write about it too. Wonderful job!

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

You’ve written incredibly detailed chapter overviews. Thank you! This will make it very easy to recall events from the chapter.

I like that you’re teaching poetry using a variety of formats simultaneously and allowing students to choose their preferred style. It would be nice, however, if you would have them use a topic such as “Pioneering,” “Being Cold,” or “Alone” instead of “Seasons” so they could relate their poems to the story and your objectives will better align with intermediate level content.

Would you add a link to a list of the costs of items during Laura’s time so students can successfully complete the “Budget for Winter” activity? A nice extension might be to have them compare the Ingalls’ budget to the average budget for Americans during the winter. Then, they could learn about changes in costs of living and determine if (in current dollars) it cost more or less to live in the past. Students could conjecture reasons for the difference.

Will the “Create a Timeline” activity work? Because of the short period addressed in the chapters, this may not be a practical instructional strategy. You could modify it to simply place the events of the chapters in order, or perhaps students could research events relating to westward migration and create a timeline that places the Ingalls’ long winter on the timeline. They may choose to make a timeline just of Laura’s life using the extensive biographical resources available online about the Laura and her family.

It‘s a terrific idea to have students refer to the almanac to learn about the weather. This is a great resource that few children ever use. It might be nice to follow-up the activity wit a lesson on farming and making choices about what crops to plant and when to plant them. For an example lesson plan, see

Anonymous said...

I think that your activity, "Drawing a Map of Town," would be a good way to give students an insight into the type of living conditions children of pioneers endured. It could also lead into your "Snow Day," activity.
I also liked your "Animals Everywhere," lesson. I use something similar for the Environments FOSS kit.