Chapter 3: Patience and Perseverance

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Angie Weigel, 5th grade teacher, Goolsby Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview:

Chapter 3 of Sallie Fox is titled 'Patience and Perseverance' and describes the outlook Sallie Fox and her family needed to have in order to successfully make it through the long and arduous journey via wagon train from Keosauqua, Iowa to Vacaville, California. During their trip, the narrator has an omniscient viewpoint and reflects on Sallie's family's past and present. In addition, the reader is greeted with a first hand account of what happened throughout the story as he or she encounters Sallie's brief journal entries that are scattered throughout the book.

In the opening of the chapter, the narrator explains how the weather on the trail alternated between hot and sticky conditions to thunderstorms with torrential downpours. At times, when it has rained, the travelers felt frustrated because the oxen became stuck in the mud and slowed the wagon trains from making it to their destination on time. At this point in the story, Sallie is feeling rather miserable because of the intense heat and all of the mosquitoes and gnats swarming around her through the dust-filled air, but she knows that being the older sister to her toddler brother, Orrin, means she must set a positive example, and her mama reminds her of that.

Later the narrator provides the reader with some background knowledge by reflecting back to Sallie's stepfather's prior trip out to California in search of gold and the stories he brought back to share with his family. Sallie's stepfather called California "the land of opportunity" and promised his family that one day they would all go out there together. The opportunity to fulfill his promise becomes apparent to Sallie's stepfather one day when he and Sallie are at Mr. Rose's store, and Mr. Rose asks him if he can hire him to lead a wagon train to California so Mr. Rose can open a horse racing ranch there. Sallie's father graciously accepts and prepares for the trip ahead by growing food for the cattle, purchasing a variety of animals such as horses, oxen, and cattle, gathering the necessary supplies, and stockpiling food. Once the grass begins to grow so the cattle have something to eat along the way, Sallie's family begins their journey west.

At the end of the chapter, Sallie's stepfather has stopped the train for the evening and the trains form a circle. Upon settling down for the evening, their group sees another train of wagons and upon meeting the wagon train members, Sallie's family learns that is it headed by Gillum and Right Baley. The two trains agree to join as one, but agree to keep their cattle separate. The chapter closes as Sallie's father explains to his family how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to be with a well-disciplined group and how joining together will provide more safety during their travels.

Chapter Themes: perseverance, adapting, optimism, opportunity, flexibility, and appreciation

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Creating Pioneers' Guidebooks
      • Students will use books and the internet to research and become experts on a variety of topics related to traveling west as mentioned throughout the book. Students will use the information they gathered to create a Pioneers' Guidebook. The purpose of the guidebook would be to demonstrate understanding of these topics and would serve as a resource during the 1800s for wagon trains heading west. Topics from chapter three could include 'How to deal with the changing temperatures', 'How to maintain a positive attitude along the way', 'Supplies you should bring with you', and 'Settling down at night routines'. Each topic would be a page in the guidebook and when the book is finished, students could go back and put each page in the order they feel it best fits based on the process of leaving the east and heading west.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)11.4 SWBAT record information
            • a. note-taking
            • b. organizational formats (graphic organizers)
            • c. outling
        • (5)5.2 SWBAT write informative papers that develop a clear topic with appropriate facts, details, and examples from a variety of sources
    • Comparing Then and Now
      • Students will work in small groups brainstorming what things are like in the 1800s as described in Sallie Fox and compare and contrast those things to now using a Venn Diagram. (Some examples from the text thus far might include clothing, diet, preparing meals, transportation, entertainment, and children's chores.)
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)2.12 SWBAT clarify understanding of text
            • c. complete a graphic organizer
        • (5)6.4 SWBAT organize ideas through activities
            • d. mapping
  • Mathematics
    • Calculating the Trail
      • Students will work in pairs to map out the journey Sallie takes with her family. As students read the book, they will mark each place her family stops on a blank map of the United States. After reading the entire book, students will use the scale to estimate the shortest distance Sallie's family traveled. Then students will connect each point and measure the shortest route in inches. They will then convert the inches into actual miles traveled. Afterwards, come together, and on a pre-drawn map of the U.S. on chart paper, plot the stopping points. Then, as a class, discuss the following questions:
        • Was the trip more or less miles? How do you know?
        • List reasons as to why the trip would have been longer. What about elevation? How would climbing and descending down mountains make a difference?
        • If the wagon traveled an average of 12 miles per day, about how many days would it take for the wagon train to reach Vacaville, California?, etc.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.19 SWBAT generate and solve addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems using whole numbers and decimals in practical situations
        • (5)1.25 SWBAT use a variety of appropriate strategies to estimate, compute, and solve mathematical and real-world problems
    • The Price of Going West: Then Versus Now
      • Students will research the cost of traveling west in a covered wagon. They will work in small groups to generate a list of the necessary supplies that would be needed for about six months of travel to help them determine an estimate for how much it cost during this time period to travel west. Students will then determine what the cost of the items would be today to see a comparison and have a better understanding of the financial impact of a trip of this magnitude.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.25 SWBAT use a variety of appropriate strategies to estimate, compute, and solve mathematical and real-world problems
        • (5)3.7 SWBAT determine totals, differences, and change due for monetary amounts in practical situations
  • Social Studies
    • Investigating Thunderstorms
      • Students will work in small groups using books from the library and the internet to locate information about thunderstorms to answer the following questions: 1.) What is a thunderstorm?, 2.) What causes thunderstorms?, 3.) What precautions should Sallie and her family take to stay safe in a thunderstorm? They will then take the information they discovered and create a journal entry from Sallie's point-of-view when she was traveling through thunderstorms and include this information.
      • Standard Addressed
        • (5)3.17 SWBAT define and give examples of natural hazards
    • Making Choices for the Trail
      • Students will make a list of the items that Sallie's stepfather stockpiled for the trip including food and other supplies. Students will then choose five items to remove from the list and be expected to justify what the cost would be to lose them versus the gain of keeping other items.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)2.1 SWBAT describe how scarcity requires a person to make a choice and identify a cost associated with the decision
        • (5)2.3 SWBAT demonstrate an understanding that choosing a little more or a little less generates either a benefit or a cost
  • Science
    • Smooth Ride
      • Students will research Conestoga wagons and the type of materials used to make wheels during this period. Students will research other materials that were available during this time period. Students will work in small groups to create a model using the type of material from their research in order to determine its effectiveness on rough terrain. Based on observations, students will determine if pioneers used the best materials available to them at that time.
      • Standards Addressed
        • N.5.A.5. SWBAT know how to plan and conduct a safe and simple investigation.
        • N.5.A.6. SWBAT know models are tools for learning about things they are meant to resemble.
    • Weather Along the Trail
      • Students will choose six points along the trail and track the weather using Students will use the information to record changing weather in a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet. Students will make note of extreme temperatures and weather conditions. Students will use this information to make predictions (forecasts) of the weather for the following week based on the data they collected previously.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.3 SWBAT investigate and describe various meteorological phenomena
        • (5)3. 7 SWBAT investigate and describe how change is a natural phenomena that can be seen throughout the natural world
Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

During the century after the American Revolution, many people in the eastern portion of the present-day United States, (like Sallie's family), began to feel crowded , and yearned to head west because it symbolized opportunity. Some people wanted to go west simply because the eastern portion of the U.S. was so conservative. The west also offered fertile land at affordable prices and small time farmers knew they may be able to farm on a commercial level if they headed west.

Like Sallie's family, people traveling across the country generally set out from a "jumping off point" such as Independence, Missouri, or Keosauqua, Iowa. These travelers traveled in wagon trains for added protection and the ability to share supplies. Each wagon train had a captain, (like Sallie's stepfather, Alpha Brown), who was experienced and knowledgeable in traveling and made important decisions regarding the wagon trains' travel.

Travelers heading west could generally expect the trip to last six months or so, so they had to plan carefully and make sure to pack enough supplies without over packing the wagon. This was very difficult to do because there was not access to stores accept for the few trading posts along the way. Travelers also had to think about weather over the course of those six months. They found that the best time to leave the "jumping off point" was usually April because the weather was pleasant and the grasses were growing so that the animals would have something to eat.

As travelers headed west, they ran into many obstacles. First, (as the family encounters later in the story), the prairie was full of snakes, scorpions, and wild animals , so travelers had to take great care in every day activities such as collecting buffalo droppings in lieu of firewood.
There was also the rumors of Native American attacks, that although exaggerated in the frequency of occurrences, still occurred when some Natives reacted negatively about wagons tearing through the land. Another obstacle was the weather. Sometimes it was hot and miserable and other times it was freezing cold, so travelers had to learn to adapt to the weather and make the best of it. They had to be prepared with blankets for when the temperatures dropped. Another obstacle travelers faced was maneuvering through natural landforms such as the Rocky Mountains. Finally, another obstacle was finding food and water and taking care of your family. Many people died of exhaustion and diseases, so travelers had to deal with the heartbreak that such events brought about.

Throughout this experience, it was necessary for travelers to remain optimistic and keep their eyes on the goal of arriving in the west. For many, this was what kept them motivated during their lengthy and tedious trip west.

Additional Resources


mike kuennen said...

The one lesson that jumped out at me was the one called “Weather Along the Trail”. Even to this day our daily lives are to some degree impacted by the weather. But during this time period there was certainly an even greater impact. Weather could create havoc on even the most prepared wagon train. The settlers were at the mercy of the elements. This was certainly the case with the Donner Party. I loved this component because you had the students making weather predictions as well as using technology that enabled the student’s the opportunity to gather and record the weather data. I thought it was a great idea and I know in the future that I will do this type of lesson with my students. The only additional thing I would do is create a list of 20 – 30 towns that the students could choose from (ex. desert towns, mountain towns, California towns and towns located on the plains).

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

What a great idea to have students create a guidebook! A nice extension would be to have students look at primary source guidebooks from the time.

Can you recommend some websites to help with the "Smooth Ride" lesson?

The "Making Choices for the Trail" activity reminds me of an activity in VOICE/Primary Voice where students had to choose which of the Amendments in the Bill of Rights they would keep if they could only keep five of their rights. In that lesson, the students have to debate their choices and unanimously agree on the final decision. This might be a good way to extend your lesson.