Chapter 5: The Arkansas River

Teacher's Guide Chapter Author: Cynthia C. Spence, 5th grade teacher, Oran K. Gragson Elementary School, Clark County School District

Chapter Overview: Chapter 5 is titled The Arkansas River and continues to detail the journay that Sallie, her family, and friends made as they forged their way west. The reader is given a glimsp of travel as part of a wagon train and becomes familiar with some of the day to day challenges of traveling across Kansas and into the New Mexico Territory.

Chapter Themes: The main themes for this chapter included travel by wagon train, the importance of water and food for livestock, and the impact of crossing the country on small children.

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts

    • A Postcard to My Friend Activity

      • SW discuss the fact that there were not mailboxes or post offices waiting for mail pick-up and delivery. They will be asked to create a postcard to send information about their trip across the Arkansas River with Sallie Fox. Students will select their favorite scene from the chapter and draw their interpretation of it for the picture side of the post card. On the reverse side they will write to describe one event from the chapter.

      • Standards Addressed

      • (5) 2.4, determine importance in stories

      • (5) 2.5, form mental pictures before, during, and after reading

    • Mini Dictionary Activity

      • SW review text for words that are not common to our usage today. They will take words such as miry and matocks and research the definition. SW use both oral language and pictures to illustrate and define the words. At the end of the book, SW exchange dictionaries and share the words they selected and their meanings with each other.

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 1.4, use dictionaries and glossaries to find work origins, pronunciations, and to determine the meanings of unknown words

        • (5) 1.5, use context clues such as restatement, definitions, and examples to determine the meaning of unknown words

  • Mathematics

    • How Wide is Wide Activity

      • SW use measurement descriptions from the text to express the width of the Little Arkansas and Arkansas River in inches, feet and yards.

      • Standards Addressed

      • (5) 3.2, measure, compare, and convert length to the closest fractional part of inches, feet, yards, and miles

        • (5) B.7, use mathematical words, phrased, and symbols to communicate and explain mathematical situations

    • Quantum Leap Activity

      • SW reflect on the chapter and then compare the situations and activities in the chapter to what type of scenarios they encountered on a trip they took with their family. SW use a Venn diagram to compare and contrast the two trips (Sallie Fox v. their trip)

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 4.10, represent relationships using Venn diagrams

        • (5) 5.10, select an appropriate type of graph to accurately represent the data and justify the selection

  • Social Studies

    • The Road West Activity

      • SW use a current map to understand the route taken based on the map of Sallie's journey at the beginning of the book. SW use details from the chapter to pinpoint the location on the current day may of the activities described by Sallie.

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 3.1, use maps and map features, including directional orientation, map symbols, and grid system, to identify and locate major geographical features in Nevada and the United States

        • (5) 4.4, organize historical information from a variety of sources

    • Load Em' Up Activity

      • SW be asked to select 10 items from a list of things that were typically found in wagons during their movement from one part of the country to another. After their list is complete they will have an opportunity to select two other people to join their wagon train. The goal is to look at what the other person selected and make sure that between you there is enough for the trip. TW define the amount of time for travel and part of country they will move through. SW journal about what they took and why it was selected and define objects which they wished they had with them. Periodically the TW describe a situation that may cause the students to need certain objects (ex. lightening strikes the wagon with all your food and water and sets it on fire) SW need to use the supplies they have to resolve these issues.

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 2.1, describe how scarcity requires a person to make a choice and identify a cost associated with the decision

        • (5) 1.22, deonstrate concern and respect for the rights of self and others

  • Science

    • Picture This Activity

      • Based on descriptions from the chapter, SW draw pictures of plants and animals they may be unfamiliar with, then use technology and research to find actual pictures of the items (Ex. tight curled buffalo grass)

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 4.7, investigate and describe how some environmental conditions are more favorable than others to living things

        • (5) 1.4, draw conclusions from scientific evidence

    • Water, Water Everywhere Activity

      • TW use reference in the chapter to snow from the mountains ending up in rivers and lakes to launch a discussion on the water cycle. SW create a diagram to explain the water cycle.

      • Standards Addressed

        • (5) 1.7, use models to explain how something works or how something is constructed

        • (5) 3.7, investigate and describe how change is an ongoing process that can be seen throughout the natural world

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

Travel by wagon train is a topic that is not only rich in our country's history, but lends itself to awakening the imagination of the student reader. Engaging the student in discussions about the planning process for wagon train travel is in itself a higher learning exercise. Some topics to consider in this area are a discussion of the weather in different parts of the country and their impact on the wagon train. Choosing a route for livestock that would provide food and water for them was also very important. This presents a wonderful opportunity to look at and discuss topical maps.

Travel by wagon train is a math rich study that can also satisfy the curosity of the elementary school reader. Start by advising students that the average wagon train only traveled between 10-15 miles a day. Relate this to a distance that the students are familiar with so they have a good visual of the distance. Use a map to determine how long it would take the wagon train to go from your city to the next larger one. Then, use the same logic to go from Ohio to California.

A typical day on the wagon train presents an opportunity for students to compare Sallie's day to theirs. Discuss that since riding in a wagon train was a very bumpy ride, most people not driving the wagon train walked. Usually, the memebers of the wagon train arose before dawn to prepare for the day's travel. They had to prepare the livestock, cook breakfast, and repack the wagons. Ask students how this compares to their morning.

Travelers would normally stop at noon for 1-2 hours. During this time, they ate and rested. Livestock was given water and any repairs that needed to be taken care of for the wagons was accomplished. Around 4-5 pm the wagons would stop for the night. While the men and older boys took care of the livestock, the women started the fires and cooked dinner. After dinner, the families would enjoy an evening of singing, dancing, and storytelling around the campfire. Students will enjoy comparing what they do in the evenings to what they would have been able to do if they were with the wagon train.

Finally, it was time to go to sleep. Most men and boys slept under the wagons, in tents, or on the ground under the stars. The women and small children usually slept in the wagons. The wagons were always placed in a circle. This was for protection against the weather, wild animals, and Indian attack. Contrary to popular belief, most people who did not reach their destinations when traveling by wagon train were challenged by lack of food, water, or being lost.

Additional Resources

1 comment:

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

What a great idea to use the Postcard Activity to teach about mail delivery in the 1800s. This would be a great way to bring in primary sources such as pictures and time schedules of the Pony Express riders and sample letters from the era. You could even do a whole unit on the history of postal deliver in the U.S.

Perhaps you could do the "Road West" activity using Google Earth. Students could create a fly-over for the journey and find primary source pictures from each stopping point to help gain a "feel" for Sallie's journey.

I like that you've made the "Load 'Em Up" activity into a game. This will keep students engaged and they will enjoy the activity (potentially increasing long-term content retention).