Chapter 8: The Beale Wagon Road

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

Chapter Overview: In this chapter the debate over whether to travel the beale Wagon Road gets heated. This is because it is not yet a road but a trail that has barely been traveled. The fear of indians and loss is great among many but not great enough to stop them from trying it. The journey begins with a loss that Sallie feels hit home.

Chapter Themes: Fear of Indians, Fear of loss, Death

Chapter Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Journal Entry
      • Have students pretend that they are a child listening in on the conversation or debate as it is called. Have them write a journal entry as that child explaining how they feel and why it is that they feel that way.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)5.1: It is expected that students will participate in daily writing activities (e.g. Journals, learning logs, reports)
        • (5)5.5: It is expected that students will write responses to literary selection by supporting ideas with selected examples
    • Response
      • Ask the students the following question: Have you ever had someone tell you a secret that you should tell but didn't because you promised? If so, write about the reasons why you didn't or did tell someone. If not explain what you would do if someone you trusted did.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)2.2: It is expected that students will respond to and generate questions
        • (5)2.1g: It is expected that students will select and apply pre-reading, during, and post-reading strategies to enhance comprehension through making connections to personal experiences and knowledge
  • Mathematics
    • Probability
      • Using what children know about probability have them determine what the probability of Frank drowning was. Have them consider the facts given in the sotry. If they need to they can look up information on currents. make sure to review probability with them explaining what all the chances are. Once they decide it have them explain why they chose it.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)5.8: It is expected that students will conduct simple probability experiments using concrete materials
        • (5)D.5: It is expected that students will approach problems with flexibility in a variety of ways within and beyond the field of mathematics
    • Wagon Weight
      • A Conestoga Wagon could hold up to six tons. Knowing this fact use the chart on page 49 from the book Going West! by Carol A. Johmann and Elizabeth J. Rieth and design what all you would be able to carry on your wagon if you had to travel the Santa Fe Trail. Make sure that the students need to remember that they are Sallie or a member of her family and need to think like they did in those days.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)D.4: It is expected that students will apply mathematical thinking and modeling to solve problems that arise in other disciplines such as rhythm in music and motion in science
        • (5)1.22: It is expected that students will use basic facts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division with speed and accuracy in computation and problem solving.
  • Social Studies
    • Debate
      • Have the students debate whether or not traveling the Beale Wagon Road is a good idea or a bad idea. Have them make lists of pros and cons and split them up evenly some for and some against. The rest of the class will then have to decide who they agree with more. Those for it or those against it.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)1.21: It is expected that students will differentiate between facts and opinions
        • (5)1.21: It is expected that students will demonstrate concern and respect for the rights of self and others
    • History of Indians
      • In the story so far they have discussed that they fear Indian attacks. Why is it that they do not fear the Mojave Indians as much as they do other tribes? have the children research some of the tribes that existed along the trails back then to decide if this statement was valid or not.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)4.3: It is expected that students will ask a historical question and identify resources to be used in research
        • (5)4.4: It is expected that students will organize historical information from a variety of sources
  • Science
    • Deserts
      • Have children design different landform 3-D. Make sure that they use all known aspects of that landform and design it accurately. make ready resources, such as encyclopedias, books, interent, etc. Depending on class you can break up however needed. After they are done have them journal a normal day from morning till night describing what they would do if in that 3D location.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (5)3.6: It is expected that students will compare and contrast various kinds of landforms
        • (5)3.9: It is expected that students will describe the positive and negative impacts of technologies (dams, agriculture, using natural resources) on society and the environment
    • Photo Tour of the Rio Grande

        • Have students take a photo tour of the Rio Grande to decide what they would do if faced in that situation. If you go to google the best site to start at is The students will be able to google Albuquerque and Rio Grande River to decide what they would have done. Would they want to be like Sallie and just stay or would they want to continue traveling west?
        • Standards addressed
        • E2A Students understand that changes in weather often involve water changing from one state to another
        • E8A: Students understand the relationship between the Earth's atmosphere, topograhy, weather, and climate

Historical Overview of Chapter Themes

The Mojave Indians could be described as a friend or an enemy. The Mojave Indians were a group that lived in New Mexico where the expedition of silver and fur trappers brought many white settlers. The white settlers were unsettled to see how little clothes the Mojave Indians wore.

The Mojave Indians believed that all living things had a place and then no one should harm them. They had a hard time understanding why so many people were being brutal to the animals. Therefore, as the fur trappers continued to kill the Mojave felt that they had a right to gain something back from them. They then demanded a horse and in place of that 16 of the Mojave Indians were laying dead in 1827.

This was just the beginning of the violence that was to continue for many years to come. This continued until 1850 was Arizona was taken over by the U.S. Army led by Lt. Amie Weeks Whipple. Lt. Whipple gained respect and trust of the Mojave's because they felt that there was going to be an opportunity for trade. This lasted until 1856 when they found out that two white girls were living with them from a trade and one died.

This caused many problems throughout the tribe. In 1858 there would be an attack on Sallie Fox's families wagon at the Beale Wagon Trail. This will lead into the rest of the story.

Additional Resources


Michael Papushak said...

I like how each of your activities allow for all types of learners to become involved in the chapter. I have an extension activity idea to go along with your Wagon Weight activity. You could have students research a list of items that pioneers carried in their wagons. Then, have groups of students prioritize the list of items in order of importance (thinking about their weight, etcetera). Finally, groups can defend their reasoning to other groups of students in the class as to why they felt the way they did about each item's importance. Overall, you did a nice job. I really enjoyed reading the Sallie Fox book. It seems like you did too. Thanks.

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

Could you add in a picture of a Canestoga wagon? It's hard to believe those little wagons could carry so much weight... and even harder to believe their oxen could pull it over the rugged terrain. Depending on the ability levels of the students, this could turn into a great lesson in engineering as well.

What a terrific idea to have students view pictures of the Rio Grande before making their decisions. Hopefully, we will soon have access to virtual worlds that will allow our students to experience what it would be like to stand at the edge of the river then and now. I love the description of this type of technology and its educational applications in the Lester and Fitzgerald article titled " Knowledge-Based Learning Environments: A Vision for the Twenty-First Century" (

cmcgrew said...

It looks like your Social Studies idea about debating the Beale Road decision and your Language Arts journal about a child's feelings could easily be incorporated together.
I liked your Wagon Weight idea as well. It would really cause the children to think about their decisions.