Lesson Plan
Title:  Traveling with the Pioneers
Subject:  Social Studies
Grade Level:  5 - 6
Students will work in cooperative groups to plan a journey along either the Wilderness Road or the Oregon Trail. While working in centers the students will research information about the journey, plot their course, plan for the journey West, and create a post card to send "back home."
Approximate Duration:  6 forty-five minute class periods
Content Standards:
  • Geography: Physical and Cultural Systems
         Students develop a spatial understanding of Earth's surface and the processes that shape it, the connections between people and places, and the relationship between man and his environment.
  • History: Time, Continuity, and Change
         Students develop a sense of historical time and historical perspective as they study the history of their community, state, nation, and world.
  • G-1B-M2
         identifying and describing significant physical features that have influenced historical events;
  • H-1A-M4
         analyzing historical data using primary and secondary sources;
  • H-1B-M9
         describing the territorial expansion of the United States and analyzing the effects on relations with Native Americans and external powers;
Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs):
    • Places and Regions
      Grade 5

      7. Identify ways in which location and physical features influence the development or life in a region of the United States (e.g., effects of natural barriers)

      Grade 6

      3. Identify physical features that influenced world historical events and describe their influence (e.g., the Nile and Tigris-Euphrates as “cradles of civilization”)

    • Historical Thinking Skills
      Grade 5

      24. Use both a primary and secondary source to describe key events or issues in early American history

      Grade 6

      19. Use multiple primary and secondary sources to describe world civilizations

    Interdisciplinary Connections:  
    • Mathematics : Number and Number Relations
           In problem-solving investigations, students demonstrate an understanding of the real number system and communicate the relationships within that system using a variety of techniques and tools.
    • English/Language Arts : Standard 2
           Students write competently for a variety of purposes and audiences.
    Educational Technology Standards:  
    • Demonstrate the operations of a computer (e.g., touch-keyboarding skills, save, organize and back-up files) and other peripheral devices (scanner, digital and video cameras, VCR, laser disc player) at an intermediate level.
    • Use information, media, and technology in a responsible manner which includes following the school's acceptable use policy, adhering to copyright laws, respecting the rights of others, and employing proper etiquette in all forms of communication.
    • Use multimedia tools and desktop publishing to develop and present computer-generated projects for directed and independent learning activities.
    • Use technology tools (e.g., multimedia authoring, writing tools, digital cameras, drawing tools, web tools) to gather information for problem solving, communication, collaborative writing and publishing to create products for various audiences.
    TLW use a map to plot a route in order to plan a trip.
    TLW use a map scale to calculate distance and travel time.
    TLW use findings from research to compile a list of supplies they will need to complete their journey.
    TLW "purchase" items from a class-made catalog and will keep track of money spent and money remaining.
    TLW use the knowledge gained throughout this activity to compose a postcard message describing their journey (using a desktop publisher).
    TLW write a 3-paragraph essay about their experiences throughout the completion of this project.
    Lesson Materials and Resources:
    *Encyclopedias, paper, & pencils for research
    *index cards to record purchases & keep track of money
    *group folders to organize information
    *highlighters (to plot course on map)
    *ruler (for map scale)
    *The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman
    *Cassie's Journey by Brett Harvey
    *Other books about the life of children traveling the frontier
    *Student Notes for each center
    *organizational tools for each center to keep track of groups ready & finished (pocket charts, I'm ready / done posters)
    *Role cards for each center & role card descriptions
    *Venn Diagram (for essay)
    *Rubrics for graded activities (plotting map, postcard, essay)
    *Peer evaluation
    Technology Tools and Materials:


    Internet Explorer
    Kidpix (postcard picture)
    Kidworks (catalog)
    Microsoft Word (postcard & final publication of essay)

    •Wilderness Road
    •National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center -- Oregon Trail Map
    •World Book Online
    •What Supplies Do We Need?

    Background Information:
    This lesson is completed either during or after study of Westward expansion. Students should have background knowledge of what life was like for the pioneers living on the frontier.
    Students should be able to conduct research using World Book Online. They should also know the "basics" such as opening a file, saving, printing, etc. Finally, the students should have worked with Kidpix, Kidworks, Microsoft Word, and Internet Explorer and therefore should need little guidance in completing a task using these software packages.
    Lesson Procedures:
    1. The students will be split into groups of 4 (2 groups will complete the activity based on the Wilderness Road and 2 groups will complete the activity based on the Oregon Trail.) Each group will rotate through centers 1 - 6. One 45 minute class session will be allocated for each center. If more time is needed arrangements will be made with the teacher. One very helpful management strategy is to assign a role to each member of the group for each center. I usually place role cards with the directions for each center. Before beginning the activity for that center, the students pick cards to find out their role.

    2. Center 1
    A. Groups will access a bookmarked site (Wilderness Road map www.rootsweb.com/~vanrhs/wrrm/map.html or Oregon Trail map www.or.blm.gov/NHOTIC/OTHistory/trailmap.htm ) containing a map of their trail.
    B. They will then print this map and plot out their trip from the starting point to their destination.
    C. They will also use the map scale to calculate the total distance of their trip.
    D. Finally, they will figure out their estimated travel time and plot how far they should go each month of their journey.
    NOTE: Students should use different color highlighters to plot their monthly courses so that the difference between their original trip and monthly trips can be distinguished. Students may use a calculator to figure distance and travel time.

    3. Centers 2 & 3 (Research Centers: center 2 uses encyclopedias & center 3 uses computers)
    A. Groups will research the life of pioneers while traveling to determine what supplies they should bring with them as well as how much of each supply they need. Students will use: encyclopedias & bookmarked sites What Supplies Do We Need? www.sd129.org/goodwin/plan-3.htm & World Book Online www.worldbookonline.com .
    B. While researching, the students will take notes of the supplies they need to purchase.

    4. Center 4:
    A. Groups will look through an electronic catalog developed by the class (Kidworks) to "shop" for supplies on their journey. Each group will have a certain amount of money to spend.
    B. They will record their purchases on an index card that will act as their financial records. The groups must figure out how much money they spent on each person in the group. This total must be written on the index card.

    NOTE: Centers 2 & 3 must be completed before Center 4 can be completed. This may cause a problem with rotation. If it does, I will usually adjust my schedule and incorporate a small reading group to read from The Ballad of Lucy Whipple by Karen Cushman or Cassie's Journey by Brett Harvey. Both are books that tell the story of children traveling by wagon train. This helps the students to understand what life was like for kids their own age at this time in history. If you cannot find these books any book about the life of children along the frontier will work.

    5. Center 5:
    A. Groups will design a frontier postcard to mail back to their families.
    B. The postcards must have an original picture (designed in Kidpix) and a message telling about their journey and the cost of traveling west.
    C. The message should be imaginative and full of rich detail. It should also reflect their research of travelling Pioneers.
    NOTE: The students' pictures are designed in Kidpix and saved. They are then inputed into a Word document that has been formatted to be a template for a postcard (includes a section to insert the picture and a section to write their message).

    6. Center 6: (Independent Center)
    A. Each group member will write an essay telling what he/she learned about being a pioneer.
    B. Their essay should include 3 paragraphs:
    1. what they feel life was like for the pioneers
    2. compare & contrast of pioneer life and their life (use Venn Diagram)
    3. a conclusion paragraph which includes things they learned from completing this project

    7. Groups will present their post card and will also share pieces of their essays with the class.

    Assessment Procedures:
    Rubrics will be used to grade map activities, the postcard, and essay.

    Informal assessments such as question/answer sessions and teacher monitoring will also be used.

    Students will also turn in an anonymous, informal evaluation of how each group member worked within the group.
    Cooperative Grouping
    Small group instruction
    All activities can be modified for individual needs
              ----- written by Jill Esquivel  

    Reproducible Materials:
    Explorations and Extensions:
    1. Students can type their essays and compile them with their group member's essay into a scrapbook which includes their notes, financial record, & postcard.
    2. Students can also create diary entries as though they are children traveling along the Wilderness Road & Oregon Trail. They can record these electronically using desktop publishing software.
    Lesson Development Resources:
    Boehm, R., Hoone, C., McGowan, T., McKinney-Browning, M., Miramontes, O., & Porter, P. (2000). United states. New York: Harcourt Brace & Company.
    In submitting this lesson plan I included changes that I found needed to made after teaching the lesson to two groups of students. When teaching the lesson the first time, I realized the very obvious problem that Centers 2 & 3 had to be completed before Center 4 could be done. At that time I gave students enrichment activities to complete. It was as I was preparing to teach it a second time that I found the books The Ballad of Lucy Whipple and Cassie's Journey. These books really helped the students to understand that it wasn't just adults dealing with the difficulties of journeys west, but children faced difficulties also.
    I found that this lesson helped to bring the real world aspect to the students learning because in every activity they complete they must asume the role of a pioneer traveling west. You will hear the students discussing problems they will face along the trail or triumphs they celebrate; and they will be speaking as if they are really there. From a teacher's perspective it is an awesome thing to see my students so wrapped up in their learning.
    Contact Information:
    Jill Esquivel
    5th Grade Teacher
    MarcoPolo Lesson:  No

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