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
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.
identifying and describing significant physical features that have
influenced historical events; (1,2,3,4)
analyzing historical data using primary and secondary sources;
describing the territorial expansion of the United States and
analyzing the effects on relations with Native Americans and
external powers; (1,3,4,5)
Grade-Level Expectations (GLEs):
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)
Identify physical features that influenced world historical
events and describe their influence (e.g., the Nile and Tigris-
Euphrates as “cradles of civilization”)
Use both a primary and secondary source to describe key
events or issues in early American history
Use multiple primary and secondary sources to describe
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
English/Language Arts : Standard 2
Students write competently for a variety of purposes and
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
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)
Technology Tools and Materials:
Kidpix (postcard picture)
Microsoft Word (postcard & final publication of essay)
•National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center -- Oregon Trail Map
•World Book Online
•What Supplies Do We Need?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
Small group instruction
All activities can be modified for individual needs
----- written by Jill Esquivel
Student Notes Center 1
Student Notes Center 2
Student Notes Center 3
Role Cards Center 1
Role Cards Center 2
Role Cards Center 3
Role Cards Center 4
Role Cards Center 5
Role Card Template
Role Card Descriptions
Post Card Rubric
Post Card Template
Student Notes Center 4
Student Notes Center 5
Venn Diagram (for essay)
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.
5th Grade Teacher
MarcoPolo Lesson: No