RDG 589-71: Creative Language Arts
February 23, 2009
Integrated Language Arts Proposal
I. Title of Unit:
Westward Expansion: Oregon Trail – Traveling West in a Covered Wagon
II. Description of Students:
This unit will be implemented in a fourth grade inclusive classroom of 22 students in a
suburban community. In this classroom, there are three students who receive special education
services, two students who are English Language Learners, and three students who receive
Speech and Language support. This is a mixed-ability classroom, which includes students who
are reading at a second grade level, as well as students who are reading at a sixth grade level.
The students come from a variety of different backgrounds, and many of them speak a second
language at home. The goal of this unit it to give these students a solid understanding of what
life was like for pioneers who had to leave their homes forever in search of a better life so that
they can understand how this country was settled.
Content Area Purpose/Goals/Objectives:
Why did people decide to move west?
Why was it essential for pioneers to work together on the Oregon Trail?
What were the difficulties the pioneers faced on their journey?
How does pioneer life compare to the lives of people today?
These objectives are based on the following State Performance Standard:
Educational experiences in Grades K – 4 will assure that students describe and
explain some of the reasons people have moved, and relate these reasons to some
historic movements of large groups of people.
Language Arts Purpose/Goals/Objectives:
Students will be able to activate prior knowledge and establish purpose for reading.
* KWL Chart
* Venn Diagram
Students will discuss and respond to texts by making text-to-self, text-to-text and
Students will research information from multiple sources for a specific purpose.
* Diary Entries – Students will take varying perspectives in order to further their
understanding of westward expansion.
IV. Significance and Relevance to Role:
There are multiple reasons why I chose Westward Expansion as my focus for mu
Integrated Language Arts Unit. In my district, the fourth grade geography curriculum is completely
based on migration patterns of large groups, and how the United States has become a melting pot of
hundreds of different cultures and ethnic backgrounds. We want our students to understand what
their ancestors went through to create a better life for themselves and their children, and how that
directly impacts who we are today. We begin the year by completing a unit about Ellis Island and
massive immigration of people from Europe. Students read a variety of fiction and nonfiction text
to give them the knowledge they need to understand what immigrants had to go through to become
an American citizen. Students are then given identities of immigrants, and they go through a
simulation of what it was actually like for immigrants at Ellis Island. This has led to many
discussions about our family backgrounds and traditions, and has opened up communication
between these students and their living relatives who may be immigrants themselves. It definitely
gives them an idea of what life was like for their ancestors, and ultimately gives them an
appreciation for what their ancestors had to go through.
In conjunction with this unit, the students learn about westward expansion in the United
States, and how the United States was settled by immigrants. We want to ensure that the students
have a solid understanding of the difficulties of life on the Oregon Trail, as well as the hardships
faced by both the Native Americans and the pioneers at that time. A major focus of this unit is for
students to understand why people decided to make this treacherous journey, and the appeal that the
west held for many Americans. This directly relates to Content Standard 3 which states that
students will be able to describe and explain some of the reasons people have moved, and relate
these reasons to some historic movements of large groups of people.
Before the students read each of the fiction and nonfiction texts, they will be setting a purpose
for reading which will include making a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast their lives to the
lives of pioneers, and completing a KTWL Chart to monitor their preexisting and new knowledge.
These all directly relate to Standard 1.1 which involves students using appropriate strategies before,
during and after reading in order to construct meaning, and Standard 1.2 which entails having
students interpret, analyze and evaluate text in order to extend understanding and appreciation.
V. Description and Rationale Based on Research Articles:
As part of the development of this unit, I have researched articles that discuss the
importance of teaching about the journeys of the Oregon Trail, as well as how to effectively teach
historical understandings in inclusive classrooms. The first article is a detailed account of one
pioneer’s journey to the west in a covered wagon. It begins by explaining how excited this pioneer
man was partake in this journey through unknown territory, which embodies the spirit of many
pioneers at this time. This article states that “the essence of the pioneer spirit is to confront
Wilderness, to test itself against nature, to push beyond the boundaries of civilized life” (Tribble,
1973, p. 526). This is exactly the message I want to convey to my students about how excited the
pioneers were at the beginning of their journey. The article describes the different forts available
along the way, encounters with Native Americans, battles against nature, extreme exhaustion, and
the dependency on their skills and each other for survival. These are all valid messages that I want
to convey to my students through various readings and activities.
The second article focuses on teaching about Westward Expansion in an inclusive classroom so
that all students can be successful. It is based on the fact that most historical units are taught via
textbook, which is not always the most effective way to convey the past. Researchers developed a
unit on Westward Expansion which involved having students of mixed abilities read many different
sources about this topic and learn about the Oregon Trail in the form of a narrative (Ferretti,
MacArthur & Okolo, 2001). It also involves having students develop a critical stance regarding
their opinions on what they are reading, as well as learning about the source of the texts they are
reading. I want my students to develop that same critical thinking ability as they embark on their
learning about the Oregon Trail. My students will be exposed to multiple sources which include
first-person narrative accounts of their trip on the Oregon Trail, views of the Native Americans who
had to fight to continue their way of life, and nonfiction texts which detail how the pioneers
survived, or did not survive this journey.
VI. Overview of Materials used for Cyberlesson:
If You Traveled West in a Covered Wagon by Ellen Levine
Picture the Past: Life on the Oregon Trail by Sally Senzell Isaacs
Kids Discover Pioneers by Linda Scher
My Prairie Summer by Sarah Glasscock
Facing West: A Story of the Oregon Trail by Kathleen Kudlinski
Trouble for Lucy by Carla Stevens
One Day in the Prairie by Jean George
Kate’s Book by Mary Francis Shura
Computer with Internet Connection
Native American Indian Tribe Study Worksheet
Ferretti, R., MacArthur, C., & Okolo, C. (2001). Teaching for Historical Understanding in Inclusive
Classrooms. Learning Disability Quarterly, 24, 59 – 71.
Tribble, J. (1973). The Paradise of the Imagination: The Journeys of the Oregon Trail. The New
England Quarterly, 46, 523 – 542.