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Journeys On the Oregon Trail

15 Apr

This week, my class set off on a book club adventure along the Oregon Trail. I started by introducing the five books they could choose. I gave a short book talk about each, then set a set of he five books on each table, giving theme ample time to look through to find a good fit book. Their choices were:

Ranger in Time:Rescue on the Oregon Trail by Kate Messner (by far the most desired book)

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Thunder Rolling in the Mountains by Scott O’Dell and Elizabeth Hall (not exactly an Oregon Trail book, but there is a connection)

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Dear Levi: Letters from the Overland Trail  by Elvira Woodruff

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Rachel’s Journal  by Marissa Moss

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The Stout Hearted Seven: Orphaned on the Oregon Trail  by Neta Lohnes Frazier

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Then they had to fill out a form naming their first and second choices and why each would be a good book for them. Some of their reasons were excellent. Here are some samples.

“When we talked about Native Americans, I had questions that went farther. I would like to know how they were pushed out of their own land .”

” I like books with a map and journal books.”

“I enjoy books where people have to go on a hard life-or-death mission.”

“I want to know the feeling and how hard it can be to have to survive alone.”

“Time travel is right next to impossible.”

“It is teaching you about the Oregon Trail and it is also doing fantasy at the same time.”

“I could see how other people come together and help each other live.”

 

They didn’t all get their first choice, but everyone got their first or second choice, and so far, everyone seems happy with their book.

 

 

 

 

Almost to the finish line

11 Jun

Three more days.

The 4th grade is finishing up the Oregon trail unit, among other things and I think I know how the travelers must have felt as they approached Oregon City.

The kids in my high reading group are finishing up their biographies of famous Oregonians. They are making pizza box biographies, which are in various stages of completion. No matter what, they go home tomorrow afternoon. Here are some samples what they’ve been up to.

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I only let them use two online resources for research: The Oregon Encyclopedia and The Oregon Blue Book.

Women of the Frontier on the other hand, is a new print book written by Brandon Marie Miller.

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Its subtitle is  16 Tales of Trailblazing Homesteaders, Entrepreneurs, and Rabble Rousers. The author uses journals, letters and song lyrics to give voice to the women who helped steel the West. Some of the women in this book were subjects of the 4th graders’ pizza box biographies. Most are unknown or not very well known.  The men seem to get all the glory, but these are important stories about real, down to earth people. It even has a section dedicated to the Native American experience as settlers moved onto traditional Native lands.

The book includes photos & drawings from the period and has an extensive bibliography. Most of my 4th graders won’t read this (though a couple of the girls might be interested), but I found this a very useful resource for me.

Road Trip!

16 May

Every August the Multnomah County Library offers FREE workshops for teachers about new great books to use in the classrooms and they tie them into the standards for you. It’s a fun afternoon and I always find a couple of gems I’ve overlooked. You don’t have to be a Multnomah County resident or teach in Multnomah County (although for statistical purposes they ask you at registration).  You can find out more information and register here .

At last summer’s workshop, I was introduced to Wagons Ho!  by George Hallowell and Joan Holub.

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It is a wonderful compare & contrast book, chronicling two very different trips on the Oregon Trail. Jenny’s family is traveling from Independence, Missouri to Oregon City  by covered wagon in 1846. Katie’s family os making the same trip by car, now. Each 2-page spread compares and contrasts a different aspect of the two journeys. Lynne Avril’s inviting illustrations, many with speech bubble or cations, adds to the knowledge young historians will learn as they read.

This book is a must for every 4th grade classroom in Oregon and certainly opens the door for kids to write their own moving road trip story.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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