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A Teachable Moment with Little House in the Big Woods

A Teachable Moment with Little House in the Big Woods

If you are a child of the 1970s and ’80s like I am, then you grew up with the revered Little House books (and TV series) by Laura Ingalls Wilder. As times have progressed and changed we’ve looked back at these stories with a new perspective in regards to racial issues. In 2018, the American Library Association changed the name of their top award from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award to the Children’s Literature Legacy Award in response to the change in perspective and inclusiveness in today’s society.

Many people believe that there is no place for the work of Laura Ingalls Wilder in our society. While many other people believe the whole thing is overblown and nothing is wrong with the books. I don’t really fall into either of the categories. I absolutely see the points being made that Wilder’s depictions of African Americans, and especially Native Americans, are derogatory through our 21st-century eyes. I feel though, that there is merit in her work and this topic gives a teacher a vital opportunity to use as a teachable moment. We can’t ignore history and pretend it never happened. We need to shed the light on the mistreatments and inaccuracies for what they are and learn from those mistakes so as not to repeat them.

One of the best blog posts I have read on this subject is by Laura McLemore in her post found here. It puts into historical perspective the times that Wilder was living in during the story and keeping in mind these books were authored in the 1930s written through the eyes of an impressionable child who didn’t really have all the knowledge to address the fears she had. A very different time for our country and culture. We know many of the views and actions perpetrated during this time were outright wrong and based on false knowledge. If you look through Wilder’s eyes with these points in mind you can gain a perspective of WHY she may have written and believed the things she did without having to agree with it. You can identify the wrong points in her writing and actions and use the hurtful content to help students understand why this is wrong and how these beliefs continued to hurt as time passed. Kids need to learn these things and they need to know why it was wrong in order for the future to be a better place.

Because of these beliefs that the Laura Ingalls Wilder books can be used as a tool for greater understanding, a teachable moment, I still feel they have a valuable place in the classroom. Her descriptions of pioneer living are invaluable for children to gain an insight into what it was like living during the late 1800s and what hardships the pioneers faced as they moved west. However, if you do choose to use these books I really do feel strongly that it is imperative that you give kids the proper historical perspectives and facts. Help them understand the true, and sometimes very awful, part of the history of the western expansion of the United States.

The Laura Ingalls Wilder series begins with Little House in the Big Woods. It is the story of a young Laura and her family living in Wisconsin before heading farther West into the prairies of the Midwest.

From the Book Jacket:

Based on the real-life adventures of Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House in the Big Woods is the first book in the award-winning Little House series, which has captivated generations of readers. This edition features the classic black-and-white artwork from Garth Williams.

Little House in the Big Woods takes place in 1871 and introduces us to four-year-old Laura, who lives in a log cabin on the edge of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. She shares the cabin with her Pa, her Ma, her sisters Mary and Carrie, and their lovable dog, Jack.

Pioneer life isn’t easy for the Ingalls family since they must grow or catch all their own food as they get ready for the cold winter. But they make the best of every tough situation. They celebrate Christmas with homemade toys and treats, do their spring planting, bring in the harvest in the fall, and make their first trip into town. And every night, safe and warm in their little house, the sound of Pa’s fiddle lulls Laura and her sisters into sleep.

The nine books in the timeless Little House series tell the story of Laura’s real childhood as an American pioneer and are cherished by readers of all generations. They offer a unique glimpse into life on the American frontier and tell the heartwarming, unforgettable story of a loving family.

I offer a complete novel study to accompany Little House in the Big Woods for use in the classroom or homeschool. The unit includes both a printable format and a Google Drive™ format for use in a paperless classroom or with Google Classroom.

log cabin in the woods

Your students can continue on with Wilder’s Little House series that goes through her life from Wisconsin to the prairies of the Midwest to growing up and marrying. They really do give students an insight into what life during the Homestead times was like. Just make sure you do the work of giving your students all the facts and information so that they can view this series in the proper perspective with the proper knowledge of our inclusive times.



Are you interested in reading about and sharing ideas with other educators on using children’s literature in your classroom? My goal is to bring together teachers and homeschoolers who teach grades 3-8 and use novels with their students. I’d love for you to join me to learn, share, and grow together!

Click here or the image below to join my Facebook group, Book Talk with The Teaching Bank!

Click to join Book Talk with The Teaching Bank

*The Teaching Bank participates in the Amazon Associate Program and earns a fee from qualifying purchases made on the Amazon.com site.

Interactive Social Studies Instruction in a Classroom Low on Time and Money

Interactive Social Studies Instruction in a Classroom Low on Time and Money

My youngest son is a highly visual and hands-on learner who has an IEP. He excels when he’s actually doing something, not just being lectured to. Social Studies has always been his favorite subject and unfortunately when he was in fifth grade the method for instruction for social studies did not set him up for success and I could see him losing interest in the subject. To combat this I created materials to complement his school instruction while helping him retain his interest and learn the material in a way that better meets his needs. The Interactive Notebook format is perfect for my son’s learning style and works very well with the American History curriculum. Even better to engage his interest is to use Google Drive to complete all the work electronically. He much prefers to type and manipulate using the computer rather than traditional paper and pencil methods.

I know my son is not unique in his learning style and I know the need for better quality materials is there, especially after looking over the curriculum materials that were provided to him via a top name educational publishing company. With this in mind, I decided to dedicate a year to creating materials for my son while also offering them in my TpT store. I was very pleased with the results of the work with my son and I am happy to see the demand is there for the products from fellow teachers.

With budgets getting cut for curriculum materials I knew I needed to provide something that included everything a teacher needs and/or includes links to free resources. All of my units contain an informational slideshow that goes along with the activities. I also include links to free online resources that can be utilized while working through the units.

I am also aware of the time restraints put on teachers for social studies instruction to accommodate testing schedules so all the activities can, for the most part, be completed in a single class period so that you can fit in social studies without missing out on the important content. I also include an IntelliNotes™ format to use when you are short on time, but still need to hit the high points.

This product line contains units to take you from the early days of North America to the beginning of the 20th Century.

There are 53 units total and they are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All of the units follow a similar format and contain both a printable and Google Drive format and includes:

  • Contain a cover sheet in both color and black & white.
  • Links to helpful online resources.
  • Guide with a link to Google Drive file and instructions on how to use.
  • Intelli Notes™ format to use when you are short on time.
  • Tutorial guide showing how to make all foldable activities.
  • Two different vocabulary activity versions (foldable or flash card). The file also contains blank editable pages so that you can add or change the vocabulary to best fit your needs. **This is the only editable portion of the products.
  • Interactive notebook activities to cover each topic within the section to help students pinpoint and highlight the main ideas and concepts.
  • An End of Unit Assessment.
  • Answer keys for all included activities

From the first unit, Early People of North America:

In creating my resources I made a conscious effort to use only historical images and clip art. I know there are a lot of resources out there that utilize cutesy type clip art in their history products with a goal to entice children into thinking it is “fun”.  I don’t subscribe to that line of thinking, especially when dealing with topics such as war, slavery, or genocide or in the depiction of indigenous people, enslaved people, or immigrants. I feel very strongly that using cartoonish imagery sends the wrong message to students preventing them from seeing the people and events as real and serious in nature.

You don’t have to make these topics “fun”, but you can very easily make these topics interesting through deep discussions.  Children are naturally empathetic and tolerant. It is a perfect time to tap into that empathy and tolerance as they learn of the atrocities of the past. This doesn’t need to be sensationalized or cutesy, these discussions of the events of the past taught in an honest and real depiction will engage the student interest. The deep discussions you have as you learn together will spark an understanding and appreciation for what has come before and hopefully will lead to the goal of learning this uncomfortable history, which is not to repeat it.

You can buy each unit individually, topics bundled together at a 20% discount, or find the full year bundle for at a 25% discount.

I really enjoyed creating these units and am so pleased with the progress and interest I saw with my son. I hope that you can find as much success within your classroom or homeschool as I’ve had!