Little House in the Big Woods

Little House In The Big Woods

Using the book “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder, students gain information about an early American family as they and the teacher read together. Students write a “how-to” essay about a skill they have researched and share their essays with classmates.

TitleIII Technology Literacy Challenge Grant

Learning Unit

Overview | Content Knowledge | Essential Questions | Connection To Standards | Initiating Activity | Learning Experiences | Culminating Performance | Pre-Requisite Skills | Modifications | Schedual/Time Plan | Technology Use

LU Title: Little House In The Big WoodsAuthor(s): Dona Beyel
Grade Level: 3School : Adirondack Central School
Topic/Subject Area: Language ArtsAddress: West Leyden, NY 13489
Email:[email protected].


Using the book “Little House in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder the students will gain information about an early American family as the students and the teacher read together. Students will further research the skills introduced in the literature by using the computer. The students will write a “how-to” essay about the skill they have researched. The students will share their essays with their classmates.

Content Knowledge

Students will know that they can read and listen to literature to gain information about a period in history. Students will be able to use the writing process.
The students will know that they can gain an understanding of historical periods through various literary genre. Students will be able to collect information about an early American skill in order to write a “how-to” essay.
Students will know that they can link prior knowledge to information gained from literature.Students will be able to listen and read independently or with another person in order to demonstrate comprehension skills.
Students will know that any literature has its own set of vocabulary. Students will be able to use vocabulary from the literature in their essays and in class discussions.
 Students will be able to use computer skills to research a topic.

Essential Questions

  1. How did families in early America acquire or produce the things that they needed to survive?
  2. What role did children play in their families in early America?

3. How was Laura’s life in early America like or different from your life today?

Connections to NYS Learning Standards

List Standard selected, standard # and Key Idea #: Write out related Performance Indicator(s) or Benchmark(s)

Standard 1-Students will read, write, listen and speak for information and understanding.

Elementary-Listening and Reading

  1. Listening and reading to acquire information and understanding involves collecting data, facts, and ideas, discovering relationships, concepts, and generalizations; and knowledge from oral, written, and electronic sources.


  • gather and interpret information from children’s reference books, magazines, textbooks, electronic bulletin boards, audio and media presentations, oral interviews, and from such forms as charts, graphs, maps and diagrams
  • select information appropriate to the purpose of their investigation and relate ideas from one text to another
  • select and use strategies they have been taught for notetaking, organizing, and categorizing information
  • ask specific questions to clarify and extend meaning
  • make appropriate and effective use of strategies to construct meaning from print, such as prior knowledge about subject, structural and context clues, and understanding of letter-sound relationships to decode difficult words
  • support inferences about information and ideas with reference to text features, such as vocabulary and organizational patterns.

Elementary-Speaking and Writing

  1. Speaking and writing to acquire and transmit information requires asking probing and clarifying questions, interpreting information in one’s own words, applying information from one context to another, and presenting the information and interpretation clearly, concisely, and comprehensibly.


  • present information clearly in a variety of oral and written forms such summaries, paraphrases, brief reports, stories posters, and charts
  • select a focus, organization, and point of view for oral and written presentations
  • use a few traditional structures for conveying information such as chronological order, cause and effect, and similarity and difference
  • use the process of pre-writing, drafting, revising, and proofreading (the “writing process”) to produce well-constructed informational text
  • observe basic writing conventions, such as correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization, as well as sentence and paragraph structure appropriate to written forms.

Standard 2- Students will read, write, listen, and speak for literary response and expression.

Elementary-Listening and Reading

  1. Listening and reading for literary response involves comprehending, interpreting, and critiquing imaginative texts in every medium, drawing on personal experiences and knowledge to understand the text, and recognizing the social, historical and cultural features of the text.


  • understand the literary elements of setting , plot, theme, and point of view and compare those features to other works and to their own lives
  • use inference and deduction to understand text
  • read aloud accurately and fluently, using phonics and context clues to determine pronunciation and meaning
  • evaluate literary meaning

Elementary- Speaking and Writing

2. Speaking and writing for literary response involves presenting interpretations, analyses, and reaction to the content and language of a text. Speaking and writing for literary expression involves producing imaginative texts that use language and text structures that are inventive and often multilayered.


  • present personal responses to literature that make reference to plot, characters, ideas, vocabulary, and text structure
  • explain the meaning of literary works with some attention to meaning beyond the literal level
  • observe the conventions of grammar and usage, spelling and punctuation.

Standard 3-Students will read, write, listen and speak for social interaction.

Elementary-Listening and Speaking

  1. Oral Communication in formal and informal settings requires the ability to talk with people of different ages, genders and cultures, to adapt presentations to different audiences, and to reflect on how talk varies in different situations.


  • Listen attentively and recognize when it is appropriate for them to speak
  • Take turns speaking and responding to others’ ideas in conversations on familiar topics
  • recognize the kind of interaction appropriate for different circumstances, such as story hour, group discussions, and one-to-one conversations.
  1. Written communication for social interaction requires using written messages to establish, maintain, and enhance personal relationships with others.


  • adjust their vocabulary and style to take into account the nature of the relationship and the knowledge and the interest of the person receiving the message.

Initiating Activity

To introduce the unit the students will view a short clip from an episode of the TV series “Little House On The Prairie.” The episode that I have chosen to use is called “Premiere Movie,” since it is the first one in the series and introduces the main characters. It also gives the students a glimpse of the cabin and the clearing. The students can then develop a bulletin board or record in their journals, information about the important elements in the story-namely the setting and the characters.

Learning Experiences

In chronological order including acquisition experiences and extending / refining experiences for all stated declarative and procedural knowledge.


Lesson 1- Initiating activity

Lesson 2- Teacher will read the first chapter in “Little House In the Big Woods” to the class, then review the important elements in the story.

Lesson 3- Teacher will teach the use of “List- Group- Label” to be used with the vocabulary for each chapter. Words will be used to begin the word wall and may be recorded in journals.

Lesson 4- Teacher will discuss the use of the journal and students will complete the activity for chapter 1.

Lesson 5- Teacher will discuss the use of the season cycle chart and include any information from the first chapter. Work on the compare/contrast graphic organizer will begin (discussed in Ongoing Class Project).

Lesson 6- Teacher will introduce the Writing Activity.

Lesson 7 to end- Centers begin by introducing the three centers- Vocabulary, Shared Reading and Computer. The use of these centers continues throughout the reading of this literature. Class discussions follow chapter.

Final Assessment-Choose a final task to complete as a CRQ, DBQ or essay using a graphic organizer provided by the teacher.


In the story, there are many words that are new to the students and meaningful in a study of life in early America. The vocabulary lends itself to the use of “List-Group-Label,” or vocabulary being separated into classifications, such as foods, wild animals, and household words. The words can then be written on individual cards and classified into the appropriate category. This might be accomplished in a center or as a class project, on a bulletin board. The students could be involved in choosing the category titles then classifying the words.

An effective means of defining the words is for each student to be responsible for the definition, a sentence using the vocabulary word and a picture illustrating the use of the word. A simple poster works well for this task. Vocabulary pages may be part of the journal.

Journal Writing

At the beginning of this unit, each student will be given a journal specific to this piece of literature. In it will contain pages to record the setting and characters, pages for drawing pictures and responding to the literature and questions which are to be answered by exploring web sites which have been book marked on the Internet. The latter will provide the students with a way to explore at their own pace in order to enhance their knowledge of this period in history.

Response questions for each chapter may include Decision Making, using a question such as, “What was the most important lesson Laura learned in this chapter?”, Complex Thinking Skills, using a statements such as “The ‘ big woods’ was a good place to grow up. List three reasons why you agree or disagree with this statement,” or a Problem Solving question such as ” In what other ways could Laura’s family have gotten this product (food)? Was it possible in the ‘big woods’ in 1850?”

Students will be given as much help as they need, both individually and as a whole class, to complete the tasks in the journal. In many cases, students may be asked to work alone, with a group or with partners to accomplish the tasks. An assessment of the journals will be done by the teacher, periodically, to assure the completion of the tasks.

Shared Reading

The story may be shared with the students in several ways, but in each case the reading is done with the teacher or another student, since much of the text is too difficult for many third grade students to read independently. Students may be assigned a partner to share the reading together, students may be divided into groups and read with an adult, or the class may listen to the chapter being read by the teacher, following along in the book. In the event that centers might be used, the story could be recorded on a tape.

Class Experiences

The unit provides many opportunities for meaningful, hands-on experiences. A list of such possibilities includes: a visit to a modern dairy farm, making butter and baking cornbread, a classroom visit from a maple syrup producer or local logger, building a scale-model of a log cabin, dressing in early American clothing in order to make a class photo album, making a class quilt from scraps of wrapping paper or following the directions to produce an early American toy, such as a doll. The possibilities are endless and varied.

Ongoing Class Project

An important part of this story is the changing of the seasons and how it effected the life and work of an early American family. As the book progresses, a classroom record, in the form of a large “cycle of the seasons” might be displayed and updated as the students discuss the events in the story. Another ongoing project, used for class discussions and responses to the literature might be a graphic organizer or chart pointing out the comparisons of early American and modern day life.

Writing Projects

At the outset of this unit students will be informed that Laura Ingalls Wilder has chosen to share with her readers, the many and varied skills that were required to be self-sufficient in early America.

The students will be instructed to choose a skill that they find in the story and one that is of particular interest to them. They will then need to learn the steps to accomplishing this task, from the book and from further research. Students will be taught the use of a graphic organizer, appropriate for this task of writing a “how-to essay. It will be modeled and practiced with the students. The students will become acquainted with the vocabulary necessary to writing this type of essay.

Next, the students will practice a first draft of an essay, then they will edit, revise and complete the final copy of their essay. The sharing might be in the form of a class book or an oral reading to the class.

Research of Early American Skills

The research for the essay project might be done in the classroom, school or public library, interviews of family members or local artisans, by visiting a local museum or historical site, and by doing research on the Internet. Several appropriate web sites are listed in the Technology section. Through the use of centers for this unit, students would be afforded the time to do the research.

Culminating Performance

Include rubric(s)

1. The students will be assessed on the quality of their “how-to” essay, using the following rubric:

Task Component4 points each3 points each2 points each1 point each
InformationIncludes all necessary information.Includes most necessary information.Includes some necessary information.Includes misinformation.
Organization using procedural markersSequential Order identified by appropriate transitions.Sequential order usually identified by appropriate transitions.Sequential order rarely identified by appropriate transitions.Sequential order identified by inappropriate transitions.
ConclusionCreative and appropriate conclusion.Appropriate conclusion.Unclear conclusion.Inappropriate conclusion.
MechanicsVery few spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.Some spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.Many spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.Cannot be understood.

2. Following the completion of the unit the students may be given one or more of the following tasks to be completed as a CRQ, DBQ or essay using a graphic organizer.

  • This is a drawing of the house where Laura lived in the Big Woods. What is it called and what might be three reasons why her father chose to build this kind of house?
  • Name at least 5 tools that Pa and Ma had to have to live in the Big Woods. Tell for what purpose each tool is used. (Photographs or drawings of tools could be used as part of this assessment.)
  • Choose two of the tasks that Laura’s family had to do. Tell what tools they needed to do the task, in which season it would be done and at least three of the steps needed to complete the task.
  • In your opinion, what was the best thing about Laura’s life in the “Big Woods.” Give at least three reasons why you think so and include details from the book.
  • In your opinion, what was the hardest thing about Laura’s life in the Big Woods. Give at least three reasons why you think so and include three details from the story.

The students will be assessed on the quality of their answers using the following rubric.

Task Component4 Points3 Points2 Points1 Point
InformationAll information is accurate.Most of the information is accurate.Some of the information is accurate.Information is inaccurate.
OrganizationIncludes all the necessary details and reasons.  Includes most of the necessary details and reasons.Includes some of the necessary details and reasons.Includes illogical reasons or details.
ComprehensionShows complete understanding of the story.Shows understanding of most of the story.Shows some understanding of the story.Shows little understanding of the story.

 3. Journals will be assessed by the teacher as often as necessary.

Prerequisite Skills

In order to accomplish this unit students need to be familiar with the writing process. Some knowledge of computer and use of the Internet is helpful.  


Since this unit can be accomplished using centers and whole class activities, students can work with a group, fellow students or one-on-one with teachers or aides to find information, define vocabulary, read the story or complete computer activities.

Unit Schedule / Time Plan

This unit requires five to six weeks to complete, if a 40 or 45 minute period of time is used each day. It will also require that the teacher review the book ahead of time to decide what vocabulary is necessary to target an the response questions to be used in the journal.

Technology Use

This unit is enhanced by the use of the Internet, however a computer encyclopedia may be used.

The following web sites may be of use when developing questions to be answered or investigated on the Internet.

1. Log Cabins

2. Laura Ingalls Wilder Family

3. Milking cows

Students can find out facts about milking cows.

4. Butter making

5. Cheese making

6. Wheat harvest

7. Butchering

8. Maple Syrup Production

9. Rifles

Students can see a closeup of a long rifle and its parts, and a powder horn.

10. Square dancing

Further reading: How to Write a Lesson Plan: 7 Steps