Today I began reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods to my first and second graders. I’m using this book to build interest and background knowledge for our Pioneer Day event coming up in a few weeks. This book is a great way to introduce how daily tasks used to be done in the 19th century.
Before I started the book, I asked the students what they knew about how some things may have been done differently in the “old days.” We compared shopping for clothes at the store with using a sewing machine. This led to talking about sewing before electricity was available.
Next, I projected the front cover of the book on the Smart Board. We discussed how the family on the book looked different compared to today’s families. The students noted that the dad had a large, fluffy beard and the sister had a long nightgown. I told them that this story will tell us how things were done over a hundred years ago when Pioneers were moving to new areas across our country.
I asked my students to think about the pictures they see in their minds while I read aloud. My aide gave them paper to draw their illustrations. As they drew, I would stop and ask them to give me quick definitions for key vocabulary from the text.
The artwork in this book is great. After we finished the first chapter, I went back and showed each illustration again. I asked the class to make up a summary sentence for each picture. Their summary sentence had to have 10 words or fewer and it had to describe the part of the story that was being illustrated. They were each able to take a turn sharing a summary sentence. They loved this exercise because they had to choose their words carefully. We all held up fingers to count how many words were in each sentence.
They seem to enjoy the book so far. They wiggled a little bit toward the end of the chapter. I think that they’ll be able to handle a chapter every day or two if I pick up the pace a little and offer a variety of coloring or drawing extensions to keep them busy. They are already identifying how life was different for Laura, Mary, Ma, and Pa than it is now. This book paints a great contrast to modern life.