Teaching Guide

Teachers should also read the Life on the Prairie: A History of Illinois module Teaching Guide for further information.

Also refer to the Standards Chart for this lesson.



The aim of this tour is to acquaint students with the importance of Chicago in the history of Illinois as the center for commerce in the state and nationwide.

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Chicago's geography and its proximity to the region's natural resources virtually guaranteed the city would become the commerical center in the state of Illinois. Its location near waterways that connect the midwest to the rest of the world would attract millions to Chicago looking for opportunities. The story of Chicago's development into a major center for commerce plays an important role in the history of Illinois.

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This tour is designed for fourth-grade students in the Chicago Public Schools. Private school students or any other young people or adults interested in Illinois history or the pioneer experince could also use it.

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•Reading at a 4th grade level
•Use of Internet browsers
•Use of mouse

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Subject Matter

The subject matter of this module includes the following:

•The economic opportunities that attracted businesses and individuals to Chicago in the 1850s.
•Important inventions and entrepreneurs (such as Cyrus McCormick).
•The interdependence of natural resources and human capital in various industries.

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Internet-connected computer with browser (version 5.0 recommended) for each student or group of students; or a projector with a large group of students.

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Instructional Plan

It is recommended that teachers preview this tour to find any concepts or vocabulary that may need to be covered before the students begin. Teachers may wish to create a vocabulary/spelling list for using the terms found in this tour.

Teachers are strongly encouraged to set up a discussion time for students after each session so that they can reflect and give feedback on what they have experienced so far in the tour.

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Learning Objectives

Illinois State Goals

This tour is designed to specifically address State Goals 15, 16, 17, and 18 of the Illinois State Learning Standards:

•State Goal 15: Understand, analyze, and compare economic systems, with an emphasis on the United States.
•State Goal 16: Understand and analyze events, trends, individuals and movements shaping the history of Illinois, the United States and other nations.
•State Goal 17: Demonstrate a knowledge of world geography, as well as understanding the effects of geography on society, with an emphasis on the United States.
•State Goal 18: Understand, analyze, and compare social systems, with an emphasis on the United States.

This tour addresses Language Arts standards through reading and answering online journal questions; in addition, the section called Additional Activities and Web Links extends the tour to address other standards. Refer to the standards chart for detailed information.

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Assessment and Evaluation

Students should answer questions that are presented in the tour as part of the online journal. The questions can be printed as a form of captured assessment. Journal questions embedded in the tour are as follows:

1. Why do you think Chicago is such an important city in Illinois?
2. Why do you think having too much of a certain crop caused the price to drop?
3. In 1858 there were only 32 states in the United States. How many states are there in the U.S. today?
4. What do you think happened to Lake Michigan when people began dumping their waste into the Chicago River?
5. What does Billy mean when he says “gravity does the work of unloading” the grain onto boats?
6. Why do you think people were relieved when the stockyard was built?
7. What are your dreams for your career? Are these opportunities available to you in Chicago? Why or why not?
8. What do you think would happen if there was a dry spell and farmers weren't able to grow as much wheat as they had promised to buyers?
9. Look back at the first question, Why do you think Chicago is such an important city in Illinois? What are some new things you learned about Chicago? Add what you learned to your answer.

Discussion/Quiz Questions

What are some of the pollution problems that were caused by industry, residents, and various modes of transportation?

How do you think civic life changed when more people came to Chicago? (With more people came more pollution and crowding.)

What are some reasons why people came to Illinois? (cheap fertile land, location, natural resources in plants and animals, etc.)

What are some reasons why people came to Chicago? (job opportunities, entrepreneurial opportunities, knew somebody here, etc.)

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