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 tour, A Pioneer Family, will guide fourth grade students in the Chicago Public School through the history of Illinois in the early years of statehood when more and more people emigrated to the area and established communities.

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Throughout human history the careful use of resources to ensure survival is a common experience. A Pioneer Family will help students learn about the difficulties of pioneer life in meeting basic needs of food and shelter. Knowledge of the pioneer experience will increase learners' appreciation for the accomplishments and risks people have taken in the past to improve their lives and chance of survival. The learner will also gain an appreciation for the importance of family members and neighbors in ensuring the survival of communities by helping with tasks. By understanding the experiences of people in the past, we foster an appreciation for the conveniences of technology and availability of goods.

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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 pioneer experience in the early years of the history of Illinois.
•The role that geography plays on the development of cities and landmarks, and how geography dictates the lifestyle of a people.
•The interdependence of natural resources and human capital in ensuring survival.

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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 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.

In addition this multidisciplinary tour indirectly addresses the other goals through information about the pioneer experience. 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. What are some things about pioneer life that you want to learn about? List at least 3 questions you have.
2. How much would it cost to buy 100 acres if land cost $1.25 per acre? (Answer $125)
3. It took 6 weeks for Vicky’s family to travel 900 miles from Virginia to Illinois? How many miles per week did they travel? (Answer 150 miles per week.) How many miles per day did they travel? (Use round numbers.) (Answer 21 miles per day.)
4. What are some sounds you hear at night?
5. What kind of meal would you cook if you were on the prairie?
6. Vicky’s family brought 50 bushels of wheat to Mr. Varley’s store. How many bushels did they sell to Mr. Varley? (Answer 49) How much money did they make from the sale of their wheat? (Answer $24.50) What was the total cost of supplies Mother bought at Mr. Varley’s store? (Answer $24.50 – 5 = $19.50)
7. Compare and contrast living and working in a city to what you have learned about living and working on a farm.
8. Look at your questions from the beginning of the tour. What have you learned about pioneer life? Compare what you would need to start a new life in a new place back in 1837 and today.

Additional Questions

1. What are some of the natural resources that attracted pioneers to Illinois?

2. What would it be like to move to a new place? Have you ever experienced moving? What was it like?

3. Vicky wrote about her life when her family first moved to Illinois in 1832. How do you think Vicky's life will change as she grows up? Think about your own life. Are there inventions or conveniences today that didn't exist a few years ago?

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Additional Information

Field Trip Sites

The Chicago Historical Society's Illinois Pioneer Life Gallery brings to life the daily activities of Illinois's early settlers through demonstrations of household and farmyard chores. Visitors can observe the spinning of flax, the weaving of yarn, and the printing of a broadside.

Museum of Science and Industry has an exhibition on The Farm that includes how technology has transformed the life and work of farmers and agriculture. Students can see different types of machinery and discuss how they made the work of farmers easier. The online version of this exhibit is listed under Web Links for A Pioneer Family tour.

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