People of the Prairie: A History of Illinois

Lesson Summaries
Assessment and Evaluation
Instructional Use Scenarios


This module presents a history of Illinois emphasizing the important geological, cultural, and political features of the state as told by characters representative of the diverse groups that came to live here. Overall, the aim is to offer a humanistic view of Illinois history from the perspective of real and fictional characters that personalize historical events. While the primary audience for the module is 4th grade students in Illinois, it can be used by elementary- and middle-school students in Illinois and elsewhere for reading and research about government, trade, geology, history, and culture.

Students will learn about:

The pre-history of Illinois
The civilization of pre-Columbian Illinois
Who came to Illinois and why
The government of Illinois
Important historical figures in Illinois
The rise of Chicago as a great mercantile city


Lesson summaries

The Story in the Rocks

Meet miner John Mitchell and learn about the history of Illinois that can be found in its rocks and fossils. Ever wonder if dinosaurs roamed the state? John will help you find the answer!

The Mississippian Indians at Cahokia

Visit Cahokia in downstate Illinois. Lightfoot will tell you about the everyday life of the Mississippians before Columbus arrived in America. Play a game of chunkey while you are there!

A Pioneer Family

In 1832 Vicky and her family left Virginia for Illinois. It took them 6 weeks to get here by covered wagon. Learn about their trip and how this pioneer family survived their first year in Illinois.


The Illinois & Michigan Canal

Angus's family came to Chicago from Ireland to escape the potato famine. Visit Angus in Bridgeport, where his dad is a canal worker on the Illinois & Michigan Canal. Try your hand at operating a lock on the river!

City of the Big Shoulders: Chicago

Billy “Junior” Monroe and his family moved to Chicago in 1848. About 20,000 people lived in the city when they arrived. Ten years later, 90,000 people called Chicago their home! Find out why so many people came to Chicago in this story about the City of Big Shoulders.

Slavery and Anti-Slavery in Illinois

On the eve of the Civil War, Solomon escapes a sugar plantation. Join him as he follows the Underground Railroad to Illinois and beyond. Will he decide to join the Union Army or continue to freedom in Canada?


Taking Action! Rights and Reform Movements

Maria and her family immigrated to Chicago from Italy at the turn of the century. When she attends classes at Hull House, she is inspired by people working to change the way immigrants and the poor are treated. You can be inspired by them, too, when you read Maria’s story about taking action.

The Great Migration

Join Li’l Willie on a tour of his Bronzeville apartment building to meet his neighbors. All of them came to Chicago from Louisiana or Mississippi. Each has a unique story to tell comparing life in the south and the north in the early twentieth century.

The Government of Illinois

Kim’s dad wants to be elected a U.S. senator from Illinois. Together they are touring the state on his campaign. Join them as they visit towns from Galena to Vandalia. Along the way, you will learn about the different offices of government in Illinois on this trip around the Land of Lincoln.



This module is aligned with State of Illinois Learning Standards for Social Science:

State Goal 14 - political systems
State Goal 15 - economic systems
State Goal 16 - history
State Goal 17 - geography
State Goal 18 - social systems

Consult individual lesson teaching guides for the specific standards related to each lesson.

Chicago WebDocent lessons are written as stories and include a printable, online journal for students to respond to questions; thus all lessons align to Illinois State Goals for Language Arts.


Reading at a 7th grade level
Use of Internet browsers
Use of mouse and keyboard

Refer to instructional use scenarios for tips on using Chicago WebDocent materials in different instructional settings.


Assessment and Evaluation

Each lesson comes with various forms of assessment.

1. Online, printable journals accessed from within the lesson presents students with higher order thinking questions. Teachers can collect these at the end of the lesson.

2. Many lessons include interactives and other activities that allow students to self-test. These are not captured forms of assessments, but offer opportunities for students to challenge themselves without the pressure of testing.

3. The list of supporting materials that appears on the first page of each lesson offers other evaluation and assessment activities. These include:

• Teaching guide - check the lesson teaching guide for additional suggestions for assessment and evaluation.

• Additional Activities - these are suggested activities to extend the lesson offline. Additional activities include presentations, hands-on projects, research projects, and discussion topics.

• Web Links, which offer a list of high-quality, trustworthy resources for students to conduct online research, including links to resources available on eCUIP, the Digital Library.

We recommend a field trip to the Chicago Historical Society and DuSable Museum of African American History as part of learning about Illinois and Chicago history. Information about these museums can be found on our Museum Partners page.

We recommend a final project activity to clarify student's understanding of the big ideas presented in the module and to address any learning gaps. Teachers should be prepared to coordinate a discussion of the final project, and may wish to devote eparate class periods for completing it.


Instructional use scenarios

Consult the lesson teaching guide for suggested pre-activities to prepare students for the lesson. The lessons include online journal questions and an interactive dictionary. It is helpful to preview these features before starting the lesson with students.

Computer lab

Seat students in pairs at computers, a strong reader with a student who needs help reading and have them take turns reading together OR seat students singly at computers.

It is helpful for the teacher and/or tech coordinator to start the lesson by reading through a few pages or a section (or have students take turns reading). If there is a projector in the lab, the teacher can also model navigation and interactive elements for students as they go through the first pages as a group.

The lessons include an online journal. Teachers may model note taking, as this is a skill that takes practice. Encourage students to write down anything of interest in their journals as well as unfamiliar terms. Students working in pairs can each type in their answers in the online journal. When more than one student is answering in the journal, they should write their name by their answer to identify their response from others.

Set a goal for students so they read up to a certain point in the lesson or for a certain amount of time, for example, "read up to page 13" or "we will stop in 15 minutes." The progress bar at the top of the screen allows teachers to walk around the room and quickly notice if students are falling behind or moving too fast; it also indicates which pages have an activity the student has not completed, such as a journal question or interactive.

When students reach their assigned goal, stop and ask how students are doing. You could prepare questions related to the content, or simply check in to see if students are having difficulties with navigation or reading.

Depending on the reading level of students, it may take more than one class session to complete a lesson. An approach to completing a lesson if time is a concern is to form groups among your students to read a few sections of the lesson. Then convene the entire class to report on their sections to the rest of the class. In between reports students could make predictions about what will happen next.

Teachers are strongly encouraged to allow for discussion time after the lesson so students can reflect and give feedback on what they learned.



One or more workstations:

Be sure to model navigation and identify interactive features for students before they begin. Arrange students into small groups with the assignment of reading 3 or 4 sections of the lesson. Each group takes turns on the computer/computers to complete their assignment. The group can respond to questions in the online journal, taking turns typing in their answers or responding as a group. (When more than one student is answering in the journal, they should write their name by their answer to identify their response from others.) Convene the entire class to report on their sections to the rest of the class. Reports can take the form of presentations or can be given as a re-enactment of what students read. In between reports ask students to predict what will happen next. Students may be incentivized to have time on the computer alone to read parts of the lesson they did not study as a group.

Teachers are strongly encouraged to allow for discussion time after the lesson so students can reflect and give feedback on what they learned.

One workstation and a projector:

This arrangement allows for group participation in the lessons. The teacher may lead students through parts of the lesson and ask for volunteer readers from the audience. Students may volunteer to run the mouse, read, or try out the interactives. Many of the lessons are written with multiple voices, and are excellent choices for presenting the lesson like a play with students assigned roles (check lesson teaching guides under instructional uses for lessons that fit this category well). The journal questions can be provided to students beforehand so that they may write down their individual responses during the group session. Students may be incentivized to have time on the computer alone to read the lesson.

As always, teachers are strongly encouraged to allow for discussion time after the lesson so students can reflect and give feedback on what they learned.