Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Oregon Trail Day!

After all my students passed the post test for our Oregon History unit, we decided to celebrate with an Oregon Trail Day.  The Oregon State Standards used to have a lot dealing with the westward migration of the 1800's, and it was SUCH a fun unit.  Although we can't do the whole unit because of the standard change, there's still a lot that fits in.  With this Oregon Trail Day, we incorporated writing, literacy, geography, history, and some good old fashioned fun.  Here are some of the things we did:

Students were invited to wear their own school-appropriate Oregon emigrant costumes to school, but we also had some prepared.  Besides the random cowboy hats, leather vests & jackets, and bonnet that I have out with our other Oregon history realia, I had an awesome parent make two more things for each student.  Using one large piece of construction paper, she made one of these bonnets in a variety of colors for each student (some didn't want one, but even most of they boys thought they were awesome, and eagerly wore it all day long and took it carefully home).

Even our amazing principal donned a bonnet when  he came to present our Principal Award winner for this week.  The kids were thrilled.

From paper grocery bags, we made these fun "leather" vests.  Students also thought these were very cool, although they were a bit difficult to move around in.

Each student made up their own pioneer name, and their table group was their family, so they decided on a common last name.  Students determined their age, gender, likes and dislikes, and wrote about their life on the trail.  We actually started this activity a few days before Oregon Trail Day so that the students were on their third diary entry by the time we got all dressed up and read our diaries to each other.  Here are some of the students reading their diary entries:

Little House Read Aloud with Peppermint Sticks
Because Christmas is just around the corner, I read the Christmas chapter from Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  When it got to the part about the children getting a peppermint stick in their stockings, we handed out candy canes and they enjoyed their small dose of mint & high fructose corn syrup while I finished reading the chapter. (We learn about a variety of cultural celebrations and students are invited to share their own family's traditions with the class too).

Oregon Trail Computer Game on the SMARTBoard!
Every student gets to press something on the Smartboard as we play the 4th Edition Oregon Trail Game.  We go fishing, plant gathering, hunting, talking to people, visiting forts and landmarks along the way, etc, and they LOVE IT!  Every day for the last two weeks, we have played it during lunch, and every day I have students ask if they can stay in from their recess to continue playing it.

Photos of Mrs. Madison Posing on Every Oregon Trail Monument Open to the Public
This is the part of the day where my students crack up at pictures of me posing near/at/on/in a variety of Oregon Trail landmarks. 

Oregon Trail Chants/Songs
I am an English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher, so language learning is important to me.  One of the GLAD (Guided Language Acquisition Design) strategies that I use throughout the year in all subject areas is chants/songs.  Each student in my class has their own chant book with a copy of all of the chants that we do during the year, and they get to take it home during the summer. Here are some students practicing singing some Oregon Trail chants with a partner:

  If you would like a copy of some additional chants, let me know in the comments below.  I have chants for nearly everything for third and fourth grade.  They help students build reading fluency, vocabulary, and content knowledge, and they are an excellent resource for teachers.

Oregon Trail Foldables
See my other posting about these fun vocabulary foldables that can easily be adapted to any set of vocabulary that you want your students to learn here- http://applesofyoureye.blogspot.com/2013/01/vocabulary-foldables.html 

Spinning/Fiber Arts
My mom is awesome, so she brought in her spinning wheel and a variety of fibers and wool to share with my class.  She led a mini-lesson on fiber arts and showed the students how to use a spinning wheel.  Then, each student got a piece of wool to "spin" with their hands to make a bracelet or bookmark.  We ran out of time to have every student finish the project, but they got to take their wool home, with which they were very happy.
What fun theme-centered activities have you done?  Can you think of a way to adapt one of these activities to fit a different theme?  Leave a comment below, and head out west with your class!


  1. chants? I wish I had these last year, but they would still help my grandson; could you provide them for me?

  2. I would love to send the Oregon Trail chants your way. What's your email address?

  3. I would so appreciate the chants you have! I'm a 4th grade Bilingual teacher! myrt11379@hotmail.com