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Information Retrieval

1st Grade:  It's All About the Weather

  • The Weather Channel -- http://www.weather.com
  • Activity 1: All Around the United States: What's the weather like in your favorite city?  Use the Weather Channel to discover the weather in your favorite city.
  • Activity 2: From West to East: What weather predictions can we make for Tulsa/Jenks?  Pick a city west of Tulsa/Jenks and make a prediction about when that weather will reach our city.

2nd Grade:  All About Butterflies

2nd Grade:  More About Earthworms

3rd & 4th Grade:  Invention Dimension:  Thinking About Technological Design

4th Grade:  Exploring Oklahoma


Activity:  Exploring the regions of Oklahoma -- Divide the class into 6 teams and have them explore the regions of Oklahoma.  Have each team report on: physical features, historical landmarks, tourist attractions, important towns, economic opportunities.  Helpful graphic organizers and websites for the activity are listed to the right.

4th Grade:  Moving West:  A Study of Pioneer Life

Tall Tale Explorations

4th Grade:  Electrical Safety


4th Grade:  Electric Circuits

These sites profile different inventors and their accomplishments, describe skills for becoming successful inventors, and identify how and when common items in our lives were invented.

5th Grade:  Ecosystems

  • Website:  Biomes:  Opportunities to investigate all kinds of biomes, to explore climographs and how to read them, and to look at diversity and adaptation in ecosystems
  • Website:  Missouri Botanical Garden:  Explore the biomes of the world with easy to read information and pictures, charts, graphs, maps.
  • Website:  EEK! Environmental Education for Kids:  Focuses on Wisconsin ecosystems with good information about the environment, pollution, habitats. Also includes "Nature Notes" and "Our Earth" sections.




Activity Focus: Literature Integration: Tall Tales: The Wonderful Hay Tumble, by Kathleen Harris


  • The Wonderful Hay Tumble, by Kathleen M. Harris (New York: Morrow/Avon, 1988)

Preparation Tasks

  • Create a story page template for students to use as they design and show other accomplishments of the "hay tumble." The students use the left side of the template to illustrate the approach of the hay tumble and the problem it faces and the right side of the template to show the accomplishment of the hay tumble. Students complete the story starter on the left side and add their own solution text for the right side.
  • Use a word processing program to create title and introductory pages. Have a student create an illustration for the title page.
  • Use a word processing program and create an evaluation rubric for the "hay tumble" art project and the journal reflection about the heritage of pioneer farmers. Once you have this rubric created, you can reuse the format for subsequent activities in the unit, building consistency and familiarity for students and parents. (Click here to access the rubric.)

Assignment Description

  • Introduce the story by brainstorming challenges faced by pioneer farmers.

  • Show the cover of the book and invite discussion about the challenges faced by the farmer in this story (based on the cover illustration). Speculate about the title of the story: What is a hay tumble? Why is it called the "wonderful" hay tumble? Remind students of the characteristics of a tall tale (hero/heroine, difficult job, use of exaggeration and humor, originated in pioneer and frontier days as stories to entertain and make light of difficult situations) and ask them to notice details in the story that prove that this story is a tall tale.
  • Share and discuss the story. How did the hay tumble change the lives of the poor man and his wife? What evidence tells the reader that this is a tall tale? What are examples of hyperbole (exaggeration, a key element of tall tales) in the story?
  • Introduce the art project and have students work with partners and brainstorm ideas for new pages if the story were to continue. What other tasks could the hay tumble accomplish? What other jobs might the hay tumble manage? (Some ideas if students are stumped: shear the sheep and bag the wool ready for market, gather the eggs in the hen house and place them in baskets, milk the cows and fill the jugs and churn some butter, shell the peas and make them ready for dinner and canning, paint the barn a bright red, twisted through the house and washed and folded the laundry, scrubbed the dishes, and cleaned the house)
  • Encourage students to develop rough sketches to plan their pages, then complete final drawings using the story page templates. As students write the text that accompanies their illustrations, have them use the story starter on the template and follow the patterns in the book. Gather the pages into a book and present the book to the class.

Journal Reflection and Discussion

  • What is the example set by pioneer farmers and why is this important as part of our heritage?
  • What was the influence of the pioneers on the development of the Midwest Region?


Activity Focus: Literature Integration: Tall Tales: The Paul Bunyan Story


  • Paul Bunyan, by Steven Kellogg (New York: Morrow/Avon, 1993)
  • Transparency markers in a variety of colors, one color per team
  • Other stories about Paul Bunyan, enough for one per team of three students e.g.:
    • The Bunyans, by Audrey Wood, illustrated by David Shannon (New York : Blue Sky Press, c1996)
    • Moon trouble, by by M.C. Helldorfer; illustrated by Jonathan Hunt (New York: Bradbury Press, c1994)
    • Ol' Paul, the mighty logger: being a true account of the seemingly incredible exploits and inventions of the great Paul Bunyan profusely illustrated with drawings made at the scene by the author, by Glen Rounds (New York : Holiday House, 1976)
    • The morning the sun refused to rise: an original Paul Bunyan tale, written and illustrated by Glen Rounds (New York: Holiday House, 1984)
  • Transparencies, enough for one per team
  • Overhead projector

Preparation Tasks

  • Create a problem solving solution grid. To determine the number of proposed solutions you will have, divide the class into teams of 4-5 students. Enlarge the grid to poster size using a poster maker; laminate the poster so it can be used again. (Click here to access the Problem Solving Solution Grid)
  • Create a story line graphic organizer for the students to use when they are reading and summarizing stories about Paul Bunyan and planning their storytelling presentations. (Click here to access the graphic organizer.)
  • Open the rubric created for The Wonderful Hay Tumble activity. Use "save as" and rename the file for the new rubric i.e., Rubric-Bunyan activity. Revise the activity description to fit the Paul Bunyan project and revise the evaluation descriptors for the new project. Make multiple copies of the rubric and a transparency of the rubric. (Click here to access the rubric.)

Assignment Description

  • As a fun way to focus on teamwork, have students work in small groups and use charades/creative dramatics to demonstrate an activity that requires teamwork i.e., riding a bicycle built for two, playing tennis, sharing a family meal, building a sand castle. Discuss behaviors that help in teamwork situations and behaviors that get in the way.
  • Introduce and share the story of Paul Bunyan, by Steven Kellogg. Stop midway through the story on the page that reads "Babe was so depressed;" don’t finish the sentence. Begin creative problem solving with the students.
    1. Identify the situation: A blizzard has struck and stopped the seasons of spring, summer and fall. Babe is depressed and the crew cannot work; in fact they are hibernating.
    2. Identify the facts of the situation: Students should do this, but ideas you might expect include Paul Bunyan has sunglasses and an ax, he cuts timber into lumber, he’s tall and strong and inventive, two cooks and nine lumbermen work for him, and this is a tall tale and can have tall (exaggerated) solutions.
    3. Identify the problem: Problem statements begin in this way: How might Paul Bunyan ...? Invite suggestions and discussion and refine the problem statement until it reflects the situation of the story i.e., How might Paul Bunyan stop the blizzard, make Babe happy, and get his crew back to work again?
    4. Brainstorm solution ideas: Display the problem solving grid and review the criteria for the solution. Have students work in teams to brainstorm solutions for the problem, encouraging them to take advantage of the materials/ideas listed in the fact finding stage and to be respectful of each team member’s solution proposal. One student should be a recorder and write the final proposed solution of the team.
    5. Evaluate solutions for their effectiveness: As student teams share their proposed solutions, summarize and record key points of the solution on the grid. Rate each solution using a three to one scale; three would be a very effective solution and one would indicate a not very effective solution.
  • Read the rest of the story and compare the students’ solutions with the solution developed by Mr. Kellogg. Discuss: How did Paul and his crew and Babe work as a team? Why is teamwork an important skill?
  • Introduce the storytelling project. Students will work in teams of three, select and read another story about Paul Bunyan, and use the note taking graphic organizer to summarize and plan their storytelling presentations. Each team will develop a colorful transparency that will be displayed during the presentation; the transparency should give clues to the setting and an important idea from the story read by the team. Display the evaluation rubric and review the criteria for the storytelling presentation.

Journal Reflection and Discussion

  • What is teamwork and why is it an important characteristic of pioneer life in America? How did teamwork help settle the Midwest Region?



Activity Focus: Literature Integration: Writing Original Tall Tales


  • Kidspiration, Inspiration Software, Inc.
  • Smartboard

Preparation Tasks

  • Create a comparison grid of the tall tale heroes you've been reading about.
    Tall Tale Hero Problems/Challenges Faced by the Hero Hyperbole (Exaggerations) Examples
    • Use the first column to list the tall tale heroes students researched and reported through resumes or museum displays.
    • Use the second column to briefly summarize the problems faced by the heroes.
    • Use the third column to list examples of hyperbole from the solutions to the problems.
    • Enlarge the grid to poster size using a poster maker; laminate the poster so it can be used again.
      (Teacher's note: Make the chart large enough to list ideas from many tall tale stories.)
  • Kidspiration is a neat brainstorming program that can be used in multiple ways for many subject areas i.e., prewriting, concept mapping, character webs, cause and effect analysis, web site planning, lesson planning. In this lesson it’s an exciting tool for students to use as they brainstorm ideas for their original tall tales. If you don’t have a network version that can be used in a computer lab setting and accessed by all the students, set up the program as a center in the classroom, connect the computer to a presentation system and introduce it to the students during the beginning lesson on writing a tall tale. Students can work individually or with partners and complete their prewriting brainstorming, then change the web to an outline format and print copies of their outlines for the rough drafting stage of the writing process. The outlines really help the students organize their stories into coherent sequences that reflect definite beginnings, middles, and ends: setting, hero/es, challenge, solutions (through hyperbole and invention). Create a template brainstorming web: hero/es, challenge, hyperbole. Once the template is created, use the "Save As a Template" choice in the file menu and name the template, "My Tall Tale." The new template is stored in the templates file of the program; when students access the template the first time, it opens as an “untitled” document. They must then save the document as their own prewriting file i.e., John’s tall tale, Suzanne’s tall tale.
  • "A Farmer’s Dilemma"
  • Open the rubric file used for a previous tall tale project. Use "save as" and rename the file, then revise the rubric to fit the writing project. Make multiple copies of the rubric and display the rubric on the Smartboard.

Assignment Description

  • Prepare students for writing original tall tales.
    • Display the comparison chart and list the tall tale heroes students researched. Discuss and add information in the challenge and hyperbole columns.
    • Share the tall tale, "A Farmer’s Dilemma."
    • Use the Kidspiration template to discuss the story and demonstrate its use as a prewriting strategy. Show students how to click in the boxes to add their own ideas and how to use the "rapid fire" tool for adding new boxes to the web. Once the details have been entered, show students how to print the information in outline form (Click on the outline tool and print the brainstorming ideas.) They will use the outlines as guides for drafting their stories.
    • Display the evaluation rubric and review the criteria for assessment of the tall tale.
    • Set up a schedule for the center in the classroom or reserve time in the computer lab for the whole class to work at once on their prewriting step.
  • Follow the steps of the writing process (rough drafting, revising, editing, and publishing) to complete the stories.



Activity Focus: Traveling the Oregon Trail


  • Daily Life in a Covered Wagon, by Paul Erickson (Washington, D. C.: The Preservation Press, 1994)
  • The Oregon Trail: Pioneer Adventures, 4th edition, The Learning Company
  • Smartboard

Assignment Description

  • Make a two-column chart on the board and label one column "go" and the other "stay." Pose this question: If you lived in pioneer times, why would you move west or make the decision to stay in the east? Divide the class into two groups; one group will brainstorm reasons why moving west is an opportunity not to be missed and the other group will brainstorm reasons to stay home in the east. Give students time to meet and compile their lists, then invite discussion and debate. Take a vote and let each student decide whether to travel or stay home.
  • Introduce and share some of the story (Daily Life in a Covered Wagon) i.e., for those of you who chose to travel west, here’s what you might experience, for those of you who chose to stay home in the east, here’s what you missed. Teacher’s note: The book is too long to read in one setting; pages from the book that are effective introductions to the Oregon Trail program include the following: pages 4-5: an introduction to the time period and an interesting map; the first column on page 6: an introduction to the Larkin family; page 8 and a review of the picture on page 9: the wagon; pages 10-11: inside the wagon; and pages 20-21: landmarks on the trail.
  • Discuss the story, using these questions: How did pioneers prepare for the journey? What were important supplies? What challenges did pioneers face on the trail? How did they survive? If you were putting together a wagon train, whom would you include?
  • Introduce Oregon Trail and travel the trail together. Choose a skill level (beginner, challenger or expert), select the people who will travel in your wagon train, and outfit your wagon. As you travel the travel and make decisions, show students how to click on the various icons to fish, hunt, rest, look in the guidebook, and check supplies, health and morale, and the map for the status of the journey. The guidebook is filled with valuable tips for traveling the trail and can help students make decisions i.e., crossing rivers safely, avoiding dangers, having enough food and traveling up and down mountains.
  • Assign partners or allow students to choose partners and set up a schedule for the center. Show students how to save their journeys; students can return to saved games and pick up where they left off. When students "settle" have them make notes on a separate piece of paper about the results of their decision making. The computer will give them an analysis of their decisions i.e., the overall health and morale of the people, the supplies they still have at the end of the trail, their prospects for the future.
  • After all student partnerships have completed their journeys and analyzed their experiences, have students rate their journeys as very successful, somewhat successful, or unsuccessful and explain why. Invite sharing and discussion.



Activity Focus: Traveling with Lewis and Clark


  • Sacagawea, by by Judith St. George (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1997)
  • Mapmaker’s Toolkit (Tom Snyder Productions)
  • Smartboard

Preparation Tasks

  • Preview the Mapmaker’s Toolkit software and identify the features you want to demonstrate to students.
  • Develop an assignment description card which lists the requirements of the project. (Click here to see an example.)
  • Identify student partnerships.
  • Gather a variety of resources on Lewis and Clark and their journey i.e., Lewis and Clark, by R. Conrad Stein (New York: Children’s Press, 1997), The Incredible Journey of Lewis and Clark, by Rhoda Blumberg (New York: Lathrop, 1987).
  • Develop a rubric for assessing the maps.

Assignment Description

  • Set up Mapmakers Toolkit as a center in the classroom and create a rotating schedule for students during the weeks of the pioneer unit. Introduce the software and demonstrate its features; review the assignment requirements.
  • Use Sacagawea, by St. George as a read aloud. Have students use information from the read aloud and information gathered from other resources in the center and create maps showing the route taken by Lewis and Clark in their exploration of the land of the Louisiana Purchase. The custom features of the program (color, geographic details, text descriptions and symbols) can be used to show the geography of the land and highlight experiences during the two year journey.