Apples to Oregon (Deborah Hopkinson)

Teacher's Guide Author: Judith Ingham, Literacy Specialist, Kit Carson Elementary School, Clark County School District


This teacher's guide is for the book Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) ... the Plains by Deborah Hopkinson. Additional teacher's Guides are available for Patty Reed's Doll, Sallie Fox, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and other exploration children's books.


Book Overview: Delicious, the oldest of eight children, assists her pioneer family in bringing a wagonload of plants and young fruit trees on the journey from Iowa to Ohio. As she narrates her fanciful tall tale, she details the hardships that they encounter, in a humorous way. The determined family doesn’t let the obstacles get them down. The focus is always on survival of the plants and trees, as they crossed the dangerous Platte River, braved hail storms and tornadoes, crossed an endless sandy desert, experienced drought, fought-off the frost, and climbed up and down the rocky terrain. Delicious helps her father in every aspect of the trip. Her ingenuity helps to keep the plants and fruit trees alive in a harsh, unforgiving environment. Much of the fun comes from the father’s undying love for his tiny plants, “his babies”. The family sacrifices their clothes to protect the plants from the harsh elements on the trail. They walk barefoot and burn their feet, while the plants ride in the wagon. The tall tale is full of figurative language and “apple” word play. “Our feet were redder than the poison apple the old witch gave to Snow White.” Nancy Carpenter, the illustrator, adds whimsical artwork that supports the humorous story-line. The characters’ actions and facial expressions depict the upbeat mood of the story, while danger is lurking on the trail. She includes a trail map, with apple cores, to help us follow the route. Period clothing, prairie schooners, camp site activities, river crossings, hail storms and tornadoes, are all illustrated in a cartoon-style format. Deborah Hopkinson, the author, adds a list of apple facts on the back cover. She also reveals, in an author’s note, that the story is based on the true adventure of the Henderson Luelling family in 1847. They planted Oregon’s first orchard and made a fortune selling fruit to the prospectors during the Gold Rush. Orchards are still part of the Oregon economy today.

Book Themes: Oregon Trail, overland journey, perseverance, survival, frontier and pioneer life, action and adventure, tall tale, hardship, creative problem solving, humor, nature, apples.

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • Figurative Language Skit
      • Read the tall tale, Apples to Oregon, to the students. Focus on the vivid descriptions that the author uses to describe the narrator’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, and observations. In the story, figurative language adds humor to the harsh life on the Oregon Trail. Have the students identify examples of imagery, similes, and personification in the text. For example, “It (the Platte River) was wider than Texas, thicker than Momma’s muskrat stew, and muddier than a cowboy’s toenails.” Use “double bubble” maps to help the students recognize the comparisons. Make inferences about the story and the narrator, Delicious, based on the comparisons. Students will write a short skit, to present to the class. The skit will include at least five new samples of figurative language depicting Delicious’s life on the Oregon Trail.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)3.2: Describe the motivation for a character’s actions; make inferences and draw conclusions about a character(s) based on the evidence.
        • (3)3.5: Identify examples of imagery, similes, and personification.
        • (6)3.2: Write narrative/descriptive paragraphs appropriate to audience and purpose with a logical sequence, characters, and setting.
    • Crooning Classmates
      • Music was used on the trail for comfort and entertainment. In Apples to Oregon, “At night Momma and I tucked in the little ones, then Daddy fiddled lullabies under the stars.” Daddy sang an “apple” lullaby to his apple trees. Students will go to the internet to research other “apple” songs that Daddy could sing on the trail. Make a mini-sized pioneer song book. Jot down an apple song/poem that you think would fit the theme of the story Apples to Oregon. Find other pioneer songs that were popular during that time period. Choose three and add those to your song book. Investigate what the song themes have in common. Discuss what the topics are in the songs. Write a song that you could sing at a camp site to entertain your family. Add your song to your book. Illustrate your book with scenes to match your songs. Use pioneer books for picture samples. Record your song into iTalk or on a tape recorder. Students can listen to their classmates recorded songs on the iPod or on the tape recorder.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)6.3: Write poetry
        • (3)6.9: Recording information from at least three sources
        • (3)7.2: Listen to and respond to oral communication
        • (3)8.2: Use precise language to describe feeling, experiences, observations, and ideas
        • (3)8.3: Use public speaking to deliver presentations
  • Mathematics
    • Apple Fractions
        • Have a discussion about the shapes and sizes of apples. Have students sort them according to size and shape. Students can make observations in their mathematics notebooks.
        • Demonstrate cutting apples into equal sections to show fractions. Hold apple and cut in half through the stem to the blossom end. Show students the two equal parts and write the fraction on the Elmo projector. Discuss the numerator and denominator relationship. Take the halves and cut them into equal parts again, showing the four pieces and the fractional representation. Continue cutting the pieces, showing eights. Take a new apple and do the same progression with thirds, and sixths. Show how you can add and subtract fractions by using the apple pieces. Write math sentences on the Elmo Projector to illustrate the relationships. With adult supervision, students can cut apples into equal pieces to show fractional equivalents. Have them record and illustrate their findings in their mathematics journal. Have them make up mathematical sentences using their apple math.
        • Standards Addressed
          • [5.1]: Pose questions that can be used to guide data collection, organization, and representation
          • (C)3-5: Justify and explain the solutions to problems using manipulatives and physical models
          • 10 [1.4]: Model, sketch, label, and compare fractions with denominators to 10
          • (1)3.2: Identify and model unit fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8 as equal parts of a whole or sets of objects
      • Making Applesauce
        • Students will need to follow a recipe to make applesauce. They will follow the recipe for one serving.
          • Students will estimate how long they anticipate that it will take for the apples to cook. They will note the time from the start to the finish and compare the actual time to their estimated time. They will make notations in their mathematics journal. They will do their calculations using analog and digital clocks. Ask students how the pioneers calculated time? They will use books or the internet to research the answer.
          • Students will write down the applesauce recipe for one serving in their mathematics journal. They will calculate the proportions for two servings and four servings in their journals. Have students explain to their teammates how they figured out their answers. Referring to the story Apples to Oregon, if Delicious made applesauce for her family, how many servings would Delicious need? Help students figure out if their calculations are correct.
        • Standards Addressed
          • (3)3.6: Recognize there are 60 minutes in 1 hour [3.14]
          • (3)3.6: Use elapsed time in half-hour increments, beginning on the hour or half-hour, to determine start, end, and elapsed time [3.13]
          • (3)3.6: Tell time to the nearest minute, using analog and digital clocks [3.12]
          • 10 [1.4]: Model, sketch, label, and compare fractions with denominators to 10
          • (1)3.2: Identify and model unit fractions 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/6, 1/8 as equal parts of a whole or sets of objects
  • Social Studies
    • Map the Trail
      • Deborah Hopkinson, the author of Apples to Oregon, included a trail map on the inside cover of her book. It shows the route that the family took from Salem, Iowa to Milwaukie, Oregon in 1847. Have students locate the map and make note of the major geographical features (Platte River, Courthouse Rock, Independence Rock, and Columbia River), the cities (Salem, Walla Walla, Milwaukie), and the states (Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon). Use the internet and locate a trail map from the pioneer times. How do the maps compare? How are they different? Why? Find the trail that Delicious took on the pioneer map and mark it using “mini-apples” as your trail symbols. Label the cities and geographic areas. Discuss the similarities and differences between the two maps with a classmate. Students choose one geographical feature shown on the map. Use books and the internet to find information about that feature. What happened when the pioneers came across these features? How did it impact their travel plans? Fill in a bubble map with words describing the feature. Play a game. Trade the bubble map with a classmate; can the student identify the geographical feature from the clues in the bubble map? How many clues did it take before the student was able to name the feature? Make a geographical book by putting the bubble maps in a class booklet. Have students illustrate and label the geographical features on their page. Have students write a paragraph telling how the feature might have impacted the pioneers traveling plans. Include an Oregon Trail map and a current map with the featured entries in the booklet.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 7.0: Geographic Skills-Students ask and answer geographic questions by acquiring, organizing, and analyzing geographic information.
        • (3)1.12: Work cooperatively in groups
        • (3)1.14: Recognize the cause and effect of issues and problems
        • (3)3.3: Use maps, globes, photographs, and graphs to collect geographic information
        • (3)3.5: Recognize different types of maps
        • (3)3.39: Gather geographic information from maps, globes, and atlases
    • Hardships on the Trail
      • In the story, Apples to Oregon, hardships occurred along the trail. Ask, which places posed the most hardships to Delicious and her family in the story? Discuss the reasons why. Is there a relationship between the hardship and the location? Why or why not? Research other families that traveled on the Oregon Trail during this same time period. Did they have similar hardships or different ones? Were the reasons the same or different? Explore the possibilities. Students will work with a partner to make a poster board display that includes three major hardships. For each hardship, they will write five or more sentences that describe it. Include primary source pictures for evidence. Captions should include the source of the pictures and the information sited. The students will share their research with their classmates.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)1.14: Recognize the cause and effect of issues and problems
        • (3)1.12: Work cooperatively in groups
        • (3)4.4: Ask history related questions
        • (3)4.15: Read and interpret historical passages
        • (3)4.1: Identify the source of information for a current event
        • (3)4.10: Describe the lives of pioneers from diverse group
  • Science
    • Seed Walk
      • Students put an adult sock over one shoe and the class takes a walk through a safe weedy area close to the school. Various seeds will stick to the socks. When they return to school, students sit outside and empty the seeds into cupcake filters. Next, they observe the seeds under hand lenses and microscopes. The seeds are then classified and grouped. Spray a “seed collection sheet” with spray adhesive and have students stick their seed classifications onto it. Cover the sheet with plastic wrap (tape wrap down if needed). Students then refer to seed/plant reference books to try to identify their seeds. They share their collections and observations with the class, and write about the experience in their previously made Seed Journals. Students could also predict what each seed would grow into, and actually plant it and see if their prediction was correct. Relate this to the seeds Lewis sent to Jefferson during the Corps of Discovery so those in the East would know of plants in the West.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.7: Classify plants and animals according to their observable characteristics
        • (3)2.3: Describe objects in terms of their observable properties (mass, color, temperature, texture)
        • (3)1.4, (3)1.5, (3)1.6: Explain that scientific progress is made by conducting careful investigations, recording data, and communicating the results in an accurate method
        • (3)1.5: Draw conclusions from scientific evidence (observations and measures)
        • (3)1.7: Organize items and look for observable patterns
    • Weather Conditions
      • Students will investigate the various weather conditions that pioneers experienced on the Oregon Trail. In Apples to Oregon, they encountered hail storms, drought, frost, and wind storms. Choose one city located on the old Oregon Trail and compare it to the student’s home city. Use the local newspaper or internet to document the temperatures and weather patterns (rain, snow, sleet, hail, sunny, and cloudy) for one week. Students will chart the results. Which city had warmer temperatures? Which city had more rainy days? What can you conclude from the data that you have collected? The pioneers had to choose their travel times carefully because of the weather. Which months did they travel? Why did they choose these months? How did weather affect their choice of travel time? Explain.
      • Standards Addressed
        • E8A: Students understand the relationship between the Earth’s atmosphere, topography, weather, and climate.
        • (3)1.5: Use science notebook entries to develop, communicate, and justify descriptions, explanations, and predictions
    • Optimum Plant Environment
      • Plants need ideal conditions to survive. In Apples to Oregon, Delicious and her daddy do everything possible to keep the plants and fruit trees alive on the 2,000 mile journey along the Oregon Trail. Of the 700 young plants and fruit trees, only 350 survived the elements. Have students reread the story and look closely at the pictures. What did the family do to keep the plants healthy on the long trip? Make a list of the methods used and describe how each affected the life of the plant. In spite of the strict attention given to the plants, what caused half of the plants to die? The trip took about six months. Observe the height of the plants in the pictures. How much do they appear to grow from the beginning, middle, and end of the trip? Research apple trees. Use nonfiction text and the internet. Find out what their optimum environment is. Where are most of the apple orchards found in the United States? Describe the environmental conditions found in these regions to support the growth of apples. Record all of your investigative notes in your science journal. Be prepared to give a three minute talk on what you have learned about apple trees.
      • Standards Addressed
        • (3)4.6: Identify changes to an environment that can be beneficial or harmful to plants and animals
        • (3)4.7: Describe plant and animal adaptations that allow them to survive in specific ecosystems

Historical Overview of Book Themes

Henderson Lewelling lived in Salem, Iowa. He and his brother ran a general merchandise store and a small commercial nursery. In 1837, their fruit trees were the first ones planted in Iowa. The nursery started with 35 varieties of apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, and cherries. As people moved westward, the business expanded. People, who wanted to grow orchards, bought their fruit trees from the Lewelling’s nursery. Lewelling often traveled back East to buy newer and better trees. Covered wagons transported the abundant fruit to other cities to sell. As the business grew, so did his views on the slavery issue. Henderson and his family members were Quakers, who strongly believed that slaves should be free. Henderson participated in the Underground Railroad and opened his house to runaway slaves. Slaves would flee from the neighboring state of Missouri and go to the Lewelling’s house for safety. His participation in the Underground Railroad made him an important figure in his community. During this time, he read about Lewis and Clark and John Freemont. So in 1845, he started planning to go to Oregon. It took Lewelling two years to get ready for transporting live fruit trees by wagon. The business had grown and now there were 700 plants to transport across the plains to the Pacific West. He had to design a way for the plants to travel in a wagon and survive the trip. In 1847, after Lewelling’s plan to move the commercial nursery to Oregon was finalized, he and his family were ready to go. The journey was demanding and difficult because the plants needed water every day and they were heavy for the oxen to pull. The members in his party experienced death, sick cattle and oxen, disgruntled travel mates, and poor terrain. Lewelling had to improvise, when he came across obstacles on the trip, which slowed him down. He persevered and took extra care of his delicate cargo. Over 350 plants survived the journey across the Oregon Trail. His “traveling nursery” had made it. When he arrived, he had to spend several days looking for a good spot to start his new nursery business. Land had to be cleared and his fruit trees planted. His cycle of success stared all over again. His brother later joined him and propagated the Bing cherry. This increased the business even more. Lewelling moved again in 1853. He thought he could start another commercial nursery in California and sell his fruit to the gold miners. He became extremely successful in his business ventures in a town he named “Fruitvale”. It’s not a wonder that, Lewelling is known as the “Father of the Pacific Fruit Industry”. His house in Salem, Iowa is a Historic House Museum. It also is a tourist attraction.

Additional Resources

Note: This teacher's guide was developed as part of one of the Clark County School District's Teaching American History grants. In this grant module, teachers focused on using children's historical literature to teach cross-curricular concepts relating to 19th century westward movement. For more information about this blog, related teacher's guides, or the grant module, please contact Dr. Christy Keeler.


ahm said...

Your ideas have really extended this picture book. I am sure the students will enjoy themselves as they learn about how so many types of fruit moved across the continent. I love the idea of having the students do a seed walk. They will really understand how seeds be moved about by people and animals.

Lisa Martin said...

Wow! I absolutely loved all your ideas and can't wait to use them with my fifth graders. I felt your ideas really provided 'something for everyone' as far as catering for the multiple intelligences and learning styles.

As an extension for your Figurative Language Ski, the students could draw a picture to accompany their own figurative language examples. The other students could try to guess what the simile, personification, etc is for each picture.

I think your 'Seed Walk' lesson is brilliant! To extend this the students could create their own seed reference guide which would include the seed, a photograph of the plant produced, its scientific name, etc. The students could classify the various seed/plants into regions of the US and play a game afterward which would require them to identify the seed/ plant, factual info, etc from the photograph or sketch. This would provide an excellent assessment of the students knowledge and understanding.

Christy G. Keeler, Ph.D. said...

Thank you for the extremely detailed book overview and wide selection of possible themes for study!

I love that you beautifully integrate cross-curricular pedagogy, content, and technology. For example, "Crooning Classmates" is a wonderful language arts activity appreciating genre and the arts. By having students move from research to song conception to performance reinforces the writing process. Having them record their songs adds technology experiences and would provide an excellent resource to share with other classes of students (even those across the nation).

Your lesson on optimum plant development is quite intriguing. You are really pushing students to engage in real world and higher level engagement with the content. Consider having an agricultural specialist visit your class (or, better yet, take a field trip) to gain a greater understanding of the science of modern food production. The story of strawberries from genetic engineering to distribution to table-ready is fascinating and may serve as a second example for your science unit.

Your use of embedded links is extremely helpful. I don't have to search for anything! You've made it all so easy to find! You even found great webquests and maps and recipes and ...

lvblondy said...

I like your idea of having the kids work on figurative language! For a lot of kids, that is a very difficult concept to understand. I think having the kids write a skit and act out their figurative language is so clever. If the kids didn't understand them by just writing them, they will have a chance to use other modalities of learning for comprehension. This is especially useful for our students who do are ELL.

In the making applesauce activity: The objective said that students will need to follow a recipe to make applesauce. However, I am not clear as to whether or not the students ever make real applesauce. Also, if the student's need to cook apples, where would you have them do that? In your room? The lounge?

I like your idea of the seed walking activity. However, I was thinking around my school area, if we did that activity, I don't think we would end up with a lot of seeds on our socks! Also, what if the weather was too cold or windy for the students to go outside? If you did the activity and did not end up with many or any seeds, what would be an alternative activity to do instead?

Great job!

Norman34 said...

This blog is amazing. I read this book to my students and they enjoyed it, but you have opened my eyes up to so many possibilities. The figurative language is great; however, I love the crooning concept, especially where the students write their own pioneer songs. The optimal weather idea is also unique, as well as the applesauce topic.

My only concern would be that some of the ideas may be a little advanced depending on the population.