America in the Time of Lewis and Clark (Sally Senzel Isaacs)—"The Trail of Tears" through "The Big City"

Teacher's Guide Author: Robin Nicolis, 4th grade teacher, Fong Elementary School, Clark County School District


Teachers' guides exist for America in the Time of Lewis and Clark: 1801 To 1850 separated by book section:

  1. "Introduction" through "Factories"
  2. "The Trail of Tears" through "The Big City"
  3. "Life on a Wagon Train" through "Historic Places to Visit"
Additional teacher's Guides are available for Patty Reed's Doll, Sallie Fox, Sarah, Plain and Tall, and other exploration children's books.


Section Overview: In the 1820’s, many of the Native American tribes were happy to live among the white settlers. Unfortunately, the land hungry settlers were not as accommodating. In the winter of 1838, U.S. soldiers forced more than 15,000 Native Americans west into unknown land. Along the trail at least 4,000 Native Americans died, this grueling trip was known as the Trail of Tears. In time the settlers had Native Americans sign treaties to give up their land but not all Native Americans were in agreement, this incited wars between the Seminoles and the U.S. army. The British encouraged the Seminoles to fight American settlers. As more settlers came many battles took place. One of the most famous battles was the Battle of the Alamo, a fort in San Antonio were Mexicans had settled. Fifteen hundred Mexican soldiers were killed. As the Americans came they began to change farms to cities. As cities grew, so did the problems such as bad housing, crime, and garbage.

Section Themes: Territory, Communication, migration, transportation, wealth

Suggested Activities

  • Language Arts
    • [Communication Alphabet]
      • Students will be given materials and instruction to alphabet. Students will work in pairs to create an alphabet using symbols they design. The students will use the alphabet to write a short story (2 paragraphs) of the Native American encounters with the American settlers.
        Students will present their short stories in the same pair group.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 3.4.1 explain setting, sequence of events, conflict, climax, resolution, and turning point
          3.4.2 Describe physical and personality traits of characters
          5.4.1 use prewriting strategies and explore a topic to plan written work
          5.4.5 Edit for correct work usage
          5.4.6 Edit for use of complete sentences
          5.4.7 Prepare a legible final draft to display or share
          7.4.1 Listen for a variety of purposes; gaining information, being entertained, and understanding directions.

  • Mathematics
    • Difference and Average
      • The students will use the information given to determine the average number of whales killed from 1820 to 1850, the increase in speed of a steam locomotive from 1807 to 1830 to 1850, The difference in speed between the locomotive and the canal boats, the average distance of the Erie canal completed per year, and the average number of soldiers lost per day at the battle of the Alamo.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 1.4.3 Read, write, compare, order, whole numbers
          1.4.3 Read and write number words
          1.4.6 Estimate to determine reasonableness of an answer in math and practical solutions
          A.3-5 Apply previous experience and knowledge to new problem solving situations.
          B.3-5 Identify and translate key words and phrases that imply math operations
    • Estimating Goods
      • The student will determine a monetary value for goods and trade from the 1820’s to the 1850’s. The students will compare their estimates for reasonableness with small group.
      • Standards Addressed
        • B.3-5 Discuss/Exchange ideas about math
          C.3-5 use patterns & relationships to analyze math situations/problems & draw logical conclusions
          A.3-5 interpret & solve a variety of math problems by paraphrasing, identifying necessary & extraneous information, & ensuring answer is reasonable
  • Social Studies
    • Map
    • The students will use the Internet to gather photographs and drawing of the different methods of transportation used by the pioneers. They will place the drawing cutouts on a prepared map illustrating the methods and locations of 4 settlements. For each settlement the student will explain why this location was important to the pioneers. The students will site the Internet sources.
        • Standards Addressed:
          4.4.7 recognize the ongoing nature of history
          4.4.11 discuss how and why people from various cultures immigrated and migrated to the American West
          4.4.13 identify appropriate resources for historical information
    • Timeline
      • The students will generate a timeline from the 1820’s thru the1850’s. The student will list 10 events of their choice and explain why that event was intrusting to them.
      • Standards Addressed
        • 4.4.13 identify appropriate resources for historical information
          4.4.9 create timelines that show people and events in sequence using months, years, decades, and centuries
  • Science
    • Tea Stained Letter
      • The students will be given the material and instructions to tea stain paper to make the paper and writing appear aged. The students will rewrite the story created in the previous lesson using symbols to replace letters and present a finished product.
      • Standards Addressed
        • N.5.B.3 Students know the benefits of working with a team and sharing findings.

          P.5.A.4 Students know that, by combining two or more materials, the properties of that material can be different from the original materials.

Historical Overview of Section Themes

The chapters from Lewis and Clark (The Trail of Tears thru The Big City) cover a particularly interesting time period because it tells of migration and prosperity. Today so many of our students are from other countries, states, and cities. Their families for economic, educational, and or social reasons have uprooted many of our students.
The students can relate their moves to the movements of the American settlers or the Native Americans. Many students are being moved again from the once riches of Nevada to other prospering states. Each student has a story of a friend that is moving because, the family has lost their home, or a parent that has a new job in another state. The 1820’s were a historical time and 2008 has been historical as well.

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.


Janelle Adesko said...

I found many useful ideas in your guide that I can use with my third-graders. I especially liked your internet search idea for early transportation methods, and using the transportation pictures to make a map. I would like to try your tea-stained paper idea as well.

nohemi said...

I enjoyed the estimating goods activity and it goes perfect with my math lessons this week. You might still be making changes to your post, so I recommend that you check the format and the typos. I liked your book overview section but it would also be beneficial to include more content information for the time period.

Janelle Adesko said...

Adding to my previous comment. I liked your idea about students estimating the cost of goods in the 1800s, but where can I find data to show them the actual prices? Also, a few of your links seem to be having technical difficulties.

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

You provide a nice overview to the book section. What a great deal of information placed in such a short passage of text!

I do not understand the "Communication Alphabet" activity. Could you please add more description so I might be able to replicate it in my own classroom?

Your difference and age activity is quite timely. It would be nice to have students do a similar activity using a contemporary example (e.g., loss of animal habitats in rain forests leading to endangerment and extinction).

For estimating goods, there is some great software to help you out. On the handheld, I use a program called Inflation Master ( Try using the Inflation Calculator at

I like the idea of the transportation and map idea. Could you make it completely technology-infused by having them place the graphics they find directly onto a digital map?

Norman34 said...

I like the idea of having students estimate the cost monetarily of goods from such a long time ago. I am sure there guess will be all over the board,which will give the instructor an opportunity to separate fact from fiction.

Additionally, I think this settlement/picture/internet activity has a lot of potential. The only issue I would foresee is the CCSD block on certain picture obtaining software making some searches extremely difficult.

The tea stained paper is always a great idea. EVERYONE should try it!