Lesson Plan 2
Students will listen to the poem “Western Wagons” and answer comprehension questions about the poem.Students will describe in their own words the tone of the poem and the attitude of the pioneers.Students will identify, record and study rhyming words.Students will locate the states of Nebraska, Iowa, Wyoming and California and be able to identify them on a map.
copies of Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem “Western Wagons”United States political map
“Western Wagons” is an example of a poem that students will respond positively to if the background is properly presented and the poem is read with feeling and excitement. This narrative poem of westward expansion is emotional and full of optimism. It may be used as part of a larger unit in history or geography, or it may be presented in isolation, as a glimpse into the minds of people who wanted to improve their lot by moving on to new lands. It presents great possibilities for discussion of human nature and the willingness to take risks. The poem is not complicated, but the teacher should be sure that students have a basic understanding that in the nineteenth century many Americans were part of the western expansion of the United States. Use a United States map to locate the four states mentioned in the poem: Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and California. Establish from east to west the order of these states. Discuss in basic terms what moving to the West at that time might have involved. Students need to have enough information to have their curiosity aroused. Introduce and define the vocabulary words “continent” and “prairie schooner”. Read the poem through and then reread and discuss it stanza by stanza. Distribute copies of the poem to the class and have volunteers read it aloud. Students should be able to answer the following literal and inferential questions:
What are four things mentioned in the first stanza that the pioneers took with them?
What place had gold?
What place had “black earth”?
Why is black earth a good thing?
Why do you think Benet spelled Iowa I-o-w-a-y?
Why did people still move on after they had “broken land and cleared it”?
How are people today like the pioneers who moved westward for a better life?
Have students locate and analyze the rhyming words in the poem. They should note how and why the words rhyme, as discussed in the previous lesson plan and record them in their rhyming notebooks. Use the vocabulary words introduced earlier, (continent and prairie schooner) for word study, use the sound unit “in” as the focus of a word building lesson. If students can recognize and read this sound unit they will be able to decode and build larger words:
Because this particular sound unit is so common, the teacher may want to expand this word study lesson to build more and longer words that contain this sound unit.