To catch the attention of our students at the beginning of our unit, we created families within the class and had those families prepare for a trip west (See Example Lesson Plan). These families had to decide what supplies would be needed while on the trek and determine the amount of money they spent.
Next we simulated the Mormon Trek over several days. Each day the families would have a decision to make about their trek. If they made the right decision they would continue safely on their trip, but if they made the wrong decision it could be fateful. We created a bulletin board showing the trail, including pictures of each landmark that we passed. As we continued on the trail we would mark each spot we talked about and then the students would move their wagons to that spot on the map.
While this simulation was occurring we read the book "Doe Sia" by Kenneth Thomasma to our class. We also had spelling words that were linked to our unit. Students also had journals in which they wrote about the decisions they made on the trek and how they felt.
Also along the trail we taught mini-lessons about trading, river crossing, cholera, songs the pioneers sang, games they played, and food that was eaten. We taught about the food by actually having the students help make stew and butter.
For our final evaluation we had the students choose a journal entry and create a skit from it. They were given about 30 minutes to prepare and practice their skits and then performed them for the class. This was probably the most enjoyable part of the unit and showed us what the students learned and how creative they were. The journals, along with the skits, were a great assessment tool.
One of our greatest resources was the Mormon Trek Website created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
For more information contact:
Tawnia Palmer: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Sherrie Christensen: email@example.com