Social Studies and Children's Literature

Book Title: Prairies
Peter Murray
Publisher and Date: The Child's World, Inc., 1997
Curriculum Developer: Jennifer Rees
Summary: Prairies almost always have grass. They are found in many different places all over the world. They have many different names and are known as plains, grasslands, steppes, pampas, and savannahs. Prairies were not always prairies. Some used to be forests. Many different species of plants grow on prairies. There are also many different animals that live on prairies. Fire is an important part of prairie ecosystems.
Social Studies Relevance: This book would be of good use in a "Plains Unit." It teaches the geography of the plains, how the ecosystem of the plains effects economies, and explains the history of the plains.
Grade Level Focus: 1-2nd grade
Relationship to Social Studies State Core:

* Identify the geographic features, climate conditions, and natural resources of the local area.
* Identify resources that are used to make the things we want or need.
* Describe how geographic features vary in different continents.
* Identify the meaning of symbols on simple picture maps.
* Participate in group activities and demonstrate respect for basic values of all people.
Lesson Plans

Title of Lesson: What Is A Prairie?

Objectives:*Given the knowledge of information in the book Prairies, students will write a poem in their response journals, including three informational facts about prairies.
*Students will identify and color in the outlined areas of prairies on a map of the United States.

Materials Needed:Prairies by Peter Murray, map sheets of the United States with the prairie region outlined on them, paper, pencil


1. Ask children to look outside. Ask them what they see. Suggest asking them if they see mountains, oceans, flat roads or ground, hills, or rivers.

2. Read the class the children's book Prairies.

3. Discuss what kinds of different geographic features a prairie has. For example: grass, few trees, some hills

4. Make sure students realize most of the information about prairies that was in the book Prairies was about the North American prairies.

5. Discuss with students the information that was in the book about the names other continents and countries call them.

*Pampas-South America



6. Give each student a map of North America and show students where the prairies are located in the outlined area on the map.

7. Have students color in the outlined prairie areas on the United States map.

8. When students are finished with this mapping exercise have them write a poem using three major ideas about prairies in the United States.

9. When students finish writing their poems have them title their paper, "Prairie Journal Entry-1."

10. Have students share their poems with the class if they would like to.

11. Review with the class the following things:

*prairies have lots of grass

*they can be flat or have rolling hills

*they can have fields of flowers

*they often have a few trees

*there are animals, such as the Praire dog, that live on the prairies.

Evaluation: Students will have colored their maps of the prairie area correctly. As students write their poems the teacher will observe student's work and see if they have grasped the major points of a prairie.

Reference: *map of the United States (Will need to make an outline of prairie region on it)
*Map/Art Notebook Introduction to Geography Fifth Edition. Getis, Getis, Fellmann. Wm. C. Brown Publishers, copyright 1996.


Title of Lesson: Life On the Prairies In North America
Materials: Prairies by Peter Murray, Lion King video, video machine, different colored markers and penciles in about five different containers for groups, The Tree of Life by Barbara Bash; and four, large, white posterboard sheets, the following questions should be written on a chalkboard:
What animals live on the African savannahs?
What animals live on the prairies in the United States?
What plants or vegetation grow on the African savannah?
What plants or vegetation grow on the prairies in the United States?
Objectives: *Having some background knowledge from the previous lesson and the beginning part of Lion King, students will participate in groups of four, making a poster and will: 1)write names or draw African savannah animals in one corner, 2)write names or draw animals on the prairies in the United States in another corner, 3)write names or draw plants or vegetation on the African savannahs in another corner, and 4)write names or draw plants or vegetation on the prairies in the United States in another corner or the poster.
Students will write about the North American prairies and African savannahs on a piece of paper and title it, "Prairie Journal Entry-2."
1. Show the first five to seven minutes of the video Lion King.
2. Tell students that they will be participating in a group activity making a poster.
3. Divide students into groups of four.
4. Assign each group an area in the room.
5. Give each group a container of colored markers and pencils, and a posterboard.
6. Explain to each group that they are going to divide their poster in half horizontally and draw a line down the middle, and then divide it vertically and draw a line down the middle.
7. Tell the groups that they are to draw, write and create a poster that would show their knowledge of the questions written on the chalkboard (listed in materials).
8. Explain that each corner on their poster will be used to answer a question on the chalkboard.
9. When all groups have completed their posters have each group pick a spokesperson for their group.
10. Have each spokesperson tell about their group's poster they created and their answers to the four questions.
11. Have students go back to their desks.
12. Discuss with students the following questions and answers:

*What animals live on the African Savannahs?
giraffes, bushbabies, elephants, wildebeests, gazelles, baboons, hyenas
*What animals live on the United States prairies?
coyotes, cattle, sheep, bison, prairie dogs, ferrets, pronghorn antelope
*What plants or vegetation grow on the African savannahs?
grass, boabab trees, acacia trees
*What plants or vegetation grow on the United States prairies?
grass, soapweeds, prairie turnips, hog peanuts, purple bee balm flower

13. Have each student write down on a piece of paper Prairie Journal Entry-2.

14. Have the students write down comparisons about the animals and vegetation on two continents, the African savannah and North American prairies.
Evaluation: The teacher will observe the students in each group and make sure they are contributing ideas. After the mini-lesson plans are taught the teacher will read response journal entries that students have written.
Reference: The Tree of Life, by Barbara Bash, Copyright 1989, Sierra Club Books/Little* Brown and Company Inc..


Title of Lesson: Resources On the Prairies
Materials: A knowledgeable guest speaker to speak on farming the prairies including: crops grown in the Midwest, what crops are used for, and why farming is important to people in the United States and other countries(could be a college professor, a farmer, a parent, or an agricultural specialist), paper, pencil, bag of soil
Objectives: *After listening to a guest speaker, students will write a journal entry about what farmers grow on the prairies, what the crops are used for, and why they are important to humans.
1. Hold up a bag of soil (if possible use good farming soil-not too rocky or sandy, and not with too much clay in it).
2. Ask students what is in the soil that helps plants to grow.
3. Explain that there are many rich nutrients and minerals that help plants to grow. Also explain that the soil shouldn't be too rocky, sandy, or have too much clay.
4. Introduce the guest speaker to the class. Tell the class that their guest speaker came to teach or talk to us about why the prairies are important to our economy and survival.
5. Turn the time over to the guest speaker.
6. After the guest speaker is through or time has been used thank him/her for coming to teach about some important information. 7. Have students write on a piece of paper Prairie Journal Entry-3.
8. Have students write responses about what crops are grown on the prairies, what they are used for, and why they are important to people, and anything they thought was interesting that the guest speaker told. Let students know that they can use more than one page for their journal entries.
Evaluation: Observe for active listening to the guest speaker. Check response journals after mini lessons are taught.


Title of Lesson: Climate on the prairies
Materials: Prairie Climate Sheet, paper, pencil, ruler, thermometer, 2-liter plastic pop bottle filled two-thirds full with water, Where The Sky Began by John Madson, large map of United States with the Gulf of Mexico on it too, chalk, chalkboard, research for local rainfall amounts a year in inches
Objectives: *Given a mini-lecture and discussion, students will write down a journal entry on the prairies in the United States that includes four major facts about the climate.
1. Hold up the 2-liter pop bottle in front of the class and then shake it hard.
2. Turn the pop bottle upside down quick.
3. While the water starts spinning in a funnel shape ask the students what they see and what the water is doing.
4. After the students responses, tell them that it looks sort of like a tornado.
5. Ask students if they know some places that have several tornados a year.
6. Instruct students that the prairies get a lot of tornados.
7. Instruct students that they get a lot of thunderstorms which produce tornados. Thunderstorms are caused from water on the ground being evaporated, or water in a gas form going into the air caused by heat, and then forming clouds full of rain. Air carrying precipitation, or water in the clouds, also comes from the Gulf of Mexico.
8. Point out on the map of United States where the Gulf of Mexico is.
9. Tell the students that the prairies get a total rainfall of six to twenty-four inches a year.
10. Tell students what the local rainfall is and compare with six to twenty-four inches a year.
11. Choose a student to measure vertically six inches with the ruler on the chalkboard. Have the student draw a line showing six inches with the chalk.
12. Select another student to draw a line with the chalk twenty-four inches long using the ruler.
13. Select another student to draw a line with the chalk showing what the local rainfall is in inches using a ruler.
14. Instruct the children that the prairies can get very cold and very hot. Some of the hot temperature extremes are around 118 degrees Fahrenheit. Some of the cold temperature extremes are around -60 degrees Fahrenheit.
15. Tell students that the coldest temperatures the prairies get are about 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the hottest temperatures the prairies get are about 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
16. Choose a student to show the class where 0 degrees Fahrenheit and 110 degrees Fahrenheit are at on a thermometer.
17. Discuss with students that for the most part the climate has dry, cold winters and hot summers.
18. Instruct students that about three out of every twenty years is a dry year on the prairies. Explain that when the prairies don't receive very much rain at all it makes it hard for plants to grow unless you water them a lot.
19. Ask students when they think the prairies get the most rain during the year.
20. Discuss that the prairies receive the most rain during the production season or months of crop growing (May, June, July, August, September).
21. Instruct students that they receive the very most rainfall during the months of May, June, and July.
22. Review with the students some of the information taught. Refer to the Prairie Climate Fact Sheet (see appendix).
23. Have students write a journal response about the climate of the prairies. Tell them they need to include four major facts of information they have been taught today. Have students write "Prairie Journal Entry-4" on a piece of paper.
24. When students are finished have them staple their four journal entries together and have them turn them into the teacher.
Evaluation: The teacher will also read the Prairie Journals the students have made.


Appendix and References:

*Map/Art Notebook Introduction to Geography Fifth Edition. Getis, Getis, Fellmann. Wm. C. Brown Publishers, copyright 1996
*Where the Sky Began, by John Madson, Copyright 1995, Iowa State University Press.

Prairie Climate Facts

*dry, cold winters
*hot summers
*six to twenty-four inches of rainfall annually
*severe thunderstorms and tornados
*tornados caused by excessive surface heating and unstable air from the Gulf of Mexico
*receive about three-fourths of precipitation during production months
*receives about half of the precipitation during May, June, and July
*dry years occur about three out of twenty years
*extreme cold temperature -60 degrees Fahrenheit
*extreme hot temperature 118 degrees Fahrenheit
*average range of cold to hot temperatures are 0 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit