- Concept Chart.
Ask students to imagine themselves 20 years from now. Ask students
to identify to what extent they think the following will still be
an influence on their lives: childhood, friends, family, hometown,
education, and other. Have them draw a pie chart showing how big an
influence each will have. Discuss why students predicted what they
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: Pioneers.
Students can work together in small groups to collect information
they already have about pioneers. Have them record their knowledge
on posters to be used later as references as they work through the
novel. Conclude by telling students that they will add to their knowledge
of pioneers while reading this novel.
A Road Map.
Have students study geographical maps of the United States. Encourage
students to discuss the geographical land forms Jim encounters,
and the difficulties they present, when he travels from New York
to Nebraska. Students can create a road map of Jim's trip at the
end of the book, labeling important locations such as New York,
Boston, Lincoln, and other Nebraska towns such as Red Cloud (Cather's
hometown and the basis for Black Hawk).
- A Blast from the Past.
American culture and society have changed greatly during the last
100 years. Ask students to go to the library and find "advice" or
etiquette manuals from the turn-of-the-century that instruct young
men and women on proper moral behavior. Have students meet in small
groups to discuss such issues as dating and marriage, farming, dancing,
clothing, and entertainment. Have them make lists to compare and contrast
these issues from 100 years ago to today.
- The Bohemian Life.
Have students reread the excerpts about Mr. Shimerda in Book One.
Then instruct them to do research on Bohemians and their way of life
in the old country. Have them write a research paper, giving information
about the land, occupations, foods, recreation, and special skills
or interests of the people. They might want to conclude with a paragraph
explaining why Mr. Shimerda had such a difficult time adjusting to
life on the prairie.
- Pioneering Women.
Willa Cather portrays the lives of a number of the women who settled
on the prairie farms and towns. Have students research original documents,
letters, and journal entries of women who moved west with the Homestead
Act of 1862. Instruct them to prepare and present a sample of statements
in an oral report.