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Theme: The Pioneer Life and Spirit
Grades: Grades 6-7
Trouble River is a novel that takes place on an isolated prairie
farm in the 1800s. When 12-year-old Dewey Martin frightens off one Indian
trespasser, Dewey fears a raiding party will soon follow. His parents
have gone to distant Hunter City to have a new baby, leaving behind
Dewey, his grandmother, and his dog. The fastest means of escape is
the small raft Dewey has built but does not know how to use. The three
set offwith Grandma on her rockeron Trouble River, a twisting and
unpredictable route that offers its own challenges to safety. As they
head for Hunter City, they cling to the hope that Dewey's parents have
not encountered the raiders. The travelers fend off a pack of wolves
and overcome raging rapids before reaching Hunter City, reuniting with
Dewey's parents and new little sister.
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: Lives of the Pioneers.
Invite students to share what they know about the daily life of the
pioneers who settled on the Great Plains. You might create a cluster
diagram on the chalkboard to stimulate and guide the discussion. The
following cluster diagram includes sample categories. Encourage students
to add topics and details.
- Linking to Today: New Frontiers.
In a class discussion, invite students to talk about regions that
remain hard to reach and unpopulated (for example, polar regions;
deep jungles in Asia, Africa, or South America; the ocean floors;
outer space). Discuss exploration of these regions in terms of the
following categories: the degree of isolation, the landscape, other
life forms, and the dangers. Ask students to describe what characteristics
modern-day explorers might have in common with people of America's
Have students find pioneer narratives and choose one to read for
a Readers Theater presentation. In such a production, staging and
costumes are unnecessary. Performers read an actual work of literature
aloud, almost as if it were the script of a play. Students might
also create brief narratives based on characters from Trouble
River. Suggest that students use recorded background music to
help "set the scene" of each narrative.
- Prairie Promo.
A land office in Hunter City is trying to encourage more settlers
to homestead in the area. Have students create a poster that can be
displayed in train stations, stagecoach depots, and land offices in
the East and that will promote the many advantages of life on the
prairie. Encourage students to begin by brainstorming a list of all
the benefits of prairie life.
- Frontier Travel.
Besides covered wagons, what other means of travel did pioneers use
in the West? What was it like to travel by stagecoach or flatboat?
How did the building of a transcontinental railroad affect the the
growth of the West? Ask students to write a research report to answer
one of these questions, or write a few entries of a travel log a pioneer
might have kept while traveling by stagecoach, flatboat, or railroad
- Through Other Eyes.
Discuss with students the fact that there is evidence in Trouble
River of Indians destroying settlers' farms. Grandma describes
these Indians as renegades. Point out that this is only one side of
the story. Ask students to research the history of the Plains Indians
after the arrival of the settlers. Then have them write a speech in
which they present the Indians' point of view.