Geography, From Laura Ingalls’ “Little House” to Maps and Rivers

My book is “well loved” and completely falling apart.
That shows children how important it is.

I finished reading aloud “Little House in the Big Woods” to my preschoolers, and have started the next book, “Little House on the Prairie.”  We’re only on page 15, yet what has happened in those few pages has become Geography-101, in the best of ways.  The big woods in Wisconsin were something children here in New England can understand- except for panthers.  When the move from the little house in Wisconsin began, everything was packed into a covered wagon, and off they went.

They had to cross the Missouri River.  That’s when the questions and geography started.

The river was frozen, so the horses pulled the wagon across the ice.  Then, after many weeks of traveling, they were on land that had no hills or trees.  It was the prairie.  Wait!  Our beloved picture book of “This Land is Your Land” has a prairie.  We looked at that illustration and talked about how different a prairie is.

I pulled out our Big Book Atlas to show children Wisconsin.  Laura and her family had traveled from Wisconsin to Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri.

As we looked at the big map book, we saw the river, and then we traced every river into the oceans and the gulf.  We learned about North, South, East and West.  We found mountain ranges where snow never melts.  We compared the sizes of states.  Children thought Massachusetts was big, but no.  We learned that there are fifty states, and that’s the same number of stars on our American flag.

Geography is interesting and exciting for children.  Learning through books is the best.  Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty-five years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I was a live guest on the Kelly Clarkson Show. I am highlighted in the seventh edition of Jim Trelease's million-copy bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital, and the Massachusetts State House in Boston.
This entry was posted in America, American flag, Book Review, chapter reading, children's books, geography, reading and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

78 Responses to Geography, From Laura Ingalls’ “Little House” to Maps and Rivers

  1. I wish I’d learned geography from chapter books! In school, it was excruciatingly boring.

    • Jennie says:

      Back in school I thought so, too. I’m a visual learner, so I would have loved a map like the one I use in my class to help me learn.

  2. Ritu says:

    What a great way to get geography into Learning!

  3. It is a great way to learn geography.

    And I wonder if the Geography has changed since the days of the Praire. I used to watch the Little House on The Praire.

    I always thought it was fiction and Laura Ingalls Wilder was a character. I never knew that much of American history and still don’t as I live in the UK. These days I make more effort to google and find out a bit more about ever country when ever I feel oh let me google that. Google has really brought the Library into our homes so easily.

    Happy Easter Weekend.

  4. beth says:

    what a wonderful look at her stories and the country.

  5. Darlene says:

    From one teachable moment to another. Perfect!

  6. Dan Antion says:

    What a great way to link important subjects together. You give these children such a head start, Jennie.

  7. beetleypete says:

    This reminds me of my serial ‘The Homestead’. I had to do a lot of geography research for that. Far better to have started young, by learning from reading such lovely books.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      It is much like ‘The Homestead’. Now, imagine if a teacher was reading that story to a school class and used a map to follow Jesse. That would be powerful and double the learning. I just did it at a younger level of students. Thank you, Pete.

  8. frenchc1955 says:

    Jennie, thank you for another example of extraordinary teaching!

  9. frenchc1955 says:

    Reblogged this on charles french words reading and writing and commented:
    Here is another excellent example of teaching from that wonderful teacher, Jennie!

  10. Mike says:

    A perfect example of how entertaining stories can inspire us to learn more about the world around us. It reminds me of one of my favorite Ray Bradbury quotes: “The great thing about growing up with science fiction is that you have an interest in everything.”

    Thank you for passing this on!

  11. What a wonderful way to use this beloved series Jennie!

  12. quiall says:

    What a wonderful way to introduce the children to the idea of the whole country. Triggering curiosity is one of the best gifts you can give a child.

  13. A lovely post, Jennie. You somehow find a way to turn every book into a broader adventure. 😀

  14. You taught more than geography, you taught children how exciting it is to learn. You are just the best.

  15. TamrahJo says:

    I love to read and re-read my series of Laura Ingalls’ and her daughter, Rose Wilder’s works. If you haven’t yet read, (and not exactly preschool material, but…) I highly recommend Hal Borland’s “High Wide and Lonesome”. I have lived in the area near where his family homesteaded and even living here, now, and knowing the area, it still is such a thought provoking work, due to his descriptions of travel, the areas he mentions and wrapping my mind around how different it is to travel in a car one afternoon, or by horse/wagon/on foot for 1-2 days to cover the same territory.

  16. Orvillewrong says:

    You are obviously a born teacher!

  17. Books are the next best thing to being there.

  18. A. L. Kaplan says:

    I loved her books. My library growing up had Laura’s diary. Her daughter Rose Wilder Lane published it after she died.

  19. dee_see says:

    That’s a terrific story. My early adventures in reading were led by teachers like you.

  20. Your students are all bound to be stars when they enter kindergarten, Jennie!

  21. A great way to teach geography, Jennie. All new learning for the little ones. I remember the play King and I and how the children thought Siam was the biggest country only to learn it is the smallest. Very eye-opening. Thanks for sharing.

  22. What a wonderful way to open children’s eyes; Jennie, I think your pupils are very lucky to have you. Y’know – I have never read ‘Little House on the Prairie’ – but I think perhaps I should!

    • Jennie says:

      It’s still just as popular today. You would love it! There are parts where I have to stand up and cheer or even cry when I read it aloud to my preschoolers. There’s much for them to learn. Thank you, Mike.

  23. petespringerauthor says:

    I loved my big book atlas! Every year I had one or two kids whose favorite thing about school was geography—nothing like a good literature book to capture your students’ attention in other curriculum areas.

    • Jennie says:

      I’m glad you had one, too! As soon as we read about a place, the atlas comes out. When our unit of study is a country or continent (this year was Africa and Italy), we start with the atlas. And of course we get sidetracked. 🙂 Children love geography. Thanks, Pete.

  24. cindy knoke says:

    One of my favorite series as a child. I traveled with Laura, Ma, Pa and dog jack, and I was there! You are a creative teacher Jennie.

  25. There’s so much more to those books than just a story, isn’t there. Love the geography connection.

  26. You are fortunate to have a job where you can read Little house in the book woods and Little house on the prairie every year and teach children all about geography, history, and science. There is so much science in things like using green hickory chips to make more smoke in the smoke tree, colouring the cheese yellow and making it in the first place. A marvelous book.

    • Jennie says:

      I am lucky, Robbie. It is a joy to read aloud these books each year. I never know what will be the most interesting to children. This year was the geography. Whatever it is, I go with it!

  27. jilldennison says:

    What a fun way to teach that which could easily be excruciatingly boring! I wish I had had a teacher like you way back in the day!

  28. Elizabeth says:

    One of our favorite puzzles when I was little was a map of the US with a piece for each state. I learned the shape of each one without really trying and can still approximate them with my hands. I love learning that just happens instead of being planned. But of course that is the foundation of your approach.

  29. Wonderful, Jennie… Three Cheers for literature based learning for all… You do it so well! ❤ xo

  30. What a marvelous lesson you made starting with the story, Jennie! I honestly stand in awe of your teaching skills. Happy Easter.

  31. making those connections is the key to showing why learning is important. How one skill leads to another. another question, another fact… more and more. I love that you take the time to not just show these connections, but learn from them

  32. Happy Easter, Jennie! Another great surprise, given to the youngsters. I am sure in short you have also to provide tours, for them. You had forced wanderlust, and their interest in other countries and people. The map inside is so great for bringing geography close to them. Wonderful! Best wishes, Michael

  33. poorvi kumar says:

    this is a great way to introduce the concept of geography! well written !

  34. Ivanlui says:

    This is just awesome

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