From Little House in the Big Woods to Little House on the Prairie

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 just started the next book, Little House on the Prairie.  What has happened in those first 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 Lake Pepin.  That’s when the questions and geography started.

The lake was frozen, so the horses pulled the wagon across the ice.  I had to stop, because children needed to ‘picture in their head’ crossing a huge frozen lake in a covered wagon.

I pulled out our Big Book Atlas to show children Wisconsin.  There are trees, and a big lake, pictured on the map.  Children wanted to run their fingers across the trees and the lake.  They wanted to connect with – and say goodbye to – the little house in the big woods.

“Where is the prairie?”  Oh, that was just the question I wanted to hear.  There are corn stalks and wheat on the map of Iowa and Nebraska, but that doesn’t give children a picture of a prairie.  Kansas, where they settled, was no better.  Never fear, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s words paint a prairie, children can ‘make the picture in their head’.  She writes it perfectly, through the eyes of a child; the prairie is endless, the same every day, like being in a big circle of sky and land with tall grasses blowing in the wind.

Yes, children can now picture a prairie.

Geography is interesting and exciting for children.  Tomorrow we’ll use the Big Book Atlas to find West.  Pa wanted to go West.  We’ll use a compass again to find West (we just used a compass to find East, as we’re learning about Italy.)  I anticipate more questions, and that’s the wonder of learning.  You see, the teacher can open the door, but it’s the students who direct the pathway.

Learning through books is the best.  Thank you, Laura Ingalls Wilder.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty 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 am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in America, chapter reading, children's books, geography, Inspiration, Learning About the World, reading aloud, Teaching young children and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

49 Responses to From Little House in the Big Woods to Little House on the Prairie

  1. joylennick says:

    Perfectly explained, Jennie! I love the thought of little minds learning…Mine’s a very old mind, but fortunately, still learning… Thank you! x

  2. Great job! You sound like an excellent teacher, way to go inspiring the youth! There need to be more like you!

  3. Darlene says:

    These are great books to teach so many things. How wonderful for children at such a young age to realize the different parts of the world. I can just see their minds expanding.

  4. “Learning through books is the best.” True, but it’s even better with a magnificent teacher such as you, Jennie!

  5. Dan Antion says:

    You’re taking these lucky children on a wonderful journey.

  6. Opher says:

    Gosh, reading aloud is the best way to teach kids. It taps right in to our tribal lust for stories.

  7. I love this way of teaching and learning!

  8. Don Ostertag says:

    Wonderful books to open new doors to the little ones.

  9. Jennie, I always enjoy hearing about and seeing your well-loved books. You are a delight. Hugs.

  10. beetleypete says:

    That is perfect teaching by discovery, Jennie. I love your big map of the USA with the geographical features and state flags. Schools in England would benefit from such a map. Most kids here only know about Disneyland.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Pete. The book is huge, probably 2′ by 3′, and the pages are hard, like a board book. Every page is a continent (plus the United States), and all have the same detail and features. You noticed the state flags. On the cover are the flags of every country. It’s a treasure trove of learning, because it brings so many things to life. Do you remember the story of the child who noticed Mount Rushmore? I wish schools in England had such a map. Only Disneyland…how sad. Best to you.

  11. beth says:

    I love how you naturally connect books to a deeper learning experience for children in so many ways

  12. I read somewhere that the reason Laura could write so evocatively about the various places she lived was that after Mary went blind, Laura became Mary’s eyes, and learned to describe places and things in such a way that Mary could picture them in her mind. That ability served Laura well when she came to write her books many years later.

    • Jennie says:

      That is true. Also, Laura’s daughter, Rose, was an established and published writer. She was the one who encouraged her mother to write her stories, and showed them to publishers. On a side note, my grandmother was born the same year Rose was born, and she has the same name.

  13. Ritu says:

    Love your explanations Jennie! ❤

  14. Great lessons, Jennie. Thanks for sharing.

  15. What great, classic books.

  16. petespringerauthor says:

    I remembered these are annual reads for you. We certainly have our favorites.

    I know you’ll appreciate this, Jennie. We were doing some cleaning the other day, and I came across the same Big Book Atlas we used with Ryan when he was young. Considering he’s 30 now, that book has been around for a long time. Another associated funny memory about that is in 3rd grade he took part in the Talent Show. While 90% of the acts were singing, he proceeded to name all of the states and their capitals.😊

    • Jennie says:

      Yes, they are annual reads. Yesterday was “Crossing the Creek”, where Jack the dog was lost in the rushing water. I stand when I read that chapter, and I cry. There are always a few children who silently cry, too. It’s bonding, as you know. I thought of you crying when you read aloud Because of Winn-Dixie. Great books!

      I love Ryan’s story! You must have been so proud at that Talent Show! I hope you save that Big Book Atlas for his future kids. There’s so much great learning and fun in that atlas, as you know.

  17. Read them all. I’m a retired librarian. Love them!

  18. I’m always fond of seeing “well-loved” books, and their importance is definitely reflected in their condition. It is exciting when you learn through geography like this there is a very big ol’ world out there above and beyond where you live in.

  19. Prior... says:

    realy like that little hand on the map – you really let us feel the joy on learning with your students

  20. Hi Jennie, two of my favourite books in the world. I am also grateful for Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    • Jennie says:

      I thought of you when I wrote the post. I know how much you love these books. I still find it amazing that my grandmother and Laura’s daughter were born the same year and had the same name- Rose. That’s not so long ago.

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