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picture of wagonLesson Plan: The Oregon Trail

Grade level: 3
School: Elementary
Lesson: The Oregon Trail

Instructional Objectives
Advanced Preparation
Planned Provisions for Diverse Learners
Beginning and Development
Assessing Students Performance

Instructional Objectives

Within the content area:
1. Gain understanding of what the trail was like
2. Understand the hardships faced when having to pack up current life and move across
3. Compare traveling (1840's versus 2003)

Links to other content area:
1. Geographical knowledge (starting points to ending points of trail)
2. Logic and reasoning (why decisions were made, what things were most important, etc)
3. Composition (write story of their own to show knowledge gained in this unit)

Advanced Preparation

1. Gather information regarding Oregon Trail to open unit with (dates, trail life, reasons people went on the Oregon Trail, etc)
2. Get map of Oregon Trail (label jumping off points, end points, actual trail)
3. Find picture of wagon/wagon trail (make sure students understand difference between wagons of today and the ones used on the trail)

4. Prepare overhead of vocabulary words
5. Find enough copies of The Oregon Trail computer game for each group of students

6. Reserve computer lab for day of computer activity
7. Pre-assign groups that students will be working in
8. Create word puzzles (make enough copies for entire class)
9. Create word search for students who finish early

Planned Provisions for Diverse Learners

1. Use group work-students who are stronger can help students who are having difficulty (also helps to have all students finish in about the same amount of time)
2. Have extra worksheet (more of a fun one) for students to pick up and work on if they finish way ahead of the rest of the class
3. Be available (walk around room) to help students who are needing more guidance

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1. Have groups pre-assigned (more efficient)
2. Have students get into groups, then while handing out worksheet explain what they are going to do
3. Assign each group to a computer and give them their trail procedures


Ask class: "I would like everyone to think about the last vacation you went on with your family?"

-what did you bring
-how long did did the "journey" take
-how did you get there
-where did you stay....on the way, when you got there


1. Brief introduction to the Oregon Trail
2. Discuss key points of the history behind the trail

  1. How many emigrants traveled on the trail
  2. How long was the journey (miles)
  3. How long it took to travel the trail (months)
  4. When was the Oregon Trail used
  5. Reasons why people traveled the trail
  6. Where was the trail
  7. The supplies needed on the trail (what were they, how much)

3. Go over the vocabulary words the students will need to become familiar with to accomplish the days activities

4. Hand out crossword puzzle that will reinforce the vocabulary words we just covered. Students may work with a partner (one that is close, not necessary to move). Allow five to ten minutes for students to work on hand out
5. Put students in their pre-assigned groups and give instructions about Oregon Trail computer game

6. If students begin finishing their game before others, there will be a word find located in the classroom which they can pick up and work on in their groups or individually

The vocabulary crossword puzzle, the Oregon Trail computer game (based on students making decisions about certain problems) and the word search to be used for those who finish early will allow students to use their own devises to begin to comprehend the significance of this event in history.

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After finishing the Oregon Trail game on the computer and filling out the worksheet-we will come back together as a class and discuss what we have learned in this lesson.

Points to discuss:

  1. Which trail worked best/caused the most problems
  2. What factors (illness, weather, wagon problems, rivers, etc) cause the most problems?
  3. What surprised you most about traveling on the Oregon Trail
  4. How was traveling on the trail in 1840 different than how we would travel today
  5. Any other topics students bring up that are pertinent and need discussing

This is simply the introductory day to a unit on the Oregon Trail. As we continue:

  1. Learn about the biggest problems faced on the Oregon Trail
  2. Learn about the different types of land and climates encountered on the trail
  3. Learn about the decisions the families had to make when deciding how to cross rivers, which paths to take, where they were going to live and how they were going to make a living when they reached the West
  4. Introduce the idea of the Gold Rush

At the conclusion of this unit, each student will write his/her own book on the Oregon Trail. It will include accurate information about the life lead by a pioneer, beginning at the jumping off city and ending up out West.


1. Work on the word search provided that will help them understand the trail better
2. Start brain storming ideas for the book they will begin writing
3. If done extremely early, give them another trail scenario to try-compare to the first one they traveled

Assessing Student Performance

1. The discussion at the end of our first day of the lesson-the conclusions they had come to after finishing the game and the work sheet
2. Long-term: the book they will be writing and illustrating themselves

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Questions? Contact BATESSL@UWEC.EDU
Page last updated on October 30, 2003