Online Lesson Plan
Horsing Around on Fridays
Buying and selling horses is an old profession that some would say has sometimes been less than honorable. In the 1930s, the WPA Federal Writers Project collected folklore and stories from Nebraskans and other citizens. More than a few of those stories involved unscrupulous horse traders. This lesson draws on the humor in those stories – collected in Roger Welsch’s book Mister You’ve Got Yourself a Horse – to teach language arts.
Lesson Plan by Suzanne Ratzlaff, Fourth Grade Heartland Community Schools, Henderson, Nebraska.
The student will:
As a learner
- contribute positively and actively participate in a community of learners
- become an active member of a literate culture
- value other student’s contributions
- learn independently when appropriate
As a reader
- view reading as a meaningful activity
- consider texts as resources for learning
- recognize the impact and importance of historical and social settings of literature
- recognize the connections between writing and thinking
- relate writing to producing meaning
- acquire specific terminology and vocabulary in order to articulate higher levels of thinking about literature
As a speaker
- speak confidently while participating in group discussions
- view speaking as a meaningful activity
- communicate with others about what they have read by eliciting questions and responses
- give relevant feedback to others
As a listener
- listen respectfully to the thoughts and ideas of others
- demonstrate appropriate body language while listening
“I” stories are always interesting and help students connect to the teacher as a person. Begin with a story about you and a horse experience. It could be a story about a ride you once took, the time you discovered what a saddle sore really was, or a story about someone in your family. Here is a true example: Around 1918, in the state of Iowa, my grandfather would hitch his horse to a buggy and leave for a five mile trip to town and enjoy a date with my grandmother. After spending the evening together, Grandpa would head back west towards the farm. Since Grandpa’s horse knew the way home, he would always go to sleep and wake up upon arriving at the home place. Yet, one night things didn’t turn out as usual. After Grandpa left town and had fallen asleep, he suddenly found himself, along with the horse and buggy, flying in the air and landing on the side of the road. When he came to his senses, he realized that his horse had walked right into a slow-moving train that was crossing the road. Once Grandpa knew he had no broken bones, he quickly helped get the horse back on her feet and discovered that she was fine too. So Grandpa hitched her back up to the buggy and headed on home with his eyes wide open the rest of the way.
Materials needed –
Roger L. Welsch’s Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse: Tales of Old-Time Horse Trading (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, First Bison Book Printing 1987) This book includes lively stories of horse trading on the Great Plains, collected through interviews by workers of the Federal Writers Project which was part of the Works Progress Administration. This book invites the reader into the past: a world of horse trading unknown to many today.
- Horse-feed bag or a small bucket
- Vocabulary journals/tablets
- Vocab cards (5”X12”construction paper) to place on the “Word Wall”
Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.] Direct the students to these pages to learn about information telling when farmers quit farming with horses, information about the government’s New Deal Program, and the Federal Writers Project.
Since mules were used as draft horses during the 1930s, there are stories throughout Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse that deal with the trading of mules. This link explains the difference between a mule, donkey and a hinny.
Writing prompts related to this project are limitless. This Wessels link describes how the Great Depression changed the lives of individuals, and, in turn, changed history. Have the students read and discuss the “1930s Life” section.
Nebraska Language Arts Speaking Standard 12.3.1 can be assessed related to classroom discussions by following or adapting this student friendly assessment guide for listening skills.
The classroom practice of creating visuals (nonlinguistic representations) is research based and proves that “engaging students in the creation of nonlinguistic representations stimulates and increases activity in the brain.”
Students must understand that the stories in Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse are true stories (non-fiction) based on interviews, and if the Federal Writing Project had not documented these narratives, the horse trading stories in this book would probably have been forgotten. Students could complete oral histories by conducting more in-depth interviews of family or community members.
The WPA Federal Writers Project collected many of the folklore stories that are in Welsch’s book. Students can learn more about the project on this page.
After sharing the “I” story about horses, begin a discussion with the class about their own horse stories, who owns horses today and what they are used for. Move the discussion to the question: “When did farmers quit farming with horses?” Next, have the students access the Wessels Living History site. Read and discuss information from the following links:
Once the students have read about the Federal Writers Project and stories collected during the depression, show them the book Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse. Share the information described in Roger Welsch’s introduction about how these narratives were collected through interviews by the Federal Writers Project of Nebraska, which was part of the Works Progress Administration. Near the end of class, elicit the idea to read Welch’s book and make it a fun Friday activity, hence the name “Horsing Around on Fridays.” Talk through and plan with the class while setting up the schedule and timeline.
Schedule of Events “Horsing Around on Fridays”
- Tomorrow’s homework is written on the board with the title of the interview to be read from Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse.
- One person is assigned the responsibility to choose five vocabulary words from the story and look up their definitions for Friday’s lesson. Words can come from the introduction before each story and from the story itself.
- Before class begins, the vocab leader writes all five words and their definitions on the board.
- Upon entering the classroom, all students find their vocab journals and start writing the words and definitions. This is a great way to begin the class period because everyone knows what to do and gets right to work.
- After the bell rings, the teacher and students talk through the meaning of the first word while the teacher prints the word on a piece of construction paper. Then with the help of the class, the teacher draws a visual representation of the meaning above the word.
- Then each student creates their own visual above the word in their journal.
- Continue until all five words have been discussed and visuals drawn.
- Have a student tape the five words on the “Word Wall.” A “Word Wall” is an area on a wall in the room reserved for taping up vocabulary words with visual representations written above each word.
- Next, begin to discuss the story. This can be done as a whole class or in small groups. Use a format that is familiar to you and the students, which creates a comfortable atmosphere for all to discuss, question, and respond. Make sure the students apply the higher level thinking skills.
- For the closing activity, have students begin a quick write (reflective writing) in their vocab journals responding to the story and discussion.
- Turn in vocab journal, which includes vocab words, definitions, visuals, and quick write response.
Throughout the next week:
- Focus attention to the words on the “Word Wall,” and whenever a student uses a vocab word correctly in their speech, or in their writing, throw them a piece of candy. This candy can be stored in an old-looking tin bucket or a horse-feed sack. You will be surprised what kids will do for a piece of candy. Remember, a word must be seen, used, and understood at least seven times before it is stored into long-term memory.
Timeline – The initial introduction lesson is designed to take one complete class period, and the “Horsing Around on Fridays” should begin at the start of the class period and last about 20 minutes. Modifications could be made to “Horse Around” for one entire week. Adjust to what works best for you and your students.
Student Ownership – When students take ownership in their learning, they become self-motivated, hard-working and are more apt to remember what they have learned. Therefore, let go of some of your teacher control and give students a chance to be a part of the planning and implementation of “Horsing Around on Fridays.”
Some examples are – students write and draw vocab cards for “Word Wall,” tape words up to the wall, check the candy bucket to make sure the candy supply does not get low, pick up and return vocab journals, check out and set up video, make contacts and plan for interviews, etc.
Nonlinguistic Representations – The classroom practice of creating visuals (nonlinguistic representations) is research based and proves that “engaging students in the creation of nonlinguistic representations stimulates and increases activity in the brain.” To learn more about this information refer to the book:
Classroom Instruction that Works
Research-Based Strategies for Increasing Student Achievement
Marzano, Pickering, & Pollock
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development
Horse Trading Terms – Many of the terms used by horse owners and horse traders is totally foreign to the average reader today. Therefore, Mr. Welsch has added an extensive glossary of horse trading terms and their definitions at the end of the book. Prepare to be enlightened.
Depression Stories – Two of the horse trading stories are known to take place specifically during the Depression at the time when horses were being replaced by farm tractors. “New-fangled Farming” starts on page 60 and describes a farmer who gave up his horses too soon. Also on page 133 is a section describing how some horses were treated once they were of no work value to the farmer.
Interviews – Local horse enthusiasts, horse breeders, horse racers, and even a veterinarian could visit the classroom for interviews. The visitors could help with some unanswered questions that might have arisen during discussions.
Mules – Since mules were used as draft horses during the 1930s, there are stories throughout the book that deal with the trading of mules. To find out the difference between a mule, donkey and a hinny, have the class read the Wessels section on animal hybrids.
As a culminating activity, the students could participate in setting up and attending a fieldtrip to visit a veterinarian’s office, a horse breeder’s ranch, a horse trainer, etc.
Student’s vocab-journals with vocabulary words, definitions, and visual representations of the their meanings can be assessed weekly.
Student quick-writes are moments for students to process ideas and let them flow from their hands to the paper, so they should not be assessed. Use this opportunity to write comments to the students related to their responses.
Nebraska Language Arts Speaking Standard 12.3.1 can be used to assess related to classroom discussions using this Listening Skills Rubric. This student friendly assessment guide explains, in simple language, exactly what the student is required to do to meet the standard Therefore each student knows and understands the expectations. This guide can be modified to meet your own requirements and expectations.
Hand out a copy of the assessment guide to each student.
Discuss expectations (quality indicators).
Inform them that they will be assessed during classroom discussions.
Give the students an opportunity to self-assess by scoring an assessment guide related to their own performance.
Students can be assessed monthly on the vocabulary words. Basic tests incorporating matching, multiple choice, fill in the blank, short essay, and drawings could be created and administered.
Students can complete an essay test identifying factors related to the Depression Era.
Describe the changes in technology during the Great Depression and its impact on society
Map Skills – Many of the horse trading stories take place in Nebraska and as far away as Arkansas. A map of the mid-west could be displayed with pins added each week to mark the places where the horse traders have traveled to make deals.
Horse Racing – As horse trader, William R. Cole of Omaha, described in his narrative, Bargains, “When your wealthier people went downtown shopping, it wasn’t so much to see what was in the stores or to buy something as it was to show off their fine horses and carriages and to attract attention.” Even today, people love to attract attention by showing off their shiny, fast vehicles. And wanting fast transportation is not a new idea. Roger Welsch devoted the last part of his book to stories of racers. After all, horses were their vehicles, and speed was important to those with a passion for racing. The movie Friendly Persuasion, starring Gary Cooper, is set during the Civil War and has two wonderful scenes depicting horse racing. At the beginning of the movie, this Illinois Quaker family climbs in their buggy and leaves for church. Along the way they meet up with a Methodist neighbor, and the two men end up having a Sunday morning race to church. By the way, the Methodist wins. Later in the movie, the Quaker trades his beautiful, sleek horse, which can’t win a race, for an ugly one that won’t let another horse pass it. And yes, the two men meet once again on a Sunday morning. You will have to watch the movie to see who wins. These two scenes allow students to experience the historical importance of horses and a love for racing.
Industrial Park Drive
Farmington Hills, Michigan 48024
Writing Prompts: Writing prompts related to this project are limitless. The Wessels web site shares stories of how the Great Depression changed the lives of individuals, and, in turn, changed history. Have the students view, read, and discuss the “1930s Life” section.
Describe the changes in technology during the Great Depression and its impact on society.
Predict future changes in technology and describe the impact they could have on our lives.
Oral Histories – Students must understand that the stories in Mister, You Got Yourself a Horse are true stories (non-fiction) based on interviews, and if the Federal Writing Project had not documented these narratives, the horse trading stories in this book would probably have been forgotten. Students could complete oral histories by conducting more in-depth interviews of family or community members. Some old-timers might have some great stories to share about the 30’s and when their father or grandfather quit farming with horses and began using tractors.
Mathematical Formula For Horsepower: Did you know that horsepower is defined as a unit of the rate of work, equal to 550 pounds lifted one foot in one second? Invite your favorite math teacher to stop by the classroom and explain the mathematical formula for horsepower. James Watt calculated the power of one horse at 24 x 3 x 2 1/2 x 180 = 32,400 foot-pounds per minute. Mind boggling, isn’t it? To learn more, have the class “Ask Jeeves” or visit http://www.sizes.com/units/horsepower_british.htm.
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