How the Midwest Was Won

Online Lesson Plan
How the Midwest Was Won

lrGuyLesson Plan by , Assistant Professor in Teaching, Learning, and Teacher Education at UNL and a Co-Director of the Great Plains Institute for Reading and Writing. He is affiliated with the elementary education program as well as the UNL literacy group. He received his PhD in 2002 in Education from the University of California Riverside.



Subject Area:
Reading & Social Studies
Suggested Grade Level:
Grades 6-8
Learning Modality:
Auditory Learners
Multiple Intelligence:
Logical-mathematical Intelligence
Bloom’s Taxonomy:
What are these educational concepts? What are these educational concepts?



lrRead0201The student will:

  • sythesize information from different periods and different sources to create a comprehensive description of agrarian development in the 20th century.
  • create a portfolio of research, drafts, and 3-5 page final papers.


This is a lesson in understanding the devlopment of the American farm as a whole. By conducting research, students will be required to engage with the expository texts provided by the website, compare and contrast periods, and synthesise graphic and auditory information.

This, combined with learning to edit carefully, will allow the students to appreciate how much and how quickly farm life has changed in the 20th century and to disseminate that knoweldge in a clear and concise format.


The Resources

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 read the stories on each of these pages.

Links to Websites Other than Wessels Living History Farm. Outside guides. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.]


The Process

As the teacher discuss:

  1. The fundametals of research using secondary sources;
  2. The concepts of “main idea” and “supporting detail”; and
  3. How to interpret figures and graphs.

Have the students, using the Living History Farm resources provided, research the history of the American farm in the 20th century focusing on one of the following: choice of crops, the devlopment of machinary, or innovations in pesticides.

As the teacher discuss citing soures, quoting, and plagarism.

The students will:

  1. choose a note-taking technique from those presented and create a series of relevant notes.
  2. create a “works cited” list of their chosen resources.
  3. create copies (paper or digital) of the graphics that fit with their topic.
  4. spend 5-10 minutes in a brainstorming exercise based on the notes they have created.
  5. spend 10-15 minutes in a freewriting exercise based on the results of the brainstorming activity.
  6. write a rough draft that begins to synthesize the information they have gathered and the writing they’ve already done into an organized format.
  7. write a final draft of their paper. This should be a 3-5 page paper.
  8. compose a final “Works Cited” page to be attached to the final paper.


Learning Advice

When using the outside links “Conducting Research From Secondary Sources” and “Understanding Figures and Graphs”, teachers should reveiw the sites first and focus the students on specific sections with in those websites; for example, the first part of the research process, “looking for sources”, should be skipped, as the Living Farm website provides the materials for this task. Alternatively, teachers can print out selected strategies from the websites as tools for the students.

This lesson should take 2-3 periods.


Conclusion of the Lesson

Students should discuss what they have learned about the research process, including “things they have done that they think every researcher should do” and “thing they will never do again when conducting/writing research”.


Assessment Activity

The students will create a porfoilo that includes: notes from the different relevent sections, a selection of bibliographic and online souces, copies of the relevent graphs, figures, and/or photographs (either in print or digital format), brainstorming and free writing activites, at least one rough draft, a 3-5 page research paper on what they have discovered, and the final version of their “Works Cited” page.

Portfolios should be assesed based on:

  1. completing all the necessary artifacts: notes, pre-writing activities, drafts, and final product.
  2. the final paper should be evaluated using “The Six Traits of Writing” (, focusing on the traits of: ideas, fluency, and voice in expository text.


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