Skip to contentContribute to ReadWriteThink / RSS / FAQs / Site Demonstrations / Contact Us / About Us



Contribute to ReadWriteThink

ReadWriteThink couldn't publish all of this great content without literacy experts to write and review for us. If you've got lessons plans, videos, activities, or other ideas you'd like to contribute, we'd love to hear from you.



Professional Development

Find the latest in professional publications, learn new techniques and strategies, and find out how you can connect with other literacy professionals.



Did You Know?

Your students can save their work with Student Interactives.

More more

HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

From Little House to My House: Exploring History and Family Roles

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades K – 2
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 30- to 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Cathy Willis

Frankinton, North Carolina


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Gain knowledge by learning about historical fiction, memoirs, pioneer life in the United States, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and family roles

  • Demonstrate comprehension by answering questions about a text after listening to it

  • Practice analysis by drawing connections between a text and their own experiences, by comparing and contrasting ways families are alike and different, and by categorizing information using a graphic organizer

back to top


Session 1

1. Use a picture-walk previewing strategy to introduce The Deer in the Wood. Show students the pictures, starting with the front cover. Ask them to talk about when and where they think the story takes place, using clues like the characters' clothing to help them answer. Ask them who is in the story and what they are doing. Write students' predictions on a piece of chart paper.

2. Ask students if they know what the term historical fiction means. Explain that it describes a certain type of story that takes place in the past. These stories may be based on the truth or have real people in them, but not everything that happens in the stories is true or happens in the order it did in real life. (You might choose to have several examples of historical fiction to share with students including the Little House books or Anne of Green Gables).

3. Ask if anyone keeps a diary or knows someone who does. Ask students if they know what a memoir is. Explain that memoirs are true stories written based on someone's memory. If they decide one day to turn their diaries into books for people to read, those books would be called memoirs, and people who read them would know that what happened in the book was true.

4. Tell the class that The Deer in the Wood is an example of historical fiction and takes place a long time ago. It is about a family who lives, works, and plays together. Ask them to listen to the story and think about what this family does and how it is the same and different from their families. Read the story without interruption for the first reading.

5. After you are done with the first read-aloud, return to the predictions students made earlier and talk about where they were correct and why. (If you choose, you can write students' comments about the predictions on the chart paper where you recorded the predictions). Talk to students about Laura Ingalls Wilder, explaining that this story is a fictional version of things that really happened and that it contains characters who really lived. Using the background information you identified (see Preparation, Step 4), tell students a little bit about Wilder's life. Use a map to show them where Pepin, Wisconsin is located. Use a computer and a projector to show the class the Frontier Girl Trail: Big Woods webpage. Explain that this is a model of the house in the book.

6. Reread the story aloud, pausing to ask the questions you have prepared (see Preparation, Step 2). Write student responses on another sheet of chart paper.

back to top


Session 2

1. Review The Deer in the Wood briefly by showing each page and talking about the characters.

2. Draw students' attentions to the responses to questions you recorded during Session 1. Talk about ways that Laura's family is the same or different as your family when you were growing up.

3. Talk about how families of long ago survived. Pa and Ma did not hold down regular jobs. Pa worked in the woods hunting for food and cutting trees for heat and their housing. Ma worked equally hard to prepare food and sew clothing. Ask students to point out ways that Mary and Laura helped out as well. Do they do things to help out at their houses? What kinds of things? Jot down students' responses on a sheet of chart paper that you display next to the responses from Session 1.

4. Ask students to think about their families. Who works? What kind of work do they do? Who watches the kids? Where does food and clothing come from? Who is responsible for getting it? Write down students' responses.

5. In the book, Pa told stories and played the fiddle to entertain the family. Ask students what their families do for fun. Write down students' responses.

6. Review the list of characteristics that students have shared from their own lives and explain that you have created a similar list, using it to compare your life with the characters in The Deer in the Wood. Share the T-chart you created with students (see Preparation, Step 3). Go over each of the characteristics you list, talking about the ways your life is different from and the ways it is the same as the characters in the book. Ask them to think of ways their lives are similar to Laura and Mary's and ways that their lives are different.

7. Distribute copies of the T-Chart to students. Ask them each to choose a character from the book they would like to write about and write that person's name at the top of the left-hand side of the T-chart. Tell students they should write three or four things about the character that they noticed from the book on the left-hand side of the chart. Draw their attention to the list you created during Session 1 and tell them they can use it to help them think of examples. Circulate while students are working to provide support and answer questions.

Note: You might choose to have emergent writers draw pictures of the people and activities or have them work in pairs or groups.

8. When students have finished, ask them to think about the person from their own family is most like the character they have described. They should write that person's name at the top of the right-hand side. Then for each characteristic that they have listed, they should write down what their family member does that is the same or different in the column underneath their family member's name. Draw their attention to the list you just created and tell them they can use it to help them think of examples. Circulate while students are working to provide support and answer questions.

9. When students have completed their T-charts, have them meet in pairs or small groups. Each student should share what he or she has written on the T-chart and then discuss it with his or her partner or group. Questions for discussion include: Did the student choose the right family member to compare to the character (for example, a brother compared to Mary)? Does he or she list things that happened in the story? Do the things listed about the character and the things listed about the family member compare (for example, does the student compare his or her chores with Laura's chores)?

10. Give students time to revise their charts based on the feedback from their partners or groups before they turn them in.

back to top



  • Ask students to turn their T-charts into Venn diagrams using the online Venn Diagram tool.

  • Read other My First Little House Books aloud to students or place them in your classroom library for students to read. See Extension Lesson Ideas for a list of the other books in this series.

  • Have a "Back to the 19th Century" day or week. Encourage students to dress up like Ma, Pa, Laura, and Mary. See Extension Lesson Ideas for specific activities you can use.

back to top




  • Informally observe students during class discussions to see if they are able to identify and describe roles of different family members in both the book and in their own families. Do students understand what was different about how families did things long ago? Do they grasp what is meant by the terms historical fiction and memoir?

  • Check students' T-Charts to determine if they can compare their family with Laura's family. Did they select appropriate people to compare (e.g., Ma with their mother, Pa with their father, Laura with themselves, Mary with a sibling)? Do they list specific details from the story? Do they choose comparable activities (e.g., Laura's chores with their chores, Pa's job with their father's job)?

  • Observe during class discussions to see if students understand the text and share appropriately about their own experiences. Students can also write in journals or writing centers on these topics. Topics for writing assignments include:

    • Write about what you like to do with your family. How is it the same or different from what the family in A Deer in the Wood likes to do?

    • List the chores you have to do at home. Why are your chores different from Laura's or Mary's?

    • Write about why you think you are lucky to be in your family. Why did Laura and Mary feel lucky?

    • Draw a picture of the inside of a room in your house. Compare it to the pictures of the inside of the house in A Deer in the Wood. What are some of the differences? What are some of the similarities?

back to top