Let’s talk about the era of Frontier Texas! This time period included cattle drives, frontier wars, and the creation of the railroad.
My students always think that they already know everything there is to know about cattle drives and frontier Texas. To be honest, they do know a lot. I mean, it is a naturally attractive topic to kids. Cowboys are exciting and there is a ton of literature on them, BUT this also leads to some MAJOR misconceptions.
To begin the unit, I prefer to start with vocabulary. This gives students a foundation from which to understand the unit as we proceed.
Once I feel students have a good grasp of the vocabulary we begin with this PowerPoint and discuss why cattle were so important to Texas including where they came from and how they became domesticated. Students love to create their own brands that represent them and their family’s ranch.
This simulation allows them to have a bit of an experience to lead into the rest of the unit, that will make the rest of our learning “stick.”
Next, we get started on our notebook activities that include Impacts of the Railroad, Important People of the Texas Frontier, and learning about Buffalo Soldiers.
Along the way, I like to show some YouTube videos that give students a good reference point for what they are learning. Some of my favorites to include are this video on the Chisholm Trail.
Another fun topic is discussing the different language that cowboys used on the trail. My students’ favorite is ALWAYS,
“Get along little doggie.” They think it is hilarious!
Books on Frontier Texas:
Cattle People Research Project
Before we begin our research projects I like to give my students some background on a few cattle people from this time period through the use of this Jigsaw activity. Similarly, you can complete the project below using these exact people with the information provided.
I love doing research with my students, especially on people. The second semester of fourth grade in Texas really lends itself to research as well. We learn about so many people who made contributions that it is hard to keep them all straight.
One way that I combat memory fatigue is by having students “jigsaw” their research on famous cattlemen of Texas. Each small group of students is responsible for researching their person, and then creating a visual to teach the class all about them.
- When and where they were born
- What their family was like
- Why they are famous
- What has been their impact on history
- How do they affect us today
- When and where they died
- Any other important or interesting facts they find
My favorite way to present all this information is by using a “body map” poster.
Each group of students trace themselves onto a large piece of butcher paper. They then transform their outline into their research subject. Finally, they write all of their information about the person around the form. Year after year I am impressed by the quality that students create. They are also awesome, bright, colorful visuals that I can leave up during the STAAR tests so that our room doesn’t look so plain.