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Webquest - Westward Ho!

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Keywords: Article writing, layout
Subject(s): Information Skills, Writing, Geography, Technology, Social Skills, Social Studies, English/Language Arts, Journalism, History
Grades 3 through 8
School: Winthrop Elementary School, Melrose, MA
Planned By: Susan Herook
Original Author: Susan Herook, Melrose

There are 4 wagon teams, each with 5 pioneers traveling together. You have made the decision to join a wagontrain that will move along the Oregon Trail. The wagon trip will last approximately 5 months, (Cyber-trail 5 weeks) and you need to start preparing now. With your wagon family, you will need to decide what type of wagon to purchase along with appropriate supplies. This is a huge change, since you are moving from Boston, which is growing larger each year. Your lifestyle will change dramatically during this trip. There will be decisions to make that could affect the lives of your wagon family. Your hopes, dreams, and fears will be explored during your journey. Once you reach your final destination, you will write an article to send back home to the Winthrop Gazette.


Your first task is to research pioneers during the 1800's to learn about their background, and assume an identity during this trip. With your wagon family, you will research and decide what provisions with amounts will be necessary to get you to your destination. You have saved $1,600 to make the trip. The group will need to save some money from that amount for expenses during the trip as well as setting up your new home. Once supplies have been purchased, amounts will be tracked using the Oregon Trail Spreadsheet (Use this spreadsheet to keep track of the money you spend on the trip.) Each member of the family is responsible for entering data once per week on a rotating basis. Once the Westward Ho! wagon project leaves, groups will work together to read Task & Fate cards and make decisions on the trail. Based on choices, wagon groups will experience the Task Card Fate. Working cooperatively as a team will help move the trip along successfully and pleasantly. The four wagon groups will meet weekly on Fridays. To prepare for this campfire with other participants, each group will have a diary/journal entry describing events from that week. Each member should have a turn in this role, and be ready to submit the entry online.


After visiting Internet links on Pioneer Life, Westward Expansion, and experiencing life on the "cyber" trail, you will decide on a topic and a style of writing for your news article.

Choose one of the article types (Essay, Report, News Story, Short Story) as the style for writing your article. This is your choice.

Essay: Express your opinion about a theme you feel strongly about. Effective essays describe your opinions and ideas so readers can understand them. Back up your opinion with details, so your readers understand your point of view. You can use argument, humor, or exaggeration to make your points.

Descriptions of writing styles: (Read these to help you decide which style to choose.)

Writing an Essay: 1. Choose a topic. 2. Outline major points of your opinion. 3. Write a rough draft of your essay. The introduction should state the main topic of your essay and your opinion. The body should list the reasons you feel the way you do, as well as include information to support your opinion. The conclusion should be a summary of the reasons listed in the body of your essay, and persuade your readers to share your opinion.

Report: Write a report that describes facts about the topic you research.

Writing a Report: 1. Choose a topic. 2. Gather information from resources. 3. Take notes as you read. Write down the most important information and interesting facts. 4. Write an outline, include the information and interesting facts from your notes into an organized framework. 5. Write a rough draft. Include as much information as you can from your outline and notes. The introduction should tell the topic of your report. The body should include important information and any interesting facts. The conclusion should be a summary of your main points from the body. 6. Revise your report.

News Story: News stories are factual stories written using a pyramid structure. Good news stories answer the questions who, what, when, where, how, and sometimes why.

Writing a News Story: 1. Gather facts. Answer the questions who, what, when, where, and how. Take notes. If you interview people on the subject, be sure you write down the exact words of the people you plan to quote. 2. Write a lead (first sentence or paragraph). It tells the basic idea of the story. 3. Write the body of your story. Include details. 4. You'll need to create a catchy headline.

Prose Story: A short story with a beginning, middle and end. Choose one of the forms: Informational Fiction (A story that uses fictional characters or settings to tell about real things.), Legend (An exaggerated story about a real person or event.), True Adventure (Stories based on real people or real events, but the plot, setting, and characters are partly made up by the author.), Journal writing (An account of events as you research them, or a recount of events as they happened.).

Writing a Story: 1. Choose the kind of story you want to write from the choices listed above. If you are writing a story with a historical setting or one based on a true story, study the facts. The more you know the historical facts, the more real your story will seem. 2. Create a story map. List characters, setting, and theme. Outline the plot (important events) of the story. 3. Write the rough draft.

MA Frameworks Covered in this activity:
Language Arts
Language Strand
Standard 1 - Discussion
Standard 2 - Questioning, Listening & Contributing
Standard 3 - Oral Presentation
Reading & Literature Strand
Standard 8 - Understanding text
Composition Strand
Standard 19 - Writing
Standard 20 - Consideration of Audience & Purpose
Standard 21 - Revising
Standard 22 - Standard English Conventions
Standard 23 - Organizing Ideas in Writing
Standard 24 - Research
Media Strand
Standard 27 - Media Production

Patterns, Relations & Algebra (3-4)
4.P.4 - Use pictures, models, tables, charts, graphs, words, number sentences, and mathematical notations to interpret mathematical relationships.

Instructional Technology
Standard 1 - Demonstrate proficiency in the use of computers and applications as well as an understanding of concepts underlying hardware, software, and connectivity.
1.1, 1.3, 1.4, 1.6, 1.7, 1.9, 1.10 (PreK-4)
1.14, 1.16, 1.17, 1.18, 1.25, 1.26, 1.27, 1.28, 1.32, 1.33 (Grades 5-8)
Standard 2 - Demonstrate responsible use of technology and an understanding of ethics and safety issues in using electronic media.
2.1, 2.2, 2.4 (PreK-4)
2.6, 2.7, 2.14 (Grades 5-8)
Standard 3 - Demonstrate ability to use technology for research, problem-solving, and communication. Students locate, evaluate, collect, and process information from a variety of electronic sources. Students use telecommunications and other media to interact or collaborate with peers, experts, and other audiences.
3.1, 3.2, 3.4 (PreK-4)
3.6, 3.8, 3.9 (Grades 5-8)
Cross-Curriculum Ideas
Language Arts and Social Studies
Links: Westward Ho! Project Webquest
Materials: Social Studies, Flash/USB Drives, Mobile Labs