#sol15: March 12, 2013 – It’s all about Jack…

Join the March SOLSC at Two Writing Teachers!

I open our unit on Westward Expansion with the pilot episode of “Little House on the Prairie” – the one in which the Ingalls family sets out from the Big Woods for the arduous trek to Kansas. We watch to see how they prepared, to imagine what they thought and felt, to make inferences about the choices pioneers were faced with in giving up the hardships and security of the known for the hardships and uncertainty of the unknown (but hoped for).

It was lovely to watch my kids enthralled by the story, and genuinely enjoying the pace and the sweetness of this T.V. show.  Yes, they were noticing the things I hoped they would, information and ideas which will give depth to their understanding of this unit and the project they will soon be participating in, and so I rejoiced.

But, there soon emerged an issue I had not thought of. A focus of attention I had failed to take into account.


As the Ingalls set off through enormous banks of snow, Jack trots along behind their wagon, wagging his tail, barking cheerfully… impossibly adorable.  My students are outraged.

“Why is the dog not in the wagon!”

“Oh my God, the poor dog!”

“Wait…what? The dog has to run along behind?”

We paused to discuss the fact that animals in those days, even fluffy little adorables like Jack, were primarily there to serve practical functions. There wasn’t the sentimentality then as there is now.  My students nodded their heads, trying to understand, and then we continued…to the scene where the Ingalls must cross a swollen river, and Jack gets left behind.

Loud cries of horror and disbelief almost drowned out the sound of the bell.  The period had ended.

But…Jack? What about Jack?

That was the talk of the sixth grade hallway – But…Jack? What about Jack? Oh no, poor Jack…!”

I am hoping that our Westward Expansion unit yields more thought provoking questions than: But…Jack? What about Jack? Oh no, poor Jack…!”

17 thoughts on “#sol15: March 12, 2013 – It’s all about Jack…

  1. What this tells me is that your students have tender hearts when it comes to animals (maybe not always so tender when dealing with each other).
    I know you will skillfully guide there thinking beyond the horrors of the animal cruelty they witnessed. 🙂

  2. I always disliked the way they dealt with the dog in the TV show–the real Jack was a bulldog! He saved the family from the “fever ‘n’ ague”! I love how your students connected with him.

  3. It’s where your students are at this moment and you have to meet them where they are. They will be further along with an understanding of perils of life on the trail in weeks to come.

  4. My children have watched this episode many times, and had the same reaction initially. We love Little House, and it’s such a perfect way for students to connect with life long ago. I’d have to say the most heartbreaking one is when Laura sells her horse to pay for a Christmas present. I’m feeling teary just thinking about it!

  5. A nice way to begin this unit but yes I understand the side track to Jack. So funny! My guess is they also go what you needed them to understand about that time period.
    Have fun with that unit!

  6. I love that show. I wish I could use it in my First Fleet unit (it’s kind of like pioneering …..isn’t it? just kidding). Our dogs certainly are cared for differently these days, some even have ‘bling and jewels’ on their collars. Poor little Jack didn’t even have a winter coat did he?

  7. This is the magnificent gamble we take when we get our kids to think. Sometimes they think in ways we hadn’t expected just like this.I love the way you started this unit. It is exciting the things they were starting to think and share. But even now I’m a little sidetracked thinking about poor Jack…:)

  8. How interesting that they noticed Jack and were so drawn to him. It reminded me of how Allan Wolf wrote a part for the dog in New Found Land, his book about Louis and Clark. I love the picture from the show. It has been a long time, but I loved it growing up.

  9. I loved the Little House books and still have my collection! Of course I loved the television series when it came, and I will be honest, I don’t remember paying much attention to the way Jack was treated. Isn’t it funny what kids will pick up on, and then to think they continued the conversation! Sounds like a fun unit!

  10. It is amazing to see what students home in on and what gets them riled up. I never really watched this show so I didn’t know about Jack. I would have probably been upset as well.

  11. This is such a REAL kid response! Despite our plans for kicking off a unit meaningfully, students pick up on a tiny detail that is meaningful for them. I bet they will never forget this unit!

  12. What a great way to start this unit!!! I’m telling our seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher on Monday. Or maybe I will email him this weekend. Growing up, the Little House books were some of my absolute favorites. I still have the whole collection of books that my Grandma gave me. And I loved, loved, loved Jack too!

Thank you for reading my blog! Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s