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Novel Unit - Sarah Plain and Tall

Compiled By: Mrs. G

Sarah Plain and Tall is a short novel about a family without a mother. The father writes an advertisement to find a wife and mother. Here are some activities to use when reading this novel.

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Posted by: NJ Teacher

My kids have created pictures of what they believe the winter looks like on the prairie from the descriptions in the book that they visualize. We also have created advertisements for a wife like Jacob did, and studied the wildflowers of the prairie and made a paper quilt of them because several are described in the book. We see the video at the end and the students compare and contrast which version they liked better, the book of the movie.

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the past
Posted by: melanie

The novel Sarah Plain and Tall is a great book to illustrate what things were like in the past. There is also a movie based on the novel (created by Hallmark) which makes a good visual. If you like centres, you could put out a very simple pattern like an apron, or place mat and have the students trace, cut out and then sew (by hand) the item. Use fabric scraps and a needle and thread. My students said overwhelmingly "I can't imagine sewing all of my clothes like that!" I also have a wheat grinder, which the kids use to grind wheat into flour. We then use it to make scones from scratch later on. We made butter to go on the scones by putting cream and salt into a jar and shaking it for a very long time. If you could find a butter churn, it would be better, but this still showed them the effort it takes to do something by hand. I also showed them how to make soap from fat and lye. (This was more of a demonstration because lye can be quite dangerous). Making soap is a hobby of mine so I enjoyed showing them. Each child then got to take home a bar in a couple weeks. They couldn't believe how it was made. For transportation, you could arrange a field trip (picnic) that they have to walk a substantial distance to arrive at. Most kids are driven everywhere and walking more than ten minutes seems like a chore. My area also has a historical site where the kids were able to see old furniture, appliances, and made their own candles by dipping a wick repeatedly into a vat of melted wax (they actually just used old crayons). You might check around to see if there is one near you. I found that having the kids do something that was once done, is a better learning tool than having them just read about it.

Good luck!

Sarah Plain and Tall
Posted by: S. Brown

We also do this novel every year. We make mobiles with each of the main characters. Students color in the picture using information from the book ie. Sarah's yellow bonnet. Depending ont he level of your students they may be able to add a quote from the book that represents something about that character.
We also show the movie Sarah Plain and Tall (Hallmark Hall of Fame)and then work using Venn Diagrams comparing and contrasting the novel and film.
Good luck.

Sarah Plain and Tall
Posted by: Linda

One of the things we do is create a simple suitcase out of paper. Inside students make illustrations of things they would take to a new place if they were Sarah. We also do some writing explaining their choices. Another thing I like to do with this book is get out my huge collection of shells. Students love looking at them and studying the different types -- a possible science connection.

Sarah Plain and Tall
Posted by: cynthia shoe

Make bread.

sew a quilt

write letters about themselves and their qualities.

make a fold out of the prairie flowers and grasses and birds of the prairie

write a step poem about prairie

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Sarah Plain and Tall
Posted by: ash82ny

Last year, during the time we read Sarah, Plain and Tall, we were discussing poetry. I made a few different seashell shapes out of manilla paper, and the students had to write a poem on the shell. The students and I put up a list of words from the story for inspiration, and then they wrote from there. I also looked through some of my calendar photos and put some pictures on the board that reminded me of the story.

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Sarah Plain and Tall Ideas
Posted by: Cathy Welch

I have done Sarah Plain and Tall for several years. I had the kids make a class mural one year, or individual murals other years. Using the 4 settings (sea in Maine: prairie in Kansas:Jacob,Anna,Caleb before Sarah:Jacob, Caleb, Anna after Sarah comes into their lives).

This year my class made "flip books" (take a 9X12 paper and fold in half length wise 2 times. Mark into 8 sections and use the following headings for them (Title,Author,Setting,Summary,Characters,Main Idea,Best Part,Worst Part). Each one was also illustrated. They loved it.

I love this could try
Posted by: flowerlady

1. Having students choose a few new vocabulary words from each chapter. They can then write what they think the word means, other words it reminds them of and then finally what the word means.

2. They can try an activity called " A Picture is worth a thousand words". Draw two pictures that Sarah may have drawn to send to her brother.

3. Go to and use the vocabulary words from the story to make a word search.

4. In Chapter seven, Sarah talks to Maggie about missing her brother and home in Maine. Have the students write a Cinquain about a favorite friend or relative who you miss seeing. When completed, cut the poem out and put on a piece of colored construction paper.

Those are just a few ideas. Im sure you will come up with several that your students will enjoy.

Have fun!

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Posted by: Angie

I did this book with my fourth graders this year and we water colored seascapes like Sarah does. We also studied wildflowers starting with the ones she talks about in the book. Each student was assigned a flower and they researched and presented to the class. I had kids bring in some of the local flowers and some kids drew them.
We also compared life during the time the book took place in and now, as well as life on the prarie compared to elsewhere. It is a great book to practice letter writing with and my kids kept a journal of letters to William and to Sarah that they wrote.
I hope I helped!

Posted by: hescollin

A large basket with a variety of sea shells in it. Do a land scape picture of the sea shore using the blue and I forgot the what color of pencils she has. I have a pretty wide brim hat that I wore.

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Sarah, Plain and Tall
Posted by: laura

I found that this was a great time to introduce Venn Diagrams - Maine vs. Kansas and then had the children write a 3 paragraph essay - first with an intro- they're both states in the u.s, etc. and then the 2nd&3rd about 1)similiarities and differences, respectively or 2)about Kansas and Maine.
Integrating Art, I also did a chalk lesson and they sketched a scene from the story.

Posted by: 4th Grade Teacher

Well, we did a really fun activity with this book. All the boys wrote advertisements for wives. We discussed what you would include (children, what you expect of a wife, a personal description, etc.). Then all the girls wrote reply letters as if responding to an ad (we didn't match them up since the kids are a little touchy about that sort of thing). We put them out in the hallway and everybody got a big kick out of them.

We also did something called a Pioneer Roundup. We divided the kids into groups of three. One person was in charge of a display board, one person a handout, and the last a handmade artifact that went with the topic. We assigned each group a topic such as pioneer clothing, food, travel, Oregon trail, etc. Each group was also responsible for a 2-3 minute presentation. We invited other groups to tour our efforts. It was a lot of fun.

Have fun!!!

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Posted by: abby

I love reading this book with my students! I have students pick some wildflowers (we're in more of a rural area) and we dry them. We incorporate music into it by singing some folks songs and discussing what type of musical instruments were common at the time. We dress up and come to school in the early 1900's attire, lunchbox and all! No paper- chalk and chalkboards. Then we do comparisons of the times. We do art with seashells and watercolors. For science we study some of the sea animals. I found that this is a wonderful story for doing character traits. I have students make "paper dolls" of the four main characters and they glue adjectives or traits onto them. Hope these may be of use or encourage new ideas!

Sarah, Plain and Tall
Posted by: NJ Teacher

There's a Build-a-Prairie website where the students can learn about the plants that make up this habitat. If you google Build-a-Prairie, it shoudl come up. I have also had them create advertisements looking for a wife/husband, similar to what Jacob does to advertise for Sarah. I have also had them create and write descriptive winter scenes of what the prairie would like like based on clues from the book. Students could also do character sketches of their favorite character, using the traits and proof found in the book. We also follow this up by showing the videos of Sarah, Plain and Tall and Skylark. There are actually four books in the series now, Sarah, Plain and Tall, Skylark, Caleb's Story and More Perfect Than the Moon. All of them are great read alouds, too.

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Posted by: kikiteach

My first unit was on Sarah, Plain and Tall. We truly enjoyed this unit. The students kept a descriptive language reading journal. After reading each chapter, the students chose a passage that "painted a picture in his/her mind". The students then drew and colored the picture. I made these journals simply by folding a 8x12 sheet of paper and stapling in the center. I was truly impressed by how simple and beautiful the journaling activity was. The students treasured the journals they created.

Also, the students brainstormed adjectives that describe them. For instance, Amanda, tall and ambitious. Tell them I ______ (teach, dance, sing, draw, etc).

I am attaching somethings that I used for the unit.

Have fun!

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